Badlands Notch Trail

Best hike in Badlands National Park is Notch Trail ~ short and not difficult but still challenging with great views of the White River Valley, Badlands and a fun log ladder.

Notch Trail, Badlands

South Dakota

Facts To Remember


Difficulty: Moderate
Distance: 1.5 miles round trip / approx 2 hours
Elevation Gain: 173 feet
Starting Elevation: 2,640 feet
When To Hike: Year Round
Permits: No
Pets Allowed: No
Starting Location: South End of the Door and Window Parking Area
Time of Year: June, 2020

Parking and Getting There

The Door and Windows Parking Area is on the eastern side of Badlands National Park just north of the Ben Reifel Visitor Center. There are several nice and short hikes available from this area.

Hiking Notch Trail

We were told the best hike in Badlands National Park was Notch Trail. It not a very difficult trail but, as the sign reads, it’s rough terrain. I’m sure after a rain this would be a difficult hike due to mud and there are some areas were you should feel comfortable with some drop offs and a ladder.

The Log Ladder

It’s a ladder made of logs and it’s super cool. It gets much steeper at the top.

360 Video Climbing the Ladder

You can look around in this video and look at whatever you want!

Ladder from a Distance

Great view of the surrounding area and the log ladder.

Some of the Scenery Along the Hike

End of Trail View

Beautiful views of the White River Valley & Badlands at the end of the trail. You can see for miles and miles on a clear day. You can see in the first photo the Ben Reifel Visitor Center in the distance.

End of the Trail

Heading back from this short but really fun hike.

Our Thoughts

This is a short and not very difficult hike. There are many much shorter and others much longer but can see why this is the most popular in the park. The ladder is lots of fun and if you’re lucky, you’ll have it all to yourself. The views are fantastic and finding a quiet place to sit to enjoy it is always recommended.

Are you Considering This Hike?

If rain or bad weather is expected, perhaps plan the hike another day – the mud would likely make this a nasty hike
There are some dropoffs, so just stay away from edges and be safe
The log ladder is fun but still dangerous, hold on and be safe

Hike Recommendations

Water: Always bring plenty of water as summer temperatures can be very high
Food/Snacks: Always bring some food
Hiking Boots/Shoes:¬†Traction is Important ‚Äď No sandals, flip flops, slippers, dress shoes
Hiking Sticks/Poles: Poles will reduce the impact on knees and leg muscles

More Useful Information

Hiking in Badlands National Park

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