Badlands National Park in South Dakota is not a destination that most people chose for a vacation but it’s location, right off of Interstate 90 and 75 miles from Rapid City, makes it an easy day trip from the city or a good sightseeing stop en-route to the city. And it’s truly unique and beautiful!
If possible start your trip at the Ben Reifel Visitor Center located at the east entrance. Get an Access Pass at the visitor center if you don’t already have one. The pass will allow free entry into most federal sites that charge a fee. You must present documentation of permanent disability and residency or citizenship to get the pass. The visitor center is fully accessible with a ramp to the entrance, an accessible movie theater and excellent displays covering the geology, fossils, plants, animals and human history of the park lands. Accessible restrooms are also available. We were very pleased with the wheelchair access in this park.
The park road is about 30 miles long with many turnouts to view the fantastically eroded sandstone. All of curb cuts in the parking lots have been reworked and are in excellent condition. Many of the turnouts have an accessible vault toilet and short boardwalks to viewing platforms. Four longer, accessible, boardwalk trails allow a closer look at the sandstone formations and fossil replicas.
As you’re enjoying the beauty of the scenery, you may also get a glimpse of the wildlife that manages to survive in what appears to be a very hostile environment. We spotted prairie dogs, antelope and big horn sheep but you may also see bison, fox and coyotes.
The Cedar Lodge, which we did not visit, is listed as having an accessible cabin, dining room and gift shop. We stayed at the campground and found the accessibility lacking. The tables don’t have a very long overhang to allow wheelchair users to pull up underneath. They are placed on a small concrete pad without extra room for a chair. The picnic area tables have the same type of setup. Even so the park is a wonderful place for everyone to visit, no matter their physical condition!
Check my website for information about other beautiful places where an Access Pass is accepted.