Camping at Badlands National Park – Cedar Pass Campground

Badlands National Park Camping

This picture was taken from our campsite!

Badlands National Park was one of the destinations of our family vacation this year.  Neither Julia or I (or Ellie) had ever been to South Dakota, so we had no idea what to expect.  It was definitely something different than anything we have ever seen before.

Location

The Badlands National Park is located right next to the small town of Interior, South Dakota.  There are several entrances to the park.  A couple of them (Pinnacles Entrance and Northeast Entrance) are only 8.5 miles from Interstate 90.

Just outside the entrance to the National park.

If you plan on entering at the Pinnacles Entrance via I-90, you will be taking the Wall, SD exit.   This will take you right by the world famous Wall Drug! Make sure to stop in so you can say that you have been there!

Outside of Wall Drug.

On our trip, we stayed 3 nights at Cedar Pass Campground, which is inside Badlands National Park.

Sites and Amenities

Located near the Ben Reifel Visitor Center, Cedar Pass Campground is the only developed campground inside the park.

There are 96 sites, and all of them have covered picnic tables, which is a must have for those hot summer days (it also helps block the wind, which can get pretty intense at times).

Without a shade over the picnic table, the wind and sun would have made it hard to eat outside.

Some sites have electricity, but that is the only hookup offered here.   A dump station is also available to those who need it for a $1 fee.

The fee for camping is $22 per night for a no hook up site, and $37 per night for an electric site.

One thing that makes this campground different than most, is that all of the campsites are “pull through”.  Each site has a spot to park on the road, which is something that was new to us.

Clean flush toilets are located in the middle of each loop, along with a pay shower house, and a dish washing station.

The dish washing station was very convenient, with there being no water hook up.

There are multiple drinking water fountains throughout the campground, and they all have spouts on the bottom so you can fill water jugs.

Absolutely no fires are allowed here.  This also includes charcoal grills.  So if you plan on cooking out while here, make sure to bring a propane grill with you.

Campers here enjoy a beautiful view of Badlands National Park from each and every campsite.

Reservations

Badlands National Park sees an average of 900,000 visitors per year, so making a reservation is probably in your best interest, especially if you want a site with electricity to run your air conditioning.  It gets above 100 degrees here in the summer on a regular basis.  So if you have animals or children, I highly recommend getting a campsite with electrical hookups.

We booked a site 6 months in advance to ensure that we had a spot.  Here is a link to the Cedar Pass Lodge website, where you can make a reservation for the campground.

There are several sites that are walk up only.  Every night that we stayed there (Tues-Thurs) the campground was full by late afternoon/early evening.  You should definitely get here early if you don’t have a reservation (at least in the busy season).

Our Experience

We arrived at Badlands National Park on Tuesday, May 29th, 2018.  Our campsite, number 22, was already tagged with our name on it, which made check in very easy.

Our first day there, it was 73 degrees outside with sunny skies.  We couldn’t have asked for better weather.  We got our campsite set up, made some lunch, then headed into the park to check it out!

Our site. We put extra bedding on our Portable Dog Fence to give them some shade. The sun is intense here, and there are no shade trees!

Over the next 3 days, we went on several hikes.   They included Window Trail, Big Badlands Overlook, Castle Trail, and part of Saddle Pass.  We got half way up Saddle Pass, and realized it was not the best idea to continue with a toddler, it was very steep!

You would definitely need to climb on all fours to complete this hike, it was that steep.

We had dinner on our 3rd wedding anniversary at the Cedar Pass Lodge.  Julia got the buffalo burger, while Ellie and I enjoyed Indian Tacos.  The food was very good, and we highly recommend eating there if you have the chance.

Coloring in the restaurant while waiting for our food.

The rest of the time we spent relaxing at our campsite, enjoying the beautiful views of Badlands National Park.

We hated to leave, but our next destination on this trip, Palisades State Park, did not disappoint!

Overall

The main attraction for Cedar Pass Campground is definitely the scenery.  Also, the proximity to all that there is to do inside Badlands National Park is a huge plus (since you are already inside the park).

I recommend staying elsewhere if privacy is a must have for you.  There are very few trees, and not much to block several of your neighbors from being able to see your site at any time.

With that being said, when we get a chance to come back to this area, we will try to stay at this campground again.

-Kyle G.

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