Black Hills vs the Badlands

We guess if you aren’t from the area, you don’t have a clue what the differences are between the Black Hills and the Badlands.  (Many people think they are one and the same – as well as thinking this is where the Battle of the Little Bighorn was – but that’s in the  state of Montana.) With a trip to each area, we can tell you there’s a big difference.

The Badlands feature eroded hills with bands of color marking the era when the sediment was laid down.

Right across the road from where we took photos of these amazing rocks, the land turns to flat grass prairie.

The early settlers and American Indians agreed that the Badlands were a disagreeable place: bad weather, rugged terrain, and too little water.  The terrain was remarkable enough to have the area designated a national monument in 1929 and to become a national park in 1978.

West of the Badlands the terrain turns to rolling hills and plentiful trees.  These are the Black Hills.

There is evidence of 11,500 years of human habitation in the Black Hills.  The Lakota were living there when white settlers first arrived in the area.

Even though the Black Hills and the Badlands are only 70 miles (113 km) apart, our experiences in the two were hugely different.  We spent a week in the Black Hills at Custer State Park and camped two days in Badlands National Park.

Custer State Park was beautifully maintained and managed.

We visited Sylvan Lake while in the park…

…and hiked one of the trails nearby with lots of iron rails.

Badlands National Park didn’t have as many hiking trails and the weather was more challenging.

We camped under a hot sun at Badlands National Park but enjoyed the meadowlarks and bluebirds that were ever present.

We found that one of the best aspects of a visit to Badlands National Park was the ranger program (far and away superior to those at Custer State Park).  Whether it was geology, anthropology, native plants, or the night skies, the talks were informative and well presented.

We walked from our campsite one night to the amphitheater at Badlands for the evening program just as the moon was rising.

The lecture was on the Lakota sky and constellations presented by a Lakota teacher.

During our visit to South Dakota, we learned first-hand what the difference was between the Black Hills and the Badlands.  We also discovered the differences between a state park in the Black Hills and a national park in the Badlands. They were both worthy travel destinations!



August 2018

About simpletravelourway

Beth and Joe enjoy simple travel.
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6 Responses to Black Hills vs the Badlands

  1. Your photo of Sylvan lake is lovely. During our time in Montana, we drove the loop around the badlands a couple of times and have to agree it’s stunning. What a road trip you two are on! Anita

    • The variation in geography, weather, and population has made this a very different trip! As with all of our trips, we feel we’re discovering more to see and explore than can be fit in to however long we’re there.

  2. Sylvan lake is one of our favorite hikes in that area. So glad you’re getting to see so much of the northern US. The Badlands are pretty desolate and we only camped there when passing through.

  3. So the Badlands are aptly named. I would want to go just to say I’d been there.

  4. plaidcamper says:

    Wonderful post! We really enjoyed our visit to this area a few years ago, and like you, found the geographical diversity in a relatively small space very interesting. We will revisit at some point.

  5. frejatravels says:

    wouw.. it seems like a very nice place to visit. The photos are beautiful

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