Preview – A Traverse of Badlands National Park

The Badlands of South Dakota.

An ethereal maze of buttes, pinnacles, spires and cliffs.

Sculpted by the elements over thousands of years, this fossil-rich region combines otherworldly rock formations with a fauna-abundant prairie land to form one of North America’s most unique natural environments.

Over the following days I plan to traverse the entire Badlands National Park on foot. My sinuous route will be approximately 85-100 miles in length, and will take me between the Ben Reifel and White River Visitor Centers which bookend the park. About 90% of the hike which will be off-trail.

The principal challenge of the trek will be water. In short, there isn’t any. At least none that you can drink or filter once you’re out in the backcountry.

That being said, hydration salvation will hopefully be found in the form of a blink-and-you-miss-it (don’t blink and you will probably still miss it) town by the name of Scenic (population 10). Situated on the park’s western boundary, this little outpost was bought a few years ago by a secretive Filipino church group for just under $800,000. For novelty value alone it’s worth a visit. I mean really…….a Filipino cult buying a proverbial ghost town in the middle of bumscratch South Dakota? You can’t make that stuff up.

So there it is. My proposed ramble through the Badlands. The second in the series of Four Kinda Long Walks. I’ll check back in again once the hike is completed……….unless, in a mind-altered dehydrated state, i am somehow persuaded to don an orange sheet, join the cult and move full-time to Manila. In which case, thanks for reading.


Preview – A Traverse of Badlands National Park — 11 Comments

  1. Uggghhh, I know how that goes.

    On the Mojave Trail that I am designing ( ) and hope to have finished up next year… it has a single reliable (ok, not really, but… semi reliable lol) water source… for the first ~150 miles. And a good part of that is a ‘preserve’ so you legally cannot cache water anywhere /sigh/.

    Do what Brian Frankle, myself, and others have done… use a cart 😀 (oh wait, that is probably not even legal through the Badlands(???))

    Than again… 100 miles… average 25 mile days… that is only four days of water you have to carry. So, what… 35-40 extra pounds in your backpack.

    Anyway, on a truly serious note… have a super fun time out there!!

  2. Check out a couple short videos my son and I put together of our trip thru the Conata Basin this spring. On You Tube search Lance Smith Badlands and see 2 videos of the trip and all the wild life. You are correct about the water shortage. I carried 3 gallons for 2 of us for 2 day trip. We only went 20 miles. It is beautiful and amazing. The video is from amateurs and not perfect but gives a good feel for the area.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *