Pets allowed
Not Allowed
Elevation Gain
385.00 ft (117.35 m)
Trail type
6.70 mi (10.78 km)
Please respect the outdoors by practicing Leave No Trace. Learn more about how to apply the principles of Leave No Trace on your next outdoor adventure here.

The Badlands are a martian landscape that is equal parts beautiful and unforgiving, rugged and awe-inspiring. Nearly all of Badlands National Park is open to off-trail hiking and backpacking, but if you're looking for a well-marked trail to guide you on your excursion, the Castle Trail and Medicine Root Trail Loop is hard to beat. Starting off from the Window and Door parking lot, all you have to do to register for a backcountry permit is sign the trail head register and you're off on your adventure. Right away you'll be immersed in the depths of the stark landscape the makes up Badlands National Park. If your'e lucky you'll spot one of the bighorn sheep herds that roam the park. The trail leads through a mixtrue of tight canyons, ravines, and open prairie, but it remains fairly level throughout.

If you plan to spend the night out, you can pick any spot you want so long as you're 200 feet from and out of sight of any trails. Once camp is set up, feel free to explore since, as previoulsy mentioned, off trail hiking is allowed in the park, but as always, make sure to follow leave no trace principals. While exploring, keep an eye out for the fossils that are actually a fairly common sight if you're keen eyed enough to spot them. When the day starts to wind down, make sure you've got a good spot to watch the normally stark white spires and ridges take on the hues of the setting sun, and if you're really ambitious and the night sky is clear, stay up late for brilliant views of the Milky Way free from light pollution.

Logistics + Planning

Preferable season(s)




Parking Pass

Park entrance fee

Open Year-round





Unique landscape. Wildlife. Archaeology.


No water. Unpredictable weather.

Trailhead Elevation

2,647.00 ft (806.81 m)

Highest point

2,649.00 ft (807.42 m)


Backcountry camping
Big Game Watching
Geologically significant

Typically multi-day


Permit required


Permit self-issue on site




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