Badlands National Park in southwestern South Dakota features a colorful landscape of eroded buttes, spires and pinnacles [the term “badlands” broadly refers to this type of terrain], as well as the largest undisturbed mixed grass prairie in the US.
We hiked to the top of this peak:
The approach is actually on this side, where it’s less steep. Look at the tiny people!
The reward for the hoofing is this vista with prairie in the background:
What’s strange to me about this terrain is that it’s rugged yet fragile, and pieces of rock can disintegrate in your hand or under your feet. First of all, it seems like that could get dangerous. Second, I’m surprised that people are allowed to walk around with so few restrictions, and that the place isn’t a network of paths and boardwalks. Of course, it’s more interesting to explore freely!
During our little hike, we noticed dark spots in the distance. As we were driving through the prairie, the sky really started to go crazy. Click to zoom in:
It’s not fair to play favorites with these so-called badlands, but I think Grand Staircase-Escalante was more mind-blowing, partly because we seemed to be there alone and partly because we got to camp there.
Other awesome nature places I’ve had the pleasure of visiting include Acadia in Maine, Zion in Utah, Mesa Verde in Colorado, Mammoth Cave in Kentucky, Joshua Tree in California, and Kasha-Katuwe in New Mexico.