Tuesday, July 11, 2017

badlands: sage creek campground -- free camping

Badlands: Sage Creek Camping
On our second day of vacation we spent the night in the Badlands National Park. 
We left Sioux Falls, South Dakota fairly early in the day.  We made a few stops along the highway (will post about at a later time) before arriving at Wall Drug.  Wall Drug is advertised everywhere.  The plan was to buy some donuts and look around.  Parking was plentiful and it wasn’t terribly busy.  It was a Thursday. 
We got a picture on the Jackalope, walked around until we found the actual pharmacy (we needed allergy meds) then purchased our donuts.  They were more expensive than my liking and they tasted like plain old regular donuts.  The kids did enjoy their cup of 5 cent coffee though. Oh, I almost forgot the free water that is advertised....everywhere.

From Wall, we headed south to the Badlands National Park.  We entered the park on the north side.  I purchased a National Parks Pass (we visited four parks on our vacation, so it proved helpful).  If you enter the park at the north entrance, you will need to turn right (west) to get to the Sage Creek Camping area.
As you drive towards the campground, you will spot bison everywhere.  They like to just go wherever.  I mean, it is their house, you need to respect that.  Don’t be dumb though…don’t get out of your car and approach them.  Seriously.  So many people did this.
You also get to see lots of Prairie Dog towns.  They are entertaining and fun to watch scamper around from hole to hole.  Do not touch or approach them though…they literally have the plague.  Bubonic plague. 

Keep driving.  And drive some more.  When it seems like you can't go any further into the park, you will see  sign to turn left.  This is the entrance to the campground.  It is about a mile and a half to the actual site.

The campsite here is free.  It is a first come, first serve site.  There are numerous picnic tables with shade cover.  There are two extremely clean and nice vault toilets. 

Advice for staying at this campground:
Like I said, it's first come, first serve and it's free.  We were there in late May and it was not overly crowded but there were a lot of people there and parking was difficult.  If you are coming during more popular times, get there early and get your tent set up.  You can leave your tent there and explore the park. 

Speaking of tent set up, make sure to stake it down well and not to forget your rainfly.  We had a thunderstorm roll through and the winds were pretty vicious at night.  I woke up around 4 am because the wind died down. 

Bring water.  There are no water facilities located within the campground.

Sit back and enjoy the wildlife.  We woke up with bison in the campground.  We heard something chasing the prairie dogs in the middle of the night and their sounds of excitement.

My daughter would like to offer you some advice on using the vault toilets since people don't understand how they work.  She says after you use the toilet, put the lid down.  Putting the lid down allows the smells to ventilate up the pipe and not remain in the actual area.  So be polite and put the lid down, nobody wants to smell it all.

Let me know about your Sage Creek camping experiences.  I loved it.  The childrens loved it.  I want to know if you loved it also.


  1. Great report! That campground seems so exposed, but clean. And bison visitors, too - how cool!
    I remember Wall Drug when we passed through SD many years ago. The signs started hundreds of miles away, you just HAVE to stop!

    1. The excitement from all the signs build up! I even saw some of the signs right before Yellowstone.
      I absolutely loved this campground. I want to go back!

  2. No kidding, Morgan. This is inspiring. Bravo for you, surviving camping with the family in a tent, although we started out in a tiny pop-up trailer which was a canvas tent on a platform.

    All the best to you and your family!