After a few long days on dull, straight highways, we arrive at Badlands National Park, by chance and at sunset. The first impression is immediately very impressive.
Special rock formations, hoodoos (sandstone pillars), large stretches of prairie and jagged canyons. The Badlands are known for the colored rock layers that stretch from the canyon floor to the jagged peaks created by water and wind erosion of layers of sediment.
It wasn't on top of us at first USA-list to visit Badlands, but driving through the park with the sun setting on the rock formations, we immediately decide to spend the next day in this beautiful landscape.
We drive to the campsite where we booked earlier today. On arrival it turns out that we have booked at an accommodation of the same name in Canada… The place where we want to be now will only open in a few weeks. This is annoying and according to the owner everything in the area is still closed for the season. The next place where hotels are open is an hour's drive away.
When we're back in the car, bewildered, to come up with a plan, the owner comes back outside and taps on our window. He wants to help us out and has a motel room available where we can sleep, if we can keep it between us. Naturally! We are very happy with the solution, we are 400 meters from the entrance to Badlands National park and it is the cheapest night – except for wild camping – that we have had so far!
What a landscape
After a good night at the motel, we get in the car and drive into the park. With the morning sun, the colors look very different again. We get out for a hike of a few kilometers. It feels surreal; we are all alone and surrounded by the dramatic scenery. After the hike we are glad we can get back in the car. Badlands is known for its cold and windy winters and we can feel it!
We drive through the park on the only paved road that runs through it. As with many national parks in the US, there are plenty of places to get out of the car, with one impressive view after another. From East to West we first pass through the jagged rock formations and end up on the prairies where bison graze today. What a beautiful, impressive beasts these are. Only a few meters away, you can see how big they really are!
Since we didn't really plan to visit Badlands, everything is a surprise. Which actually makes it really fun. The map we got at the entrance also shows an off-road route. We love to get off the beaten track and with a car like Red we can't pass it up!
We turn off the paved road, onto the gravel path. The first few hundred meters are washboard, this is a huge problem in the US. The road is so ribbed that it looks like it has been driven over with caterpillars. But as the path winds into the mountains, it changes happily.
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Once at the top we pass a sign with high clearance vehicles only beyond this point† We drive over a plateau overgrown with grass and a number of trees. Where we indeed, from time to time, high-clearance and we have to get out of the car to see which route we are going to take. On several parts we drive close to the abyss where we have beautiful views. At the end we come to a viewpoint over the badland rock formations and the prairie beyond. We make our lunch and eat it while enjoying the view.
Standing here and eating our lunch with this view and taking all the time to take in the beauty, gives the ultimate, free feeling of traveling that we love.
If you have become curious about our images from Badlands National Park. Our episode is online on our YouTube channel, Red's Road Life!
Until the next,
Roy and Ellen