Best Time to Visit - 11 min read

Best Time to Visit Badlands National Park (Dramatic Landscapes!)

Peace Longe

Peace Longe, Updated November 15, 2022

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Badlands National Park’s captivating grazing wildlife and dramatic landscapes offer an ideal getaway location for a lovely scenic viewing experience. So when is the best time to visit Badlands National Park?

The best time to visit Badlands National Park is in Spring, between April and June when temperatures stay around the 81℉ (27℃) range. The Park usually has a few visitors, and hotel fees drop to as low as $75 during these months. Visitors also get to save up to 45% on flight fees and enjoy many breath-taking scenic views. 

A trip to Badlands is an experience of a lifetime as you get to explore the Park’s beautiful geologic design. Enjoy wildlife views of rare species inhabiting its fascinating grasslands. 

When Should You Not Visit Badlands National Park?

The worst time to visit Badlands National Park is July through August. Although these summer months are the most popular time to visit, the weather is usually quite hot.

Temperature levels spike, ranging from 116℉ to -40℉ on most days. It is the busiest time of the year with large crowds. 

When is the Cheapest Time to go to Badlands National Park?

The cheapest time to visit Badlands National Park is during the Fall(especially early October) when the Park sees fewer sightseers.

Thanks to low turnout, you get the best budget-friendly deals with low hotel fees and lower ticket prices by at least 10%. 

What Time of Year is the Best Weather in Badlands  National Park?

January: Ben Reifel Visitor Center  

January is the best time to visit the Ben Reifel Visitor Center in Badlands. The weather is usually really cold this month, with temperatures dropping to as low as -11℃/ 11℉. There are fewer sightseers, which is great for exploring some parts of the Park. The Ben Reifel Visitor Center Is an excellent site to check out.

The building features some stunning works, museum exhibits, and an air-conditioned theater. Several knowledgeable staff is readily available at the center to give you a tour. It’s a lovely opportunity to know more about the Park’s landscape, history, earth science, and wildlife. 

The center opens by 8 am and closes at 4 pm during this time of the year. 

  • Ben Reifel Visitor Center
  • Badlands National Park headquarters

Related Read: 15 Best Custer State Park Hiking Trails

February: Great Time for Camping

February is the best time to visit Badlands for a lovely wildlife watching experience. As winter slowly comes to an end, daily temperature levels peak, ranging between highs of 4℃/39℉ and lows of -7℃/19℉. This is a time most animals come out in the meadows and an opportunity for you to spot some. 

Most visitors generally look forward to wildlife viewing in the Park. Dress warm, take a hike to Sage Creek Campground and watch out for some Bisons on the western side of the Park. You will likely spot some Prairie dogs, Bighorn sheep, and Black-footed Ferrets on the outskirts of the grasslands. 

  • Sage Creek Rim Road in Free Badlands National Park Camping 
  • Big Badlands Overlook
  • Castle Trail
  • Badlands Loop Road

March: Scenic Drive Through The South Unit of Badlands National Park

March is the best time to take a scenic drive through the south unit of Badlands National Park. Daily temperature levels begin to get warmer at an average high of 8℃/48℉ and lows of -4℃/ 24℉. This favorable weather condition allows you to enjoy a lovely scenic drive through the south unit of the Park.

Badlands national park is home to many species such as Bison, Buffalo, elk, and prairie dogs. You will likely catch glimpses of these rare iconic creatures during a scenic drive across the Badlands Loop Road. And be sure to keep a safe distance from all wildlife. 

Make a stop at the visitor’s center to get a free high-resolution map of the Park. This will provide directions to help you navigate along the Badlands.

  • South Unit of Badlands National Park
  • Badlands Loop Road
  • Sheep Mountain Table

April: Junior Ranger Program 

April is the best time to visit Badlands and participate in the Junior Ranger Program when the roads become snow free. Sunny days and frequent thunderstorms are common during this month. Temperatures are usually between an average of 16℃/62℉ and 2℃/36℉. This is a great time for you to participate in the Junior Ranger Program.

This project is aimed at those looking to learn, explore and join the group focused on protecting the Badlands. Various activities make this program a fun experience. You can pick up some activity books at the Ben Reifel Visitor Center and learn about the tasks, Lakota culture, wildlife, prairie, and earth science. 

Attend the ranger program and complete all the various activities to earn a Junior Ranger badge. 

  • Junior Ranger Program
  • Ben Reifel Visitor Center – items for the Junior Ranger Program.

May: White River Visitor Center   

May is the best time to visit the White River Visitor Center in Badlands. The weather is optimal for outdoor activities, with temperatures ranging around 22℃/72℉. Wildflowers begin to sprout, adding beauty to the fascinating landscapes. This atmosphere and pleasant weather are great for a visit to one of the Park’s visitor centers.

The White River Visitor Center is one of the most popular places in Badlands National Park. It is located in the South Unit of the Park. The center features many museum exhibits, maps, and an art gallery. 

Enjoy a discussion with other rangers on the Lakota culture, history, and heritage of the Badlands. Note that pets are not allowed on the premises of this building.

  • White River Visitor Center in the south unit of the Park.
  • Pine Ridge Indian Reservation

June: Scenic Drive on Sage Creek Rim Road 

June is the best time for a scenic drive on Sage Creek Rim Road. The weather is usually quite warm, with temperatures around the 80℉ range. The Park gradually becomes crowded during this time of year as more visitors travel down to the Park. You will be able to enjoy a scenic drive on Sage Road. 

A scenic drive on Sage Creek Rim Road at Sunrise and sunset would be best to capture the beautiful wildlife sightings. Be on the lookout for some prairie dogs, rattlesnakes, and Bisons. These animals are often spotted as the temperature gets warmer during this period. 

