Badlands National Park: Scenic Drive at Sunset


With just an hour or two before dark, I decided to drive eastbound across Badlands National Park’s scenic loop road. It was a great idea, since late in the day, the setting sun brings out some dramatic shadows in the Badlands’ strange eroded landscape.

This wasn’t destined to be a fantastic sunset — some low clouds blocked out the sun before it reached the horizon — but still, I had nothing to complain about.

White River Valley Overlook

I made my first stop on the return trip across the park, at White River Valley Overlook.  This viewpoint is close enough to some of the park’s biggest hills, that it provides a great view.  It also allows you to climb out onto a few small perches, directly above the eroded valleys…

… for some great views of the landscape.

Fossil Exhibit Trail

I had skipped Fossil Exhibit Trail earlier in the day, but I decided to make a stop here on the return trip.  The trail is located amongst the hills that surround the fantastic Norbeck Pass area.

Most of the trail is a boardwalk, with exemplary fossils in display cases, next to the path.

The surrounding hills were great, but I was mostly in a hurry to get to my favorite part of the park…

Norbeck Pass

I had mentioned on an earlier page that Norbeck Pass is my favorite part of Badlands National Park.  I had already designated it as my favorite during my first pass through, earlier in the day.  But now, the beautiful colors in the sky made it even more extraordinary.

The road passes elegantly through Norbeck Pass…

… and there are plenty of pointy hills, just a few dozen yards from the edge of the road.

With daylight fading, I ran frantically around, trying to take every picture possible before it was too dark.  I did a pretty good job wearing down my camera battery, and filling up a 4 gigabyte memory card, then switching to another.  The possibilities for pictures here are endless.

I made it back to the visitor center just as night truly set in, then drove the rest of the way out of the park in near darkness.  After dinner in Wall (and a visit to Wall Drug’s giant dinosaur on I-90), I drove the rest of the way back to Rapid City in the rain.  It was remarkable: the weather had started off cloudy, then the sky cleared, and I had beautiful weather throughout the day.  The rain waited until the right time.  If only I had been so lucky for Day 6, and my visit to Mount Rushmore and the Black Hills.

Note: This trip was first published in 2008.

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