Badlands National Park: Enter the Door Trail

badlands enter the door trail

Badlands National Park in western South Dakota has one of the coolest landscapes in the Upper Midwest. Its Enter the Door Trail—just half a mile long—is an easy hike for all ages.

The Trail isn’t wheelchair-accessible—there are a few short climbs and descents. It’s not paved. But small children should be able to handle it with ease.

The Highlight of ‘Enter the Door’ Trail

The highlight of hiking this short trail is really getting into the surreal landscape of the Badlands. Even if this is just a few-hour stop on your way somewhere else, you can do this hike in 30-45 minutes easily.

If your visit to the Badlands is in the summer, early mornings and evenings are the time to go. Not only will you beat the intense summertime heat, it’s also the prettiest time to be among the rock formations. The sun casts long shadows when it’s low, and the colors are more intense.

enter the door trail
I’m walking along the Enter the Door Trail. It almost seems like a moonscape!

On our most recent trip through the Badlands, we camped for a night at the nearby Badlands KOA. After setting up camp there we came back to the Park for the evening. It was much more pleasant and much less crowded than during the day!

Follow the Yellow Brick Road Yellow Numbered Posts

Since there’s no real “trail” to follow on the rock, be sure you keep your eyes on the yellow numbered posts. These lead you along the Trail and back. If you have young children they can have the task of locating the next post, as one family was doing when we were there.

Badlands hiking
Our son, Jason, winds his way among the rock formations (a little off-trail here)

How to Find ‘Enter the Door’ Trail

Enter the Park via the East Entrance (off Interstate 90). Stop at the second parking lot once you’re inside the Park (but don’t miss the first one—there are fabulous views from high up!). Once you park your vehicle are you’re facing the rocks, the trailhead is on the left side end. Follow the boardwalk.

Badlands Enter the Door Trail
My husband, Nick, and daughter, Jamie, follow the boardwalk to the trailhead.

What’s to Love About Badlands National Park

We’ve never made the Badlands its own destination. But we’ve made a habit of stopping there on our way out West or back from the West. It’s always worth the visit.

A family could easily spend a week exploring Badlands National Park and its close neighbor, the Black Hills.

There are many camping opportunities for both tents and RVs. There’s loads of hiking in the area. There’s lots of wildlife: bighorn sheep, deer, pronghorn, birds and small rodents. There are rattlesnakes, too, so be aware! Keep tabs on small children.

As in all our National Parks, dogs are not allowed on the trails, even on a leash.

badlands national park
The Badlands make great silhouette shots against the setting sun!

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Sharon is the founder and administrator of Active Outdoor Women. She loves getting outside in beautiful places to hike, paddle, camp, snowshoe, ski, ride—and encouraging others to come along! Besides maintaining AOW and her other blog, Twin Cities Outdoors, Sharon writes and designs websites, newsletters, blogs, emails and other marketing tools for clients.