Sage Creek Loop (Badlands National Park, USA)

DISTANCE (round-trip)

22mi (35km)

DIFFICULTY

TIME

2-3 days

ALTERNATIVE TO

Popular Trails in Badlands National Park

SOLITUDE

Ultimate Freedom in a Forgotten Corner of Badlands National Park

Featuring rolling hills and plains instead of the popular petrified mud formations, this trail is located on the less seen side of Badlands National Park.

The dry grasslands here are emblematic of the prairies that once covered North America and the wilderness area is home to one of the last great hikes still left on the Great Plains. The plains are home to prairie dog towns, pronghorn, and the American bison. Getting up close and personal with these behemoths will happen, be prepared for the encounter!

The trail is not well marked but the grasslands and various overlooks make getting lost nearly impossible. Climbing hills for spectacular views and following the river is as much guidance afforded, no trail signs or markings exist.

The amount of freedom is unmatched, truly a forgotten corner of the National Park System. The unmarked trails and lack of Instagram friendly photos keeps this section of the park nearly empty. Intrepid hikers who leave the campsite will be rewarded with solitude.

When to go

Fall, Winter, and Spring are the best times to go. Try to avoid the oppressive heat of the summer as well as the summer roadtrippers.

Getting there

34 minutes south of Wall, South Dakota. Take 240E South of town and turn onto Sage Creek Rd, continuing south on Sage Creek Road when the road curves.

After 4.8 miles, a small unnamed dirt road will appear on your left, this leads to the Sage Creek Campground and the trail head.

Know before you go

  • Scan every valley and wash for Bison, surprising one of these beasts can turn deadly.
  • Be aware of rattlesnakes! The tall grass of the plains offers plenty of hiding places, I nearly stepped on one while hiking here.
  • Pack in all your water. There is no potable water on the hike and the river is thoroughly polluted with Bison poop.

Taken by Joel Salvino, Sunset while a lone Bison grazes.

Taken by Joel Salvino, the grasses and ancient mud make the hike surprisingly colorful

Gear Recommendations for this trail:

About the author

JoelSalvino

Addicted to the dark areas on light pollution maps, I focus on documenting the world's remote spaces. I hope to inspire others to be an active member of the ecosystem all around us. Our most valuable resources, clean air, clean water, and open spaces are being parceled off and destroyed at an alarming rate. Let's enjoy Earth and share it with future generations. You can check out my blog Not A Guide Book