The Door Trail

Badlands National Park

Badlands, South Dakota

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The Door Trail


  • Badlands National Park entrance sign welcomes visitors.- The Door Trail
  • A hiker is dwarfed by the massive Badlands formations.- The Door Trail
  • The park's unique scenery began forming millions of years ago.- The Door Trail
  • Erosion causes constant change in the spectacular scenery.- The Door Trail
  • Hikers are permitted to wander off the trails.- The Door Trail
  • An armored mud ball is an intriguing natural feature in the park.- The Door Trail
  • Bighorn sheep are seen throughout the park, even along the road.- The Door Trail
  • The only venomous snake in the park is the prairie rattlesnake.- The Door Trail
Overview + Weather
Short trail with easy access. Off-trail exploration. Amazing formations.
Can be exceptionally hot with little shade.
Badlands, SD
Pets allowed: 
Net Elevation Gain: 
-41.00 ft (-12.50 m)
Parking Pass: 
National Park Pass
Preferable Season(s):
Spring, Fall
Total Distance: 
0.75 mi (1.21 km)
Trail type: 
Trailhead Elevation: 
2,634.00 ft (802.84 m)
Current Local Weather:
Hike Description

Hike Description

Sponsored Contributor

Don’t let the name Badlands deter you from visiting this fascinating area. Badlands National Park was first called “mako sica,” or “land bad,” by the native Lakota people. Resembling a giant sandcastle, the 244,000-acre park is a must-visit for photographers who will delight in nature’s artistry.

The park is also a hiker’s paradise, offering trails ranging from the accessible quarter-mile boardwalk Fossil Exhibit Trail to a 10-mile trek. The easy, accessible Door Trail offers a three-quarters of a mile round trip boardwalk path with views of the Badland's unique scenery. But it also gives hikers a surprise bonus. When the maintained trail ends, hikers can choose to let the adventure continue. Hikers are permitted to venture beyond the end of the trail. Since the park’s formations are naturally changing due to erosion, hikers are allowed to wander off the trails. Footprints will disappear as soon as it rains.

Off-trail adventuring lets the hiker become immersed in the environment and see some odd geological sights in a more intimate setting. There’s “popcorn soil,” also named “popcorn rock,” created from bentonite, a clay and volcanic ash mixture that expands 20 times in size when it gets wet. Shrinking as it dries, the unusual soil crunches strangely under a hiker’s boot. There are also armored mud balls naturally made by rainwater pushing mud through a wash, which gathers pebbles as it rolls the mixture into balls.

Off-trail hikers should bring a GPS and plenty of water. Be prepared for otherworldly scenery, explained in a quote at the trailhead by John Madson, “It’s an improbable kind of place, looking like the set of a science-fiction movie…”

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Updates, Tips + Comments

Field Guide

Field Guide

Location + Directions

Location + Directions

Nearby Adventures

(5 within a 30 mile radius)

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