This is the birthing season for some of the Park’s animals when Bisons and Bulls battle it out for mating rights. Always ensure you keep a safe distance from these wildlife areas.

There’s a great camping site on the Sage Creek Campground. This campground is suitable for picnics and retreats. Pets are much allowed in this part of the Park.

  • Sage Creek Rim Road in Free Badlands National Park Camping 
  • Sage Creek Campground

Related Read: 25 Best & Fun Things To Do in Spearfish, SD

July: Trip to The Fossil Preparation Lab

July is the best time to visit Badlands National Park and take a trip to the Fossil Preparation Lab. It’s a typically sunny and hot period in the Park, with temperatures rising as high as 33℃/92℉. This month is the busiest time of the year as several more visitors arrive just in time for the summer break.

The paleontological lab is located in the Ben Reifel Visitor Center, allowing visitors to watch the park paleontologists and preparators perform fascinating work on fossils and specimens.  

Enjoy fossil lab tours and learn about the Park’s earth science. Discover how fossil preparators examine and take care of rare specimens for exhibits or study. 

  • Ben Reifel Visitor Center
  • Fossil Preparation Lab— Badlands National Park

August: Mount Rushmore 

August is the best time to visit Mount Rushmore in the Badlands. Securing hotels can be quite difficult this month, so it would help to book accommodation before your visit. Daily temperatures remain warm with less rainfall, usually around the 30℃/90℉ range. It’s a lovely time to check out other places around the Park.

The mountain is located in the Black Hills of South Dakota, outside the Badlands National park. A visit to Mount Rushmore from Badlands National Park is about 98 miles(158km). Take a morning drive to get a crowd-free and serene experience at the 

There are a lot of fun activities to do at this place, including hiking along the presidential trail and Grand View Terrace. You can also attend the Evening Lighting Ceremony, which takes place on Mount Rushmore.

  • Mount Rushmore
  • The Black Hills & Badlands of South Dakota
  • Grand View Terrace

Related Read: Best Time to Visit Mount Rushmore

September: Sheep Mountain Overlook 

September is the best time to visit the Badlands National Park for an overlook at the Sheep Mountain Table. The weather is calm, with temperatures falling at an average of 27℃/81℉. Explore the Sheep Mountain Table located just on the Border of the South and North unit of Badlands National Park. 

Visiting this location isn’t ideal during the rainy season as the Sheep Mountain Table Road tends to become muddy. Luckily, the weather during this month is mostly calm. The Park only allows four-wheeled vehicles like SUVs and heavy-duty cars to go past the overlook. 

Enjoy a scenic drive for 2.5 miles until you reach the top of the table. Alternatively, you can hike along the dirt road to reach the Sheep Mountain Tabletop.

  • Sheep Mountain Table
  • Badlands National Park’s map is available at the Ben Reifel Visitor Center or the White River Visitor Center.

October: Yellow Mounds Overlook 

October is the best time to visit the Badlands National Park for a Yellow Mounds Overlook when the weather is mild, not quite cold or hot. Daily temperatures dip at an average high of 20℃/68℉ and a low of 3℃/39℉. The Park is often crowd-free, making the roads less congested for scenic drives and overlooks. 

The Yellow Mounds Pullout is one of the best Overlooks in Badlands National Park. It’s a great geologic area to visit. Explore the beauty of the Park’s dramatic landscape and colorful rock layers. 

The overlook is brightly colored, featuring various Gray, purple and yellowish rock beds. 

  • Yellow Mounds Pullout
  • Wall, SD

November: Snowshoeing  

November is the best time to visit the Park and go snowshoeing when the mountains are covered in snow. The weather becomes much cooler in the early days, with temperatures dipping to around 50℉ on average. It’s the perfect time of the year for winter sports enthusiasts to engage in activities like Snowshoeing.

Explore the available snowshoeing trails in South Dakota. The unique landscape and curved rocks provide an exciting thrill for this winter sport. 

  • Snowshoeing in the mountains
  • Hiking asking the Park’s various trails

December: Hike The Door Trail 

December is the best time to hike the Door trail when winter arrives, and temperatures are between an average of 3℃/39℉ and -8℃/17℉. This month’s freezing temperature sees very few tourists visit the Park due to the weather, creating a perfect opportunity to hike along various crowd-free trails.

The Park’s scenery during the winter is usually quite astonishing. While some trails are closed for the winter, you can still hike along the door trail. Remember to pack some warm clothes and appropriate winter boots. 

Bison are also commonly spotted in this winter month.

  • Door Traill
  • Window Trail
  • Fossil Exhibit Trail

What is The Best Time to Visit Badlands National Park With Family?

The best time to visit Badlands National Park with family is in Fall, preferably early September, when fewer sightseers are in the Park. 

The weather is pleasant, with temperatures around the 80℉ range- suitable for many fun-filled family outdoor activities.

Related Read: Mount Rushmore to Yellowstone Road Trip

Best Month to Visit Badlands National Park to Avoid Crowds 

The best month to visit Badlands National Park and avoid crowds is during the shoulder season; April to May and September to October. The weather is usually mild, with many visitors already returning to their homes after the summer visit.

Like many other national parks, summer is typically the busiest and most crowded time of the year. Most visitors are usually looking to take a vacation trip. So if you plan to visit during the summer, it would be best to go early in the day when the weather is still cool with fewer sightseers on the Park’s trails.

When is The Best Time for a Winter Trip to Badlands National Park? 

The best time for a winter trip to Badlands National park is December through January when the Park is crowd free. Despite the freezing temperature, it’s a great time to enjoy a wonderful hiking and snowshoeing experience with fewer crowds.

The harsh weather condition doesn’t quite appeal to many visitors, which invariably results in fewer crowds. The Park’s landscape becomes more breathtaking and mystical during this winter period. 

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