Veloviews for August 26, 2022 – Cycling Badlands National Park of South Dakota

Picture of formations at Badlands National Park

It’s the end of the first full week of La Vuelta Espana and the riders are getting ready to take on the vicious climbs in the mountains. But instead of focusing this post on that aspect of cycling, I thought I’d delve a little more into something closer to home, Badlands National Park.

The Badlands is in southwestern South Dakota and features 64,144 acres of wilderness protected by the National Park Service. It was recognized as a national monument in 1929. The park contains “sharply eroded buttes and pinnacles, along with the largest undisturbed mixed grass prairie in the United States.”

The Badlands are really in the middle of nowhere but totally worth the visit because there is plenty for your eyes to take in with many scenic vistas. I thoroughly enjoyed my short visit there. One of the things I didn’t get to do, unfortunately, is ride the loop road, which is mostly flat with good pavement. I hope I get to ride there in the near future.

The Badlands Loop road is 4o miles with some slight elevation changes. The road itself is pretty curvy, so it is highly probable to encounter points where oncoming traffic might not see you while on your bike. Important points to keep in mind are that the road is narrow and lacks water stops. However, there is a bicycle repair station at the main visitor center where you can check over your bike one last time before heading out and also fill your bottles.

Picture of Loop Road at Badlands National Park

In addition to the loop road, there are three shorter loops a cyclist could choose to take on that covers roads in, around, and outside Badlands National Park. Of note, you’ll want to be aware of the following: these additional loops will take you beyond the boundary of the park for half of the rides and these roads include long unpaved sections.

  • The Sage Creek Loop – It is 23 miles and passes over rolling grasslands. This loop takes you outside the confines of the park, so make sure you have a receipt with you that shows you paid admission to the park or you might have to pay again. This loop also features unpaved 11 miles of unpaved and 12 miles of paved road.
  • Northeast Big Foot Loop – This loop is 27 miles. You’ll see “ranchland and badland formations” after a nice climb. It’s noted to beware of Goatshead, a sharp spiny seed in the road in late summer that will definitely cause you to flat, so make sure to pack a couple extra tubes. This loop features 11 miles of paved road and 16 miles of unpaved road.
  • Northeast Loop – The shortest of the three loops mentioned and the shortest ride you can do at the Badlands National Park, this loop is considered a fairly easy ride after a climb up Cedar Pass. It is 9 miles paved and 8 miles of unpaved road.

Cycling Badlands National Park is a unique experience, I’m sure, just like riding in other National Park Service areas around the country. If you go during the summer, make sure to bring lots of water, sunscreen, and plenty of tubes. In other words, you should treat it like you would any other place you might ride.

Have you been to South Dakota? Have you visited Badlands National Park? Have you got to experience cycling through or around the park? Please like, share, and comment on this post. Until next week, stay safe, ride lots, and enjoy the last part of the summer.

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