Badlands National Park 3-, 4- and 5-Day Itinerary

May 29, 2024

South Dakota offers many unique opportunities for travelers and outdoor enthusiasts. From visiting the grasslands to spotting prairie dogs to hiking through scenic trails, everyone can find something to enjoy here. With so much to see, you may need to determine which are highest on your bucket list to make the most of your time.

Planning an adventure to Badlands National Park can be simple with the right activities and timeframes in mind. Here, you can find a Badlands National Park itinerary for a long weekend or short week so you can enjoy as much time as possible exploring the park.

Sunset over the Badlands of South Dakota.

Badlands National Park 3-Day Itinerary

A Badlands National Park weekend itinerary should balance nature-related activities and several educational opportunities. Spend time outside, but take time to appreciate the facts about wildlife, culture and people that you can learn about. Consider following this schedule for your weekend at Badlands National Park:

  • Day one: Begin your adventure at the National Grasslands Visitor Center to find suggestions, directions, maps and advice to enhance your grassland experience. This activity is a nice blend of indoor and outdoor exploration, beginning with a wildlife exhibit and ending with the opportunity to roam nearly 600,000 acres of rolling prairie and woodland draws. Enjoy the natural scenery on foot, horseback or a mountain bike on designated trails. Consider expanding your journey to the Prairie Homestead to peek into the past at the life of early settlers. You can explore an outhouse, cave, barn, sod home and chicken coop for an all-encompassing look at early life. After getting your fill of educational sightseeing, head back to your campground and enjoy a fun night of games with your group before another busy day two.
  • Day two: The second day at the Badlands is a great time to get moving. Wake up early for the sunset and start your day with a scenic hike. The park has many established trails. The Fossil Exhibit Trail is one of the most popular, so consider making this trek if you don’t have time for another one. For some easy walking paths, you can opt for Window Trails or Door Trails. Watch for wildlife sightings like prairie dogs, bighorn sheep and bison as you admire the natural scenery.
  • Day three: The last day of your trip is an excellent time to explore the town, shop around and participate in unique events. Wall’s Main Street welcomes visitors to explore boutiques, eateries and several souvenir shops. You can find handmade gifts, local wines and fudge, vintage items and new gear to take home. Check whether the town is hosting any fun events, such as a rodeo or parade, during your stay for a unique and fun way to end your trip.

The scenery of Badlands National Park in summer, South Dakota.

Badlands National Park 4-Day Itinerary

Four days in Badlands National Park is a great opportunity to check out some less popular tourist spots in the park while still crossing those big locations off your list. Consider this itinerary:

  • Day one: Use your first day to become familiar with your surroundings and check out some great spots to eat, shop and learn. Consider visiting Buffalo Gap National Grassland or the Minuteman Missile Historic Site. Both locations have a visitor center, so you can find recommendations for activities and advice for making the most out of your adventure.
  • Day two: Start your day at Panoramic Point. This spot provides a 180-degree view of the magnificent badlands. Going here for the sunrise is the perfect way to start your second day. After enjoying a calming morning with your group, head to some hiking trails. The Door Trail and Notch Trail are excellent spots for shorter hikes with beautiful views. End your day by watching the sunset or stargazing. Pinnacles Overlook is a popular spot for these activities, but you can also check out Hay Butte if you want a more intimate experience.
  • Day three: Day three is a great time for sightseeing and roadside stops. Yellow Mounds and Badlands Scenic Drive are two wonderful spots for taking pictures and getting closer to nature. Both sites offer unique views, and you should drive slowly to each spot to truly capture the natural beauty. Use this day for calm exploration. Pack lunches, cameras, water and games. Enjoy time with your group, and take as many stops as possible on your drive.
  • Day four: Spend the fourth day of your trip in the town crossing off some last-minute bucket items. Visit the Black Hills to see a towering Brontosaurus, shop at local spots and participate in events. Annual celebrations can feature live music, a motorcycle rally, rodeos, a parade, family-friendly activities and more. While in the town, be sure to stop by the Wall Drug Store, a popular roadside attraction with home-style dishes and an art gallery featuring Western art.

Rugged dirt and rock hills rise over a green grassed valley in the Badlands National Park in South Dakota.

Badlands National Park 5-Day Itinerary

People often need multiple days to see Badlands National Park and explore the many activities and sites around. Even five days in the park may not be enough to see every possible site. However, you can absolutely make the most of your trip and create lasting memories. Your five-day itinerary for Badlands National Park might look like this:

  • Day one: Check out a few visitor centers to see some incredible displays and exhibits. The Ben Reifel Visitor Center offers a park film, museum exhibits and a working fossil preparation lab. The White River Visitor Center also features museum exhibits, and you can chat with rangers to learn more about the importance of the Badlands. These excursions can take several hours from start to finish, offering an ideal evening end time to grab some food and enjoy a calm night before waking up for a busy day two.
  • Day two: Your second day is perfect for outdoor exploration. With the many trails throughout the park, there are many opportunities to admire sweeping landscapes and spot wildlife. Start your day by watching the sunrise before hiking some of the most popular spots in the area. The Fossil Exhibit Trail is a popular choice for visitors, and the accessible boardwalk features fossil exhibits and replicas of now-extinct creatures. End your day with an evening picnic and a sunset-watching session.
  • Day three: For those who enjoy hunting, day three is a great time to spot wildlife. Although you will need a state license to shoot prairie dogs, you can enjoy this spot year-round. A full day of hunting can allow you to glimpse prairie dogs, coyotes, pheasants, whitetail deer, turkey and more, depending on the time of year you go. You can also use local hunting guides to create experiences in key areas.
  • Day four: Day four is a wonderful opportunity for more educational exploration with outdoor adventures. Visit the Prairie Homestead and Buffalo Gap National Grassland. The grasslands offer opportunities to explore rolling greenery on foot, mountain bike or horseback, so you can spend as much time as you want admiring the natural beauty. At Prairie Homestead, you can get a glimpse of old Western life by walking through a sod home, chicken coop, cave and more.
  • Day five: If you have yet to explore the town, your last day is the prime opportunity. The charming small town has many shops and restaurants and often has events throughout the year. Whether you want to taste local wines, participate in family-friendly activities or look for handmade souvenirs, the town has it all. Depending on the time of your visit, you may even be able to enjoy a rodeo, parade and other exciting and celebratory events.

Start Your Badlands National Park Itinerary at Kampgrounds of America

When you are planning your trip to Badlands National Park, be sure to find a fun and welcoming campground. KOA has 60 years of experience and nearly 500 locations across the country. KOA takes care of everything. With a knowledgeable staff, great amenities and friendly service, KOA is the place to create unforgettable moments. Find a KOA campground to begin your next adventure.

About the Author: Kampgrounds of America

Kampgrounds of America is the largest system of open-to-the-public campgrounds in the world, with over 500 locations across the United States and Canada. Founded in Billings, MT in 1962, KOA’s family of campground brands – KOA Journey, KOA Holiday and KOA Resort – today serve more than a million camping families each year. KOA is dedicated to “connecting people to the outdoors and each other” by providing people with a variety of camping experiences and the information they need to make the most of their camping trip. Read more of their camping and travel resources by visiting

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