Badlands National Park covers a lot of ground in South Dakota and a good way to become familiar with this majestic landscape is to do an automobile tour. Highway 240 is also known as Badlands Loop Road and this touring route runs by most of the geological features that the north end of this park is famous for. There are roadside parking areas all along this road and some are equipped with picnic areas and facilities, so it is easy to take one's own sweet time when passing through. In fact, there is so much to experience along the Badlands Loop that at least a half day should be set aside for taking a grand tour.
Points of interest along the Badlands Loop include the Big Badlands Overlook, Panorama Point and the Yellow Mounds Overlook, which are all places where some extra time will surely be spent. There are several named geologic basin viewpoints that provide panoramic scenery and the Pinnacles Overlook provides views of a strange rock spire landscape that looks as if it belongs on another planet. There are hiking trails for all skill levels along this road and there will be plenty of opportunities to become amusingly lost on foot in this gigantic maze like landscape.
Wildlife actually abounds in the seemingly lifeless harsh Badlands environment and one of the most commonly encountered species are Bighorn Sheep. To be more precise, the Bighorn ewes often come out into the open to graze and they have a high tolerance concerning human beings, so they are rarely scared away. These powerful animals may seem docile, but it is best to keep a safe distance, because when bothered they can head butt an onlooker into next week. Taking pictures of Bison or Bighorn from a car is always a safe bet, while a 50 yard minimum viewing distance is suggested for herd animals while on foot.
Watching the Prairie Dog Towns along the Badlands Loop is another pastime that pleases viewers of all ages. Binoculars or a telephoto lens can shorten the viewing distances of both the wildlife and geological features, so be sure to pack some powerful glass for the venture. Packing a picnic basket is also highly recommended, because you will certainly find a unique spot of your own to spend some quality time. There is a lot of ground to cover in this park and plenty to discover, so be sure to become familiar with the surroundings upon arrival by touring the Badlands Loop Road!
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