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Badlands: Medicine Root/Castle/Saddle Pass Loop

  4.4 ( 29 ) Favorite


7.0 mile 11.2 kilometer loop


Ascent: 189' 58 m
Descent: -189' -58 m
High: 2,648' 807 m
Low: 2,588' 789 m


Avg Grade: 1% (1°)
Max Grade: 4% (2°)


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Trail shared by ktboundary Thompson


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A scenic loop to see magnificent badlands formations, prairie and huge vistas.

ktboundary Thompson

Features Views · Wildflowers · Wildlife

National Park rules apply.


The route crosses a large portion of the park allowing views of the White River Valley, badlands formations, bison and solitude. The trail is fairly level and not to difficult to navigate.

Need to Know

Some portions of the trail cross badlands formations which make the trail hard to follow. Stop and take the time to make sure of your path. An entry fee to the National Park is required.


Begin at the Door and Window parking area and cross the street to start the trail. You immediately head into a wash and to the right do some small climbs up and down washes. Pass some badlands and marvel in their sculpting. Hike along dry stream beds and over open prairie. The trail heads south across the Old Northeast Road where you meet the Medicine Root Trail.

The Medicine Root Trail is a generally rolling trail connects with the Castle Trail near the Old Northeast Road and again at the intersection of the Castle and Saddle Pass Trail. Trail users are provided the opportunity to explore the mixed grass prairie while enjoying views of the Badlands in the distance. Watch for cactus and rattlesnakes. Continue on into the prairie and possible sightings of bison. This trail also turns to the south and passes along beds of rocks that were deposited by glacial stream.

A junction of the Medicine Root, Castle and Saddle Pass is encountered where you continue straight south on the Saddle Pass trail to the edge Badlands Wall and to an expansive view over the White River Valley. The park ground is visible from the overlook.

Loop backwards on the Saddle Pass Trail and turn right (east) down the Castle Trail. This portion of the trail has great views of close up badlands formations with draw and steep ravines. Parts of this section are difficult to follow as the trail disappears in the hard badlands dirt, so make sure to take the time to look ahead to find the right path through. Also, this section is rocky and uneven. The trail eventually head back to the Door and Window parking area backtracking on the initial section of the Castle Trail.

Flora & Fauna

Flowers in the spring, bison, rattlesnakes, prairie dogs, antelope and bighorn sheep.

History & Background

To the Lakota, this harsh and desolate landscape was known as "mako sica," meaning land bad." Early French trappers similarly described the area as bad lands to travel across." Today, geologists consider all the places in the world with similar topography and formation badlands.

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Oct 6, 2019
Chelsea Miller
Aug 17, 2019
Iva S
Jul 7, 2019
Sean Davis
Jul 1, 2019
Steve Smith 1
7mi — 3h 52m
Jun 24, 2019
Jaci Moyer
Too damn hot 7.1mi — 4h 40m
Jun 23, 2019
Jericho Kouba
Jun 23, 2019
Seth Liverseed
saw three mile deer bucks in velvet and 3 big horn sheep!!! Incredible hike!
Jun 22, 2019
Sisham Ingnam

Trail Ratings

  4.4 from 29 votes


  4.4 from 29 votes
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in South Dakota


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3,534 Since May 7, 2015



View from Saddle Pass. Credit: Familyrambling.com
May 8, 2015 near Kadoka, SD
Badlands National Park
May 12, 2015 near Kadoka, SD
Medicine Root Trail - Badlands, SD.
Jun 7, 2016 near Kadoka, SD
Storm clouds on the Castle Trail.
Apr 15, 2016 near Kadoka, SD
Twilight along the Medicine Root Trail.
May 12, 2015 near Kadoka, SD
Badlands National Park, Window Trail.
Sep 29, 2015 near Kadoka, SD

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