While in South Dakota, I took a day trip to Badlands National Park. It is about an hour drive from where I was staying in Rapid City via I-90 E and about 6 hours direct from Denver.
It is everything I had hoped for and so much more.
Badlands is a 244,000 acre National Park in Southwest South Dakota. It's east of the black hills and the scenery is strikingly different.
According to the National Park Service, "The Lakota people were the first to call this place "mako sica" or "land bad." Extreme temperatures, lack of water, and the exposed rugged terrain led to this name. In the early 1900's, French-Canadian fur trappers called it "les mauvais terres pour traverse," or "bad lands to travel through."
It is near the town of Wall, but you wouldn't know you were anywhere but a prairie until after you've entered the park.
Some history: Badlands was designated as a National Park in 1978. It is made up of eroded buttes, pinnacles and spires made of layers of colorful sediment. Water carves out an inch more each year through erosion to create the beautiful formations. It is home to one of the worlds richest fossil beds, and the largest undisturbed mixed grass prairie in the United States.
Wildlife is everywhere at the park (like the snake pic below ahhh) and it used to be the home of rhinos, three toed horses, and saber toothed cats. --> They even sell saber tooth cat fossil earrings.
I took the Highway 240 loop scenic byway through the park and stopped at every single pull over (duh). It is breathtaking. The thing I liked the most was the differentiation between the landscapes. Between the prairie and "The Wall" of sediment and between the formations themselves. Each area had its own look.
I took about 3.2 million pictures, but here are just a few (and a gif!!):
original fav pose
Ladder on Notch Trail
Badlands is an underrated park for sure - if you are near South Dakota (or not) you should definitely go!