If you’ve been lucky enough to experience the Badlands in person, you know how difficult it is to pull yourself away from these colorful formations…but if you happen to be in South Dakota’s Badlands National Park, you won’t have to. Near the Park’s western-most boundaries, there’s an open cul-de-sac that provides ample space for an overnight stay and primitive camping inside the Park. Accessible through Rim Road (which turns into Sage Creek Rd, heading west), a short drive south into the Park through an unpaved road will lead you straight to Sage Creek Campground. Although the Park offers other camping and lodging accommodations near the east entrance, this campground is the most isolated and the one likeliest to provide you with the most genuine Badlands experience.
The Campground offers ten spots to park your car, RV or horse. Although camping here is absolutely free-of-charge, it is only available on a first-come, first-serve basis. Each camping lot offers about 20 square feet of space—plenty to park your vehicle and set up a tent, although there are no clearly designated boundaries; just be respectful of others’ space. A handful of spaces provide a larger track of land to accommodate RVs, trailers or horses. Each space is easily identifiable by tan covered picnic tables provided for each space. In addition to the picnic tables, the site offers two standard NPS vault bathroom and several tamper-proof trash receptacles to dispose of your waste. This setup makes it easy and convenient to enjoy a nice dinner or breakfast while camping under the stars in the Badlands. Although the spaces rarely fill up, it does happen and we suggest you arrive early to claim your camping site—preferably before sundown since this Campground isn’t regulated by a reservation system. Not only will it help minimize your chances of stepping on large piles of bison dung; it will also make it easier for you to set up your area in the daylight so that you’re ready to enjoy the sounds and smells of the night and the bison surprises of morning.
Interested in a first-hand account of what it’s like to camp at Sage Creek Campground? Check out “Sage Creek Camping—a Nomadders’ Experience”. We encourage you to follow safe camping guidelines and familiarize yourself with the types of amenities the National Park Service offers and as always, tread lightly—pack in what you pack out, leave nothing but footprints, take nothing but memories (and tons of pictures)!