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blueBlack Sage Creek Wilderness Area Loop

  4.8 ( 20 ) Favorite

Trail

22.2 mile 35.7 kilometer loop
Intermediate/Difficult

Elevation

Ascent: 639' 195 m
Descent: -639' -195 m
High: 2,896' 883 m
Low: 2,595' 791 m

Grade

Avg Grade: 1% (1°)
Max Grade: 17% (10°)

Dogs

No Dogs
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Trail shared by Luke Snow

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A trail-less loop that follows the natural topography and geographical features in the Sage Creek Wilderness

Luke Snow

Features Birding · Spring · Views · Wildflowers · Wildlife · Commonly Backpacked

There is no filterable water in Badlands National Park. It is recommended to pack in a gallon a day per person.

Overview

While this route will lead you off trail and into the incredible hills of the Badlands, you'll find the loop easy to navigate. The solitude and the sights along the way make the multi-day route well worthwhile.

Need to Know

This path technically does not have a trail and therefore should be reserved for those who are comfortable orienteering and using a compass/map/gps. There are sections that follow washes, game trails, and horse trails; however, most of the path is through tall grassland and navigating washes.

Description

An incredible journey through the heart of Badlands National Park, this path traverses grassland, washes, ravines, and rock formations to survey the bulk of the Sage Creek Basin and the Tyree Basin. It is recommended to be taken in 3 days 2 nights, and given that there is no established or maintained trail, should be reserved for those comfortable navigating and orienteering with a compass, map, and GPS.

Day 1 consists of a trek around classic badlands formations for 1.7 miles until you veer inwards to make your way up to the oasis of Deer Haven. Once at Deer Haven one may choose to camp here and complete the remainder of the loop in the last two days or continue onward to make for a shorter day 3. Whichever the backpacker chooses, the next step is to summit The Wall and descend into a wash that is followed for another ~3 miles until you climb out and strike out into the prairie of the Sage Creek Basin. If you did not camp in Deer Haven night 1, camp at some point in the basin.

Navigate a series of washes and head west to descend into the Tyree Basin on the Western side of the main formation the path circumnavigates. Head due south to the Tyree Basin Pass ascending and descending washes along the way. Before you arrive at the pass you must navigate through a maze of washes. It is highly recommended you use a GPS or the Hiking Project mobile app for this section of the, as it is easy to get lost in the washes or take a wrong branch.

Once through the pass, bear east, following the fenceline of the park until you reach a fence that blocks the path. This will mark the final steep descent into the Conata Basin. Camp in the Conata Basin for the short 4-mile trip out on day 3 or continue onward if you camped at Deer Haven. After descending into the basin make for the fenceline, ducking under it to continue due east towards the prominent rock formation that juts into the basin, being mindful of the lone llama that inhabits this space. Duck under one more fence making straight for the end of the point. At this point, you'll have returned to the point in which you veered northwest to ascend Deer Haven. Follow the path in reverse to return to Conata Picnic Area to complete the loop.

Flora & Fauna

Bison, rattlesnakes, antelope, deer, prairie dogs, coyotes, juniper trees, sage, grasslands

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May 25, 2019
Luke Snow
Tons of bison in the Tyree Basin, muddy as all hell and second day there was an incredibly violent thunderstorm. Awesome trip. 22mi
Sep 28, 2018
Josh DePauw
2mi
Sep 15, 2018
Leticia Ruiz
22.2mi
Sep 8, 2018
Roman Darashenka
It was lit 5mi
Aug 24, 2018
Jennesa Calvo-Friedman
Aug 5, 2018
Alexis Noelle
Beautiful Scenic Drive Across the Badlands
Jul 11, 2018
Zach Smith
If it’s hot do not do this trail
Jul 4, 2018
Joe Dowdle

Trail Ratings

  4.8 from 20 votes

#253

Overall
  4.8 from 20 votes
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#2

in South Dakota

#253

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6,241 Since Jun 2, 2017
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