Badlands National Park, located in southwestern South Dakota, is one of the America’s most unique National Parks. The stunning landscape of sand colored buttes, towering rock formations, and one of the United State’s largest areas of grassland prairie make this a truly unique place to visit. We think the best way to experience all that the Badlands has to offer is by spending the night in your tent or RV where you’ll feel as close to this stunning landscape as possible.
Badlands National Park and the surrounding area have tons of options for camping from the two campgrounds located in the park to remote backcountry camping and plenty of nearby campgrounds only a short drive from the National Park.
Keep reading to get all the details about camping at Badlands National Park!
In this post
- Badlands National Park Campgrounds
- Badlands National Park Camping Must Know
- Camping near Badlands National Park
Badlands National Park Campgrounds
There are several options for those looking to camp inside Badlands National Park. The large and well equipped Cedar Pass Campground is perfect for those with an RV or who prefer more services, while more remote car camping is available at the Sage Creek Campground, and the entire National Park is open to backcountry camping for those with a sense of adventure!
The map below gives you a general sense of where each of the campgrounds are located in Badlands National Park as well as their relation to the surrounding area. Keep reading for detailed information on all your options.
Reservations are required only for the Cedar Pass Campground located adjacent to the Ben Reifel Visitor Center on the eastern edge of the park. While reservations are not required here, we recommend reserving your spot if traveling during the peak summer season. The campground is not managed by the National Park Service, so you’ll need to reserve directly through the Cedar Pass Lodge website below.
For all of the other camping options in Badlands National Park you do not need to (and cannot) make a reservation. For backcountry/backpacking campsites you do not need a permit, but should contact the rangers at the Ben Reifel Visitor Center to notify them of your plans.
There is no permit or reservation required for camping at the Sage Creek campsite, but all of the sites are available on a first-come, first-served basis.
What to bring on your Badlands National Park Camping trip
Preparing for your Badlands National Park camping trip involves more than deciding which campground best fits your needs. There is also the important job of making sure you have all the right gear you’ll need to ensure a great trip.
- Coleman Camping Stove – This camping classic is perfect for Sage Creek Campground where fires are prohibited.
- Pop-up canopy – The sun in this part of South Dakota can get intense! You won’t find much shade at either campground, so we recommend bringing a portable shade structure to create your own!
- Portable water container – Especially useful for Sage Creek, which does not have a water source, these portable water containers are a life saver.
- Cooler – The hot summer temperatures make a good cooler essential. We can’t recommend Yeti enough!
- Badlands National Park Map – An essential for any trip, a good map is a must.
- Badlands Guidebook – A good guidebook will provide insights and information to help you plan your perfect trip to Badlands. We like this guide to all 62 National Parks from Moon Guides.
Car camping sites in Badlands National Park
There are two options for those looking to car camp in Badlands National Park: the Cedar Pass Campground and the more basic sites at the Sage Creek Campground.
Cedar Pass Campground
Number of Sites: 96 campsites (four of which are group sites for up to 26 people)
Fee: $23/night for a tent site (2 people) // $38/night for RV site with electricity (2 people) // $40/night for a group site (10 people)
Click Here to Reserve or call (605)-433-5460
The Cedar Pass Campground is part of the large Cedar Pass Lodge located just inside the Badlands National Park boundaries. The campground is adjacent to the Ben Reifel Visitor Center, the main entrance to the National Park. The Cedar Pass lodge was established prior to the creation of Badlands National Park, and is not managed by the National Park Service.
Cedar Pass Campground has a total of 96 campsites that can accommodate tents and RVs in addition to four larger group sites that can accommodate up to 26 people each. The campground is well organized with tremendous views of the surrounding National Park.
The campground is part of the larger Cedar Pass Lodge complex which provides campers with easy access to restrooms, a small souvenir shop, potable water, trash and recycling services and an on-site restaurant. The RV sites are electric only, although there is a dump site nearby. Fires are not allowed at the Cedar Pass Campground.
The Cedar Pass Campground is very popular given its excellent location at the entrance to Badlands National Park. Given the popularity of this campground, we highly recommend making a reservation here during the peak summer season. Since the campground is not affiliated with the National Park Service, you’ll need to make a reservation directly through the Cedar Pass Lodge website well in advance.
Sage Creek Campground
Number of Sites: 22 campsites
Capacity: Not regulated
RVs: Yes, up to 18′. Horse trailers are exempt from 18′ limit.
Reservations: First come, first served
The Sage Creek Campground is located in the northwestern portion of Badlands National Park along the unpaved Sage Creek Road. The campground is approximately 15 miles from the closest town of Scenic, South Dakota. Camping at the Sage Creek Campground will appeal to those who are in search of a more solitude than you’ll find at the Cedar Pass Campground.
