We launched from Minnesota on June 25th to begin working our way to the Black Hills and beyond. Our goal is to visit many different National Parks along our journey and learn all that we can about each one. On July 1st, we made it to our first National Park. The Badlands National Park.
There are so many things that you can do at Badlands National Park. You could spend an entire week there and still not see it all. It’s so breathtakingly beautiful, yet it was very hot while we were there. I’m listing the top 5 things that we enjoyed during our 2 days at The Badlands National Park.
- Drive the badlands highway all the way through and seek out the wildlife as well as the beautiful scenery.
- Stop at the Visitor’s Center.
- Hike around, even the short trails, it’s amazing!
- Boondock at the Wall Dispersed for a night….it’s breathtaking and you might even hear the coyotes!!
- Participate in the Junior Ranger Program.
1. Drive the badlands highway all the way through and seek out the wildlife as well as the beautiful scenery.
We really enjoyed driving the loop two different days. I felt like the first time around I was just in awe of the beauty of the landscape. The second day, I was able to see more details such as notices the different colors in the rock formation of the badlands depending on the elevation.
We also came across some amazing wildlife, up-close!! We came across prairie dogs, turkey vultures and big horned sheep. The sheep were often on the road while we slowly drove by them, so we were able to get many great pictures!
2. Stop at the Visitor’s Center.
We stopped by the visitor center and even though it was pretty crowded, there was a lot to see and do. Jasmine loved the exhibit where you could pick up the telephone and listen to a recording teaching you about the badlands. While I loved that there was a real fossil lab with paleontologists were hard at work behind the plastic walls uncovering amazing fossils that were found in the Badlands!
We also watched a 20-minute video in their small theater, teaching us about the history of the Badlands. Jasmine sat in the back row giving commentary throughout…BIRD…..FLOWER….BUFFALO!! When the video was over, the kind family in front of us luckily thought she was pretty cute.
3. Hike around, even the short trails, it’s amazing!
We knew that getting out hiking with the children meant taking it slow, drinking a lot of water and packing a lot of food in the van for when the hike was over. We also were sure to dress closed toe shoes and wore sunhats.
The kids were fearless!!!
Which often meant that Tony and I were on edge and full of anxiety!!
There is a fine line between allowing your children to explore their environment and find their own boundaries by experiencing the natural consequences of their actions……and making sure that your children stay safe. There were times where that line was a bit blurry for Tony and me. For instance, when Gwen decided to climb too high in order to keep up with Lilya and Riley and she was not able to get back down on their own. Needless to say, Tony had to go up after her and help her down…not realizing how steep the slope was in the first place to even allow the other two kiddos to climb that high! However, it all worked out and everyone came away unscathed.
We tried hiking for a bit on Saturday late afternoon, and it was very hot. Over 95 degrees. So we waited to do more hiking until Sunday morning, and it was only 75 degrees!! It seems to always be windy in the Badlands so 75 degrees and breezy was beautiful weather for hiking.
4. Boondock at the Wall Dispersed for a night….it’s breathtaking and you might even hear the coyotes!!
We really wanted to camp in Badlands National Park. However, there were no campsites available in the main campground, so I began googling ideas for boondocking. I found out a well-known boondocking spot in the Buffalo Gap National Grasslands, which is BLM land so you are free to dry-camp/boondock for up to 14 days. This place was named by previous boondockers The Wall Dispersed. I believe it’s giving tribute to the city of Wall, that is only 6 miles from this location. Or maybe it’s giving tribute to the fact that you are staying on the edge of the Grasslands, overlooking the beautiful Badlands. When I say edge, I mean rim….or cliff!
The kids spent some time finding exciting rocks and stones. Riley even found one very large rock buried in the dry dirt, so it became a team effort to try to dig it out….all without a shovel! Our sand toys were buried in the back of the van, so Tony grabbed a flat-head screwdriver and saved the day! The kids were thrilled!
Gwen also discovered a really cool looking beetle! She had a blast poking at it and carrying it around on a stick, and Jasmine even joined in on the fun!
It was breathtaking! Waking up the next morning to have this be the view out our bedroom window….made us want to cancel our registration to stay at a campground in Wall and stay longer at this boondocking site! However, we told the kiddos that we could go swimming at the campground in Wall, so we had to say goodbye to this beauty.
5. Participate in the Junior Ranger Program
I learned about the Junior Ranger Program online from previous fulltime families traveling around the country. The kids were pretty excited to participate because then they could earn a badge. You have to first stop at the visitor center and ask for a workbook for each kiddo. The program is for ages 5-12, but Gweny really wanted to participate too so Tony and I helped her along (she’s 4 1/2). The kids needed to complete 5 pages out of the 11 and then either watch the video at the Visitor Center or attend a Ranger Program.
The plan was to pick up the booklets on Saturday, July 1st and then turn them in on Sunday, July 2nd. We were driving the loop through the park on Saturday and made it to the Visitor Center just as it was closing at 7 pm! So I ran inside and quickly asked for the booklets! That night, the kids were up late working on them and helping each other out so that they could earn their badges.
The next morning, the kids were able to complete their booklets from the things we learned hiking. They turned in the booklets on Sunday afternoon and were actually really excited and proud to have earned their badges. Riley already began asking me about the next places we can visit to earn more badges. It looks like Mount Rushmore and Windy Cave National Park gives out Junior Ranger badges too. Both of which we plan to visit!