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