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South Dakota's Badlands Loop Road

An exhilarating 50 mile drive in South Dakota takes you past a historic sod home and multihued pinnacles.

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  • Badlands Loop Road in South Dakota, image
    Photo caption
    Badlands Loop Road passes varied and ancient rock formations.
  • Prairie Homestead, Badlands, South Dakota, image
    Photo caption
    Prairie Homestead historic site is near South Dakota's Badlands National Park.

 

Take a lunar landscape, add multihued pinnacles, toss in prairie dogs, pronghorn, bighorn, and bison, and you've got the ingredients for an exhilarating and accessible drive along South Dakota's Badlands Loop Road, less than 50 miles long.

Just a few hours from the Wyoming and Montana borders, the Prairie Homestead historic site makes a fine introduction to the region. The 1909 sod home and outbuildings lie near Badlands National Park, bearing witness to the promise and heartbreak of pioneer life on the Great Plains.

Continue through the park gates to the Ben Reifel Visitor Center, where you can watch the process of preserving fossils found nearby. The quarter-mile Fossil Exhibit Trail lies 10 minutes down the road, and next to the five-mile Castle Trail, which traverses the prairie.

Some of the best vistas come before the loop gets to Wall Drug Store—the place to buy souvenirs, grab a 5-cent coffee, and plan your onward journey.

Photography by welcomia/Shutterstock (landscape); courtesy of J Hirtle/Wikimedia Commons (Prairie Homestead)

 

This article was first published in Fall 2015. Some facts may have aged gracelessly. Please call ahead to verify information.