THE SHORT VERSION:
If you’re thinking about going to the Badlands, I absolutely, unequivocally, without a doubt recommend you go at sunrise. It was an incredible. Go to the eastern entrance to the Big Badlands Overlook and enjoy.
THE LONG VERSION:
Recently my fiancé and I went on a road trip from St. Louis out to Wyoming. Due to COVID, flying and international trips are obviously out of the question, but we wanted to escape since we both turned 30 this year. Escape, but escape safely. So we thought to ourselves, “Where can we spend lots of time outdoors and see some incredible new sights without getting ourselves/others sick?” Our minds immediately went to national parks. Because it’s August, we also wanted to be thoughtful of weather, especially since we were going to be spending so much time outside. I’m here to sweat a little bit on a hike but getting drenched isn’t cute. And it definitely isn’t what I want for my birthday. We decided Yellowstone and Grand Teton national parks would be our destinations.
We built out our road trip map and turned out, we were going to drive right by the Badlands. I went as a kid and remembered it being suuuuuuper cool, but hadn’t been in about 20 years. Remember when I said I turned 30 this year because I’m starting to feel old typing this. So we decided it would be the perfect place to stop overnight since it was just a little over halfway through the drive.
Me, being the novice photographer hobbyist that I am, saw an opportunity. The opportunity, you ask? Either landing here at sunset or getting up for sunrise. Sunrise ended up working better for us, so that was our plan.
We stayed at the Econo Lodge in Wall, which is closest to the northern entrance. It was a reasonable little hotel room and did what it was supposed to do. Looking back though, we should have stayed by the eastern entrance instead. So if you do plan to watch the sunrise at the Badlands, that’s what I’d recommend.
We woke up around 4:30am so that we could get out of the hotel around 5:30. We had a 30-minute (ish) drive to the entrance, filled with me singing lots of showtunes while my fiancé tried very hard to not dream of of ways to murder me that early in the morning, ha. The first stop for the day was Big Badlands Overlook first. We stayed here for about a half hour, watching the sun rise, and then took off through the park.
When going out of the parking lot at Big Badlands Overlook, take a left and go through the park for a couple hours. There are tons of stops along the way that have gorgeous viewpoints; pretty much anything on this map is worth stopping at. But really, just keep your eyes peeled and pull over when something catches your eye.
We probably spent 2 hours driving through the park until we got to the Pinnacles Overlook, where we then turned to exit the park and head to the town of Wall. If we’d had the time, we would have driven through the entire park, but we had to get on the road.
So there you have it; another sunrise worth waking up for. Get your caffeine of choice on deck, set those 30 alarms to make sure you actually wake up, and see this beautiful world!