The 244,000-acre Badlands National Park is a wilderness of buttes, pinnacles and prairie with fossil beds dating back 35 million years.
Once the hunting grounds of the paleo-Indians, the Badlands are now home to a different hunter ? the archeologist. With the richest supply of Oligocene mammals on the planet, scientists compare the findings here to those from around the world and piece together the mysteries of the Oligocene Era.
During the Great War, the Stronghold District was used as a bombing range. With old cars and drones, large titanothere fossils were used as targets. Today, the shattered remains of fossils are scattered throughout the area with remnants of bullet shells and unexploded ordinances. Precautionary actions are essential for safety when traversing the area. A list of such precautions is available from the National Park Service.
Hiking trails are plentiful, offering a variety of lengths and challenges. Some are accessible to the handicapped. Fossil Exhibit Trail is only a quarter-mile long, making for a great day's adventure. Castle Trail is the longest, running 5 miles one way.
Bikes are allowed on specially designated paths, some of which are paved. It's wise to wear long protective clothing, sunglasses and a helmet, and to carry plenty of water. There are three main biking loops: the 17-mile Northeast Loop (9 miles paved); the 23-mile Sage Creek Loop (12 miles paved); and the 27-mile Northeast -Big Foot Loop (11 miles paved).
Backpackers must carry all their water needs with them because water here is saturated with sediment that cannot be boiled away. Climbing the formations should not be attempted because they can collapse. And someone should be notified of route and expected return.
When following the proper precautions, the Badlands are a beautiful and exciting part of American history and geography that are thrilling to see, located in the southwest corner of The Coyote State.