Sage Creek Campground is hands-down the best place to stay in Badlands National Park. This area offers superb wildlife viewing, and a primitive camping experience. The fact that securing a spot is completely free within Sage Creek Campground is just an added bonus. This 22 site site campground runs on a first come, first serve basis.
When we set out to the Badlands, we opted to take our chances with Sage Creek Campground as we had read from others that it was not challenging to obtain a spot as long as we did not arrive too late in the day. We arrived at 4pm on a weekend in mid-May and there were still plenty of spots available. By 8pm, all spots were full. There is overflow parking that visitors may be able to squeeze into.
Location and Amenities
Sage Creek Campground is located on Sage Creek Rim Road in Badlands National Park. The campground is easily accessible. After entering Badlands National Park at the Pinnacles entrance, one can head west on Badlands Loop Road. Sage Creek Rim Road is an unpaved road off found right off of Badlands Loop Road, roughly 10 miles into the park. The road does get a little bumpy, but any vehicle should be able to handle it just fine.
The campground is a loop road, so you can expect vehicle traffic as others are settling in for the night. A jacket can come in handy when visiting, as this area can get extremely windy.
The only amenities at Sage Creek Campground are vault toilets and picnic tables. The restrooms were clean and well maintained during our stay. There is no water or electricity offered, and it is definitely a more primitive camping experience. Campfires aren’t permitted in this area.
Sage Creek Campground Experience
Driving into Sage Creek Campground was in and of itself an experience. Before even arriving, we had already spotted bison, antelope, and a very shy porcupine. We were pleasantly surprised to find more wildlife at the campground itself as we were getting set up for the evening. The inside grassy loop houses a very rambunctious prairie dog town. Luckily they quiet down in the evening, but don’t be surprised to hear their barking upon arrival. The best thing about this campground are the roaming herds of bison. The bison carried on their routine as if there wasn’t a camper in sight.
There are plenty of trails in this area to explore both the hills and valleys. Given all the buffalo chips on the trail, it is safe to say most of the trails are bison made. Making our way up the hills was well worth it in order to experience a panoramic view of Badlands National Park. Once it got dark, the vast openness of the sky draws one in. The stargazing in this area is absolutely beautiful. Coyotes howled in the distance.
We highly recommend this spot for anyone that is looking for a simple camping experience in Badlands National Park. The wildlife spotting, hiking, and stargazing doesn’t make room for any boredom. We had great sleep while staying here, which allowed us to take on a full day of exploring the entirety of Badlands National Park.
For more information on Badlands National Park and where to stay, visit Badlands National Park (U.S. National Park Service) (nps.gov)
Alternative Camping Options
Cedar Camp Lodge has the only lodging available within Badlands National Park. In addition to lodging they also accept reservations for their campground and RV sites. Reservations can be made directly through the Cedar Pass Lodge website. The benefit of staying at this site is that it is very close to some of the most exquisite sights to see within Badlands National Park. A restaurant is also conveniently available to visitors during their stay. The Cedar Pass Campground contains 96 sites.
Back Country Camping | Badlands National Park can be experienced firsthand via back country camping throughout the park. The National Park Service provides great information in regards to topography, camping rules, and prime locations.