Cedar Pass Trail, Badlands National Park

Nestled in the heart of Badlands National Park, the Cedar Pass Trail offers hikers a unique opportunity to explore the rugged beauty of South Dakota’s Badlands. This moderate, 3.5-mile trail winds through towering rock formations, past colorful canyons, and over rolling prairies, providing stunning views of the surrounding landscape at every turn. Whether you’re a seasoned hiker or just looking for a leisurely stroll, the Cedar Pass Trail is a must-see destination for anyone visiting Badlands National Forest.

Trail Highlights

Some of the the highlights of this trail are:

  • Offers stunning views of the Badlands formations and surrounding landscape
  • Passes through a variety of ecosystems, including prairie grasslands and rocky canyons
  • Provides opportunities to see a diverse range of wildlife, such as bison, pronghorn, bighorn sheep, and coyotes
  • Features unique geological formations, including spires and hoodoos
  • Offers a chance to see rare and endangered plant species, such as the western silvery aster and the Badlands wallflower
  • Provides access to the Fossil Exhibit Trail, where visitors can see fossils of ancient mammals and reptiles
  • Offers a challenging hike with steep inclines and rocky terrain
  • Provides a peaceful and remote wilderness experience, away from the crowds of more popular trails in the park.

Total distance: 3.5 miles (5.6 km) 

Elevation gain: 

Difficulty: 3/5

Child friendly?

The Cedar Pass Trail  is suitable for children, but parents should be aware that it is a moderately difficult trail with some steep inclines and rocky terrain. This is perhaps not the best trail for younger kids or children with little hiking experience. Children should be supervised and wear appropriate footwear.

Local Campgrounds

Camping is a great option as a base camp for the Cedar Pass Trail. Camping allows hikers to fully immerse themselves in the park’s natural beauty and experience the tranquility of the wilderness. The best time to visit the Badlands National Park is in the spring or fall when temperatures are mild and the crowds are smaller. However, visitors should be prepared for unpredictable weather, as the park is known for sudden thunderstorms and high winds.

Cedar Pass Campground is the best option for camping in Badlands National Park. It is located near the Cedar Pass Lodge and offers easy access to hiking trails and scenic drives. The campground has 96 sites, including some with electrical hookups, and is open from mid-April to mid-October. Reservations are recommended, especially during peak season.

Other Activities

In addition to hiking, there are many other ways to discover this beautiful wildness. If you are planning a trip to Cedar Pass Trail, be sure to consider some of the following:

  • Hiking on various trails throughout the park
  • Camping in designated campgrounds
  • Scenic drives along the Badlands Loop Road
  • Wildlife viewing, including bison, bighorn sheep, and prairie dogs
  • Stargazing in the park’s designated dark sky area
  • Ranger-led programs and guided hikes
  • Horseback riding on designated trails
  • Backcountry camping and backpacking
  • Rock climbing and bouldering in designated areas
  • Birdwatching in the park’s diverse habitats.

Cedar Pass Trail FAQs

Are dogs allowed? Yes, dogs must be kept on a leash at all times on the Cedar Pass Trail in the Badlands National Park.

Is the trail well signed? Yes, Cedar Pass Trail is well signed, but it is always recommended to bring a map or use a GPS device to ensure you stay on the correct trail.

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