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America’s Bucket List: Visiting The Badlands National Park In South Dakota

America's Bucket List: Visiting The Badlands National Park In South DakotaThere’s a reason why so many people say that they can spend an entire lifetime traveling through the United States and still not see everything that the country has to offer. And that’s not just because of its sheer size, the distance from one landmark to the next, or a lack of time. Instead, it’s because there are some places you’ll want to visit over and over again. The Badlands National Park happens to be one of them.

The Badlands National Park in southwestern South Dakota is testament to how breathtakingly beautiful the state is. When you first enter the park, prepare to witness nothing but 64,000 acres of sheer incredible formations that are bound to please the aesthetic senses. Consisting of sharply eroded buttes and pinnacles, the Badlands is also one of the largest undisturbed grass prairies in the United States.

Some of the wildlife that inhabits the park includes bison, elk, mule deer, bighorn sheep, prairie rattlesnakes, and much more. Skeletons of three-toed horses and saber-toothed cats are just some of the many fossilized species that can be found in the area. But most importantly, it’s one of the most visually enticing parks in the country. No matter what direction you look, you can’t help but feel overwhelmed by its panoramic beauty.

The Badlands are also as rich in history as it is in terrain. The park wasn’t established until 1939 but was designated as a national park in 1978. For about 11,000 years, Native Americans used the area for their hunting grounds. It was the local Lakota people who first called this vast beauty the “mako sica” or the “land bad.” This was because of the area’s extreme temperatures, lack of water, and the exposed rugged terrain. In addition, French-Canadian fur trappers in the early 1900’s called it “les mauvais terres pour traverse” or the “bad lands to travel through.”

While earlier travelers might have had a difficult time navigating through the terrains, these days the Badlands is well worth the visit. It’s a magnificently carved geologic wonder and a fabulous work of nature that must be witnessed in person in order to truly appreciate. The erosion of some of the terrain has left it with an endless expanse of impressive layers. No matters where you point your camera, you’ll be left with a terrific picture.

During your visit, kids can play on the formations or you can simply appreciate the simple sound of silence, which almost seems like a gift in itself. You can either hike and explore the trails, such as the fossil trail, or cuddle your loved ones for an unforgettable night of nighttime gazing. The only light you need to see are the stars from above (thanks to the lack of light pollution). Trust us, that it’s a show well worth seeing.

America's Bucket List: Visiting The Badlands National Park In South Dakota

If you are looking to view the Badlands from above, there are helicopter tours available prior to entering the park. Park rangers suggest spending two days to get the full experience. If you can, visit either during sunrise or sunset for the most spectacular views. Also, the Badlands is accessible for people of all ability levels, making it easy to hike for just about everyone. So bring your family, your hiking shoes and prepare to leave a little piece of your heart behind. The Badlands is a must on your ultimate America bucket list.

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