Badlands National Park Lodging: Campgrounds, Cabins, Securing Reservations in Cedar Pass, Sage Creek and More

by Amy Myers

Imagine waking up to a red rock sunrise and falling asleep to millions of stars glittering above you. This is the kind of experience you can get while lodging in Badlands National Park.

The park gets its name from 19th-century French trappers that first describe the area as “mauvaises terres a traverser,” or “bad lands to travel across.” And, indeed they were. As beautiful as we find these geological structures, they were once a death sentence to pioneers trekking the land in order to find greener pastures. With few potable water sources and hardly any vegetation nearby, the Badlands were no place to call home.

Obviously, much has changed since those trying times, and now, there’s plenty of lodging in and near Badlands National Park. Like most of our parks, there’s a wide range of options to choose from. Take just the necessities and reserve a campsite, or pack for a relaxing trip. Either way, no matter where you end up staying, it’ll play second fiddle to the beauty and adventure that awaits at the Badlands.

(Photo by: Education Images/Universal Images Group via Getty Images)

Camping in Badlands National Park

There’s no bad place to stake your tent within Badlands National Park. Naturally, the landscape has plenty of flat areas and impeccable views of the geological structures. The formations contain a range of sandstones, siltstones, mudstones, claystones, limestones, volcanic ash, and shale. All of these materials have created the incredible structures that over a million visitors come to see every year.

And at night, you might even need a sleeping mask. Once the sun sets, countless stars light up the sky to the point where you may even shut off your headlamps and lanterns. After finishing the day’s hikes, you’ll hurry back to your campsite just so that you don’t miss a second of the nighttime magic.

Cedar Pass Campground

Located near the Ben Reifel Visitor Center, the Cedar Pass Campground is one of the two most popular spots for Badlands National Park visitors. With several group and RV sites, the Cedar Pass Campground has the perfect spots to lay your tents or park your campers for all kinds of hikers.

Reservations for the summer are available beginning in March. Because of the dry conditions of the region, campfires and wood collection are not permitted in the park. However, you can bring contained stoves and grills. In addition to the covered picnic tables, visitors also have access to pay showers and bathrooms just a short distance from the campground.

Sage Creek Campground

  • Location: Sage Creek Campground, Wall, SD 57790
  • Price: Free
  • Number of sites: 22
  • Months open: year-round
  • Nearby attractions: Sage Creek Basin Overlook, Roberts Prairie Dog Town, Yellow Mounds Overlook
  • Sage Creek Campground is first-come, first-serve

Similar to Cedar Pass, Sage Creek is one of the go-to locations for traditional front-country campers. However, for this campground, there is no nightly fee. Instead, the sites are available on a first-come, first-serve basis. That said, if you get to Sage Creek during peak season – spring and summer – you might want to have a backup plan just in case.

Besides its lack of a nightly charge, the reason why Sage Creek spots fill up so quickly is because of the versatility of wildlife that travels through the area. There’s even a prairie dog colony close by. Campers have seen quite a few other animals pass by their tents, too, including buffalo, deer and rams.

As with Cedar Pass, you can’t have any campfires, so as not to risk any wildfires, but stoves and grills are still okay. There are also pit toilets and picnic tables nearby, however, there’s no water available.

Backcountry Camping

For those that prefer more primitive campsites, Badlands National Park has plenty of backcountry camping opportunities. In fact, you can lay your tent down anywhere so long as you maintain at least a half-mile between your set-up and the roads and/or trails. You also cannot be visible from trails or roadways, too.

There are a couple of popular areas that backcountry campers prefer to flock to. Deer Haven, a 2.5-mile unmarked social trail, is located close to the Yellow Mounds Overlook and the Conata Picnic Area. The Sage Creek Wilderness Area is accessible from the Sage Creek Campground. There’s also the South Unit, however, it’s important to have advanced map-reading skills, as it’s easy to get lost in the brush. It’s also a good idea to contact a ranger at the White River Visitor Center so as not to risk trespassing.

RV Camping, Rustic Cabins and Lodging Near Badlands National Park

Camping or lodging outside of Badlands not only gives you access to the parkland itself but also gives you the freedom to explore the attractions in the unique town of Wall, South Dakota as well. There are quite a few incredible attractions that can fill the day in between incredible hikes and trips to different overlooks. From geological landmarks to historical museums, the northwestern town is packed full of excitement and adventure.

In Wall, there are several campgrounds, lodges and cabins to choose from that give their visitors access to creature comforts and even luxurious amenities. And, most importantly, all lodging is incredibly close to and provides incredible views of Badlands National Park.

Sleepy Hollow Campground and RV Park

Located near the entrance of Badlands National Park, Sleepy Hollow Campground and RV Park brings convenience to your camping trip and lodging options. With amenities ranging from water, sewer, cable and electricity, this is the ideal spot for anyone traveling with a trailer or RV. The entire campground has access to the internet, and, for those with pets, there’s a dog park onsite as well.

Sleepy Hollow also has a number of tent sites available for those that want their camping trip to be a bit more front-country-friendly. You can also access quite a few attractions both inside and around the park. After a morning hike in the Badlands, you can play a round at the Wall Community Golf Course or throw out a line at New Wall Lake.

Badlands Frontier Cabins

The Badlands Frontier Cabins is the classic example of a getaway where you can end your with a cozy bed without too many other distractions. The venue provides the right amount of comfort with simplicity so that you still feel connected to the national park you came to visit. Each of the 33 custom-built cabins features a private bathroom, kitchenette, TV, internet, picnic area and grill. There are even pet-friendly cabins available for those traveling with furry friends.

Cedar Pass Lodge

Originally built in 1928, the Cedar Pass Lodge decided to give an upgrade to its property and build all new cabins with eco-friendly, energy-saving options. Located beside the Cedar Pass Campground, the Lodge actually oversees the campsites as well.

The rustic-style cabins boast gorgeous wooden lawn chairs out front and breathtaking views of Badlands National Park. Inside, there are bamboo towels and linens, AC and heat, satellite TV, and kitchen appliances such as a coffee maker, a mini-fridge, freezer and microwave. There’s also the Cedar Pass Restaurant onsite that serves breakfast, lunch and dinner. They even serve the South Dakotan delicacy, kuchen, the state’s take on a traditional German pastry made with a sweet dough and a fruit or custard filling.