There are affiliate links in here. I get a small commission if you purchase through them at no extra cost to you.
Badlands National Park is awesome in the summer, but I wanted to see it in the winter, covered in snow. Now that I’ve seen (almost) all the parks between Utah and Wisconsin in the spring or summer, it’s time to see them in the winter. Everything just looks so different with a layer of snow.
We were driving from Wisconsin back to Utah and figured we might as well make another stop at the Badlands. When would we be going this way again in the winter? We didn’t know, so we went. And boy, was it an experience.
It was super snowy the day before we got there. Then the day we left was nice and sunny, but it was super windy and the interstate was a little too icy and we almost did some unwanted off-roading.
If you’re planning on visiting multiple parks (3 or more) on this trip or within the year, I would highly recommend getting a national park pass. It’s $80 but will pay for itself in about three trips to parks. It’s so worth it and I buy one every year! They’re also great for gifts for the park lovers in your life.
It will (probably) be very cold
The average temperature in the winter is right around 11 degrees, but it can get a lot colder than that. We had a windchill of 30 below the day we went.
That’s not super enjoyable, but it was still worth it to go through to take pictures. Just make sure you’re prepared with lots of warm clothes, especially if you want to do any hiking.
It will (probably) be very windy, too
South Dakota is just a windy place.
The Ben Reifel Visitor Center is only open 8-4
They have longer hours in the summer, but they close earlier in the winter since it probably isn’t as busy. The gift shop in the visitor center is also closed for the season.
It may be closed if the weather is really bad, too. The White River Visitor Center is closed for the season.
There are no ranger programs
The ranger programs are only offered in the summer months, so plan another visit to pass through when it’s a little warmer if you can.
Some hotels and restaurants in Wall are also closed
It’s just not as busy in the winter, so a lot of businesses close for the season. The Econolodge looked closed and a few restaurants were, too.
Food choices there are few and far between in the winter. The town near Mount Rushmore (Keystone) is the same way, except I think the whole town is pretty much closed.
You can still camp at the Cedar Pass campground
There is a section of the campground that is still open in the winter. Good news is you’ll probably have a good chance at getting the spot you want. I’m sure you won’t run into too many other people.
Some trails might be closed
You can still hike in the winter, but due to bad weather, trails may close. Stop in the visitor center to check on trail conditions in the park.
Also, remember you probably won’t have phone service, or good service, in a lot of the park, so let someone know where you’re going if you’re hiking.
Where to stay at Badlands in winter
We stayed at the America’s Best Value Inn in Wall and it was actually really nice. The rooms looked new and we had a nice view of the blizzard raging outside.
There aren’t tons of hotels in Wall, so you may want to call ahead to make sure they’re open when you’re visiting, and possibly make reservations if your plans are solid. Wall is going to be the closest place to stay to the Badlands.
While Wall is closer to Badlands National Park, Rapid City will have a lot more hotel options and restaurants that are actually open.
We haven’t stayed here, but we do eat at the Panera a lot. Let me know if you have any good restaurant recommendations for Rapid City.
Other tips for visiting Badlands in winter:
- Make sure you find out about road closures before heading to the park. If there is or has been heavy snow in the last day or so, it may be closed.
- Keep extra blankets in the car in case you break down. It will be super cold and you don’t want to be stuck in that.
- Don’t forget to bring an ice scraper and snow brush to clean the car off, just in case!
- Definitely, dress in layers. You’ll want a warm jacket, base layers, hat, gloves/mittens, warm socks, warm boots, and probably hand and foot warmers.
- Bring snacks and maybe some other food. Most restaurants were closed when we went, so we were stuck with Subway and gas station food.
So, are you convinced to visit the Badlands in the winter? It’s a totally different experience than a summer visit and totally worth it if you’re in the area, just be prepared and enjoy!
Have you been to Badlands National Park? What did you think of it? Would you ever go in the winter?