Exploring the Gateway Towns Around Badlands National Park
Nestled in the rugged terrain of South Dakota, Badlands National Park is a breathtaking landscape known for its sharply eroded buttes, pinnacles, and spires. While the park itself is remote, there are several nearby towns that offer a sanctuary of comfort, local cuisine, and hospitality for travelers venturing into this wild region of the United States. In this guide, we'll explore these towns and highlight the unique culinary experiences they offer.
Wall, South Dakota
Perhaps the most famous town near Badlands National Park is Wall, located just 8 miles to the north. Wall is home to the iconic Wall Drug Store, a sprawling tourist attraction that began as a small pharmacy in 1931 and has since grown into a complex of shopping, dining, and entertainment. While you're in Wall, be sure to grab a bite at the Wall Drug Cafe, where you can enjoy a hot beef sandwich or a slice of their famous homemade pie.
Wall offers a range of accommodation options, from chain hotels to cozy inns. The town's proximity to the Pinnacles Entrance of the park makes it an ideal base for visitors looking to explore the Badlands' rugged landscape.
Interior, South Dakota
Interior is the town closest to the Badlands, sitting just outside the park's southeastern border. This small community provides a more personal and intimate setting for those looking to stay as close to the park as possible. Local bed and breakfasts and guest houses offer a unique stay, and the town has a couple of cafes and eateries, including the Wagon Wheel Bar & Grill, where you can enjoy classic American diner fare amid the rustic charm of the Badlands.
Rapid City, South Dakota
For visitors seeking a wider array of amenities, Rapid City—about an hour's drive to the west—is the largest city near Badlands National Park. It boasts numerous hotels, restaurants, and even cultural attractions like the South Dakota Air and Space Museum. Rapid City's culinary scene is diverse, offering everything from steakhouses to international cuisine. While in the area, sample some unique dishes like bison burgers or the Native American specialty, fry bread.
Kadoka, South Dakota
To the east of Badlands National Park, Kadoka provides a quieter alternative for overnight stays and dining. Local motels and ranch resorts cater to park visitors, and local diners offer a friendly, small-town dining experience. Kadoka may not have the extensive list of amenities found in Wall or Rapid City, but its proximity to the lesser-known northeastern entrance to the park makes it a convenient stop.
Famous Dishes to Try
Visiting Badlands National Park is also an opportunity to indulge in South Dakota's regional cuisine. Here are a few dishes you shouldn't miss:
- Indian Tacos: A twist on the traditional taco, these are served on Native American fry bread instead of tortillas.
- Chislic: A South Dakotan specialty, chislic consists of skewered cubes of meat (usually lamb, beef, or venison) deep-fried or grilled and seasoned.
- Buffalo/Bison Steak: Leaner than beef, bison steak is a healthy and local favorite that you can find in many restaurants around the Badlands.
- Kuchen: This German-Russian dessert, the state dessert of South Dakota, is similar to a custard pie and can come in various fruit flavors.
Helpful Websites for Planning Your Visit
- National Park Service - Badlands: Official site providing information on the park.
- Wall Chamber of Commerce: For more information on accommodations, dining, and attractions in Wall.
- Visit Rapid City: A resource for finding lodging, eateries, and things to do in Rapid City.
- South Dakota Tourism: A guide to South Dakota’s attractions, including those near the Badlands.
Whether you're in it for adventure, solitude, or a taste of local culture and cuisine, the towns surrounding Badlands National Park offer something for every traveler. From the allure of Wall Drug to the quiet charm of Interior's prairie vistas, expanding your exploration beyond the park itself can enrich your experience of this unique and wild landscape.