|Distance||0.75 miles roundtrip|
|Best Seasons||Spring, Fall|
- Short but adventurous trek across rugged badlands terrain
- Badlands views in every direction
Of the three trails that start from this parking area, the Door Trail is my favorite. Not only is the scenery absolutely fantastic, you'll also have the chance to travel off-trail for a short portion, choosing your own route across the badlands to the final viewpoint. Although the trail is usually pretty crowded, there is so much to look at in every direction that the crowds won't ruin your experience.
From the northernmost end of the parking lot, the trail starts as an accessible boardwalk, leading to a viewpoint with a bench. From here, descend the stairs to the dusty, dry ground and begin your trek across the top of the badlands to the final viewpoint. Unlike other hikes you might have done in the past, there is no clear-cut path to follow beneath your feet since there isn't any vegetation and the highly erodible surface means rain instantly erases any trace of human footsteps. Instead, you must scan across the brown surface for bright yellow poles numbered in succession to proceed in the correct direction. Almost as soon as you start this adventure, you'll be treated to the jagged beauty and layers of the badlands formations extending in all directions, see the picture below.
Pets are prohibited on all hiking trails in Badlands National Park. This is a really fun trail for families since the rugged, trail-less portion allows for controlled exploration and some adventurous "climbing" (mostly for the smallest children). While you can certainly hike here in all four seasons, the trail is unmaintained in winter and may be icy or covered in snow -- in addition to the brutally cold temperatures you'll have to endure. Summers are hot and dry with average daytime highs in the 90s, exacerbated by the lack of shade anywhere in the park; I wouldn't recommend visiting in the summer. Be prepared with extra water and sun protection, no matter which season you hike. This is one of the most popular areas of the entire park, as evidenced by the amount of parking spaces here, so expect to share the trail with crowds of people.
From Interstate 90, take exit 131 for South Dakota Highway 240 (you'll see a brown sign for Badlands National Park and the Minuteman Missile National Historic Site Visitor Center). Head south and continue to the park entrance station. Pay your fee, continue straight, then turn left into the parking area, labeled with a brown sign for the Door/Window viewpoints.
Google Maps Directions
Parking, Fees, and Facilities
Entrance to the park requires paying the $20 vehicle entrance fee ($25 starting January 2019), except on designated fee free days. Annual passes for Badlands National Park are also available at $40 ($50 starting January 2019). Interagency annual passes are available for $80 with discounts for seniors, military, and those with disabilities. Visit the Badlands National Park webpage about fees for more detailed information. There are pit toilets available in the center of this large parking lot.