The 22 designated campsites at the Sage Creek Campground are all reserved on first come, first served basis, so be sure to arrive early in the day during peak season. The campground is free of charge and features pit toilets and picnic tables for your use and enjoyment.
The Sage Creek Campground does not have a water source, so you’ll need to bring all the water you anticipate needing with you. As with all of Badlands National Park, fires are not allowed due to the sensitive nature of the surrounding environment.
Backcountry campsites in Badlands National Park
Number of Sites: Not restricted
Capacity: Not restricted
Reservations: Not required, but please register with the NPS prior to setting out
Badlands National Park presents the opportunity for a true adventure for those interested in backcountry camping and backpacking. The entire National Park is open to those looking for backcountry camping as long as you set-up camp at least 0.5 miles from a trail or road and are not visible from a road. While this presents a great opportunity to find some solitude, there are several factors to consider when planning a backpacking trip in Badlands National Park.
First and foremost always contact the National Park Service at either the Ben Reifel Visitor Center, Pinnacles Entrance Station or White River Visitor Center prior to starting your trek. The rangers will be able to provide invaluable insights into the terrain, recommend routes, and advise you on the conditions you are likely to encounter. Additionally, it is important to notify them of your planned route in case an emergency arises and they need to find or reach your group.
Given the wilderness nature of Badlands National Park it is imperative to carry a detailed map and know how to navigate utilizing a map and compass. We highly recommend bringing a copy of the National Geographic Trails Illustrated Topo Map for Badlands National Park on any backpacking trip in the Badlands. Additionally, trekkers need to be prepared to carry in all of their own water, as there are no suitable water sources available in the National Park. The National Park Service recommends backpackers plan to carry at least one gallon of water per person per day.
Given the sensitive nature of the grassland prairie and surrounding ecosystem of the Badlands it is essential that you practice Leave No Trace principles when backpacking in Badlands National Park. This includes packing out all of your own trash and property disposing of your waste. Fires are not permitted in the backcountry and you’ll need to leave your pets at home as they are not allowed in the National Park.
The National Park Service recommends two specific areas of Badlands National Park for backcountry camping: the Deer Haven Trail near the Conata Picnic area and the wilderness located adjacent to the Sage Creek Rim Road.
The Deer Haven Trail is not an official hiking trail, but rather a well worn path that leaves from Conata Picnic area. The route takes you a few miles into the backcountry were a number of camping areas are available. Along the Sage Creek Rim Road there are plenty of opportunities to head into the backcountry following social trails and wildlife paths. You’re likely to encounter bison in this area of the National Park so always be sure to give them their distance!
Here are some key things to keep in mind when planning to stay at any of these backpacking areas in Badlands National Park:
- Pets are not allowed
- No campfires
- You must bring all of your own water
- Always practice Leave No Trace principles
- Be aware of wildlife
- Exercise caution when hiking since you will not be on a formal trail
If you follow these guidelines and plan accordingly you’re sure to have a great experience backpacking in this untamed wilderness!
Badlands National Park Camping Must Know
The following sections contain all the basic information you need to ensure you have a great time camping in Badlands National Park.
Fires are prohibited at all the camping options inside Badlands National Park. The ecosystem of the area is highly susceptible to damage and wildfires, so please respect this rule and do not have any type of campfire during your stay.
A diversity of wildlife inhabits Badlands National Park. This includes the iconic prairie dwelling bison, bighorn sheep, and the quintessential prairie dog. Badlands is also home to one of the most endangered animals in the world, the black-footed ferret. In addition to these mammals, you’ll also find rattlesnakes, turtles, and a variety of bird species.
For those camping, you’ll primarily want to be vigilant about keeping a safe distance from roaming bison and keep a close eye out for rattlesnakes. If backpacking, be sure to wear long pants to and be on the lookout for prairie dog holes which can leave you with a nasty sprained ankle.
Pets are allowed at both the Cedar Pass Campground as well as the Sage Creek Campground within Badlands National Park. You’ll need to have control over them at all times and they must be kept on a leash at all times. Also, be sure to pick up after them and properly dispose of their waste.
Pets are not allowed at any of the backcountry sites in Badlands National Park, so you’ll want to leave them at home if you’re venturing into the backcountry.
Where to get supplies
The best place to stock up on camping supplies before heading to Badlands National Park is Rapid City, South Dakota. Rapid City is about 1.5 hours from the Ben Reifel Visitor Center and about 1.25 hours from the Sage Creek Campground. While this isn’t especially close to the National Park, Rapid City has all the amenities and services you’ll need to prepare for a great camping trip including grocery stores, liquor stores, and outdoor stores. Here are your best options for where to stock up:
- Groceries: Safeway (730 Mountain View Rd, Rapid City, SD 57702)
- Outdoor store: Roam’n Around (512 Main St #140, Rapid City, SD 57701)
If you’re looking to stock up a bit closer to the National Park your best get will be the town of Interior, South Dakota. Interior is located only about a 10-minute drive from the Ben Reifel Visitor Center and has basic services such as a small grocery store and gas station.
Camping near Badlands National Park
Given the popularity and scarcity of options, it is always possible that you won’t be able to find a campground within Badlands National Park. However, don’t give up as there are plentiful camping options just outside the National Park boundary!
For those looking to explore some of the other highlights of South Dakota and the Black Hills, check out our other camping guides:
- The Complete Guide to Camping in Custer State Park
- The Complete Guide to Camping at Devils Tower National Monument
RV campgrounds near Badlands National Park
Those camping in an RV will have plenty of options just outside Badlands National Park. These campgrounds will be your best bet when Cedar Pass and Sage Creek are full, or if your RV/trailer is longer than 18′ (the limit at Sage Creek). Here are our recommended options for RV camping outside of Badlands National Park:
Number of Sites: 34 RV sites (with hookup), 27 tent only sites, 16 RV (no hookup)/tent sites, 4 group sites
Fee: RV sites ($23.61 – $37.07/night) // tent sites ($26.06/night)
Capacity: Max of 6 adults per site / more for group sites
The Badland Interior Campground is just over 1 mile from the Ben Reifel Visitor Center and entrance to the National Park, making it the closet option. The large site features plenty of RV sites with multiple hookup options as well as tent sites, teepees, and camping cabins. The campground has tons of amenities such as a pool, free WiFi, a small shop, as well as an on-site restaurant.
Number of Sites: 57 RV sites, 20 tent sites
Fee: RV sites $43/night // tent sites $28/night
Capacity: Not stated
The Sleepy Hollow Campground & RV Park is located north of Badlands National Park in the town on Wall, South Dakota. This well-equipped campground makes a great place to camp for those looking to explore the Sage Creek area of the National Park, or who prefer to stay along Interstate 90. The campground has plenty of capacity for RVs and features a pool, dog park, playground, and basketball hoop. Wall has many amenities that are great for camping near the National Park including a grocery store.
Car camping sites near Badlands National Park
If you’re looking for car camping sites near Badlands National Park you’ll have a few good options to choose from. In addition to the French Creek Campground listed below, car camping is permitted and recommend at both of the campgrounds listed in the RV camping section above. Keep reading below to see what your best bets are for car camping near the Badlands.
Number of Sites: 7 sites
Capacity: Not stated
Reservations: First come, first served
The French Creek Campground is located near the South Unit of Badlands National Park and provides for a great car camping experience. This is a semi-developed campground and features a vault toilet and a few picnic tables. The site does not have potable water, so you’ll want to be sure to bring your own.
Your final option for camping near Badlands National Park is to find a free, dispersed campsite on the adjacent Buffalo Gap National Grassland. Buffalo Gap is managed by the Forest Service/BLM which manages hundreds of thousands of acres of land throughout the country and generally allows for ‘dispersed camping’ on it. You can find more information on dispersed camping on BLM land here.
The Buffalo Gap National Grassland encompasses a huge area surrounding Badlands National Park, so you’ll want to have some idea of where you are headed. If you’re looking to camp on the west side of the National Park we recommend reaching out to the Fall River Ranger District in Hot Springs, SD to confirm current camping regulations. If you’re looking to spend a night or two on the north or east side of the National Park you’ll want to check-in with the Wall Ranger District.
You can’t go wrong with either locations, and here are your best bets for great dispersed camping near Badlands National Park:
Badlands Boondocking/Overlook Dispersed Camping
The so-called Badlands Boondocking dispersed camping area is located just north of the National Park on State Highway 240, which connects the Badlands to the town of Wall, SD. The camping area is approximately 3 miles north of the Pinnacles Entrance to Badlands National Park. From State Highway 240 there are plenty of options for great campsites, including the spectacular ‘Wall’ sites that overlook the National Park. Keep an eye out for a dirt road leading to three radio towers from Highway 240 and you’ll know you’re in the correct place. This site has some great intel on the area.
You’ll need to bring all of your own water and also be prepared to properly deal with your waste at this site, as there are no facilities. BLM regulations on dispersed camping allow you to camp for up to 14 days in a 28 day period, so be sure to observe that limit at this site.
It is especially important to practice Leave No Trace principles when dispersed camping.
Have a great trip!
That’s it! We hope you’ve found all of the information on camping in Badlands National Park in this post helpful and we know you’ll find the perfect campsite for your upcoming adventure! Be sure to let us know in the comments below if you have any questions or had a great time out camping!