Badlands National Park
Medicine Root Loop via Saddle Pass

View from Saddle Pass

Hiking Saddle Pass and the Medicine Root Trail is an excellent way to really get the feel of the badlands.

Climbing up and through the Badlands wall gives an appreciation for how enormous it is. When you reach the top, grasslands stretch to the horizon, interrupted by mesas and crazy fins of rock in all directions. On a clear day everything is sharp edged and surreal. The Medicine Root trail traverses a portion of the grasslands, and as you walk you'll find it's far more diverse than at first glance.
Keep your eyes and ears open as you walk - there's a lot of wildlife that makes it's home here. I've seen toads, mule deer, bighorn sheep, coyotes, and a fox in my explorations of the badlands.

From the junction of I90 and South Dakota 240 in Wall South Dakota, follow SD240 south and then east for 27.1 miles to the parking lot for the Saddle Pass trailhead on your left.
Along the way there will be a National Park entrance station where you will need to pay a fee to enter the park.
Coordinates for the hike: 43.7582100,-101.9748000
Parking / Trailhead amenities
The paved parking lot can hold about a half dozen cars. There are no facilities near the parking lot, though there is an informational kiosk and a trailhead register.
Trail observations
The trail leaves the parking lot via a bridge. The trail is marked by blue posts, which leads up the wall to Saddle Pass, and then a short way beyond to a junction with Medicine Root and the Castle Trails.
Go straight to follow the Medicine Root Trail, which is marked by green posts. The Medicine Root trail curves out into the grasslands, then heads back towards the wall and terminates at a junction with the Castle Trail near a road and a power line.
Follow the Castle Trail (marked by red posts) back to the Saddle Pass junction, then follow the Saddle Pass trail back to the parking lot.
Trail statistics
The trail is 4.75 miles long. The sum of all the uphill climbs is 171 feet.
Trail waypoints
0.04 miTrailheadTrailhead and parking lot
0.17 miHeading upHeading up to the pass
0.37 miFollow blueFollow the blue trail markers to the junction
0.43 miGo straightIntersection - go straight along the Medicine Root trail
1.62 miAscendTrail heading up
2.60 miGo rightJunction sign - follow the Castle Trail to the right
3.28 miRoughRough crossing
4.75 miEnd of trailEnd of trail
Trail map - Medicine Root Loop via Saddle Pass
Altitude chart - Medicine Root Loop via Saddle Pass Go straight End of trail
Difficulty: Difficult
Difficulty: Moderate
Terrain: Badlands
Terrain: Flat
Trail surface: Dirt
Type: Lollipop
View: Open
View: Overlooks
State: South Dakota
Country: United States of America
Great blog post about the Badlands
National Park Service page
List of Badlands trails
Printable trail map in PDF format (14 Mb download)
Printable trail map in PNG format (3 Mb download)
Waypoints in CSV format
Waypoints in KML format
Instructions on using a trail description page
Instructions on using a trail map printout
Trails in the surrounding area
Trailheads for Montana North Dakota, South Dakota, and Wyoming (1 additional trail)
Trailheads for North Dakota and South Dakota (1 additional trail)
Trailheads for Nebraska South Dakota, and Wyoming (1 additional trail)
Trailheads for Nebraska and South Dakota (1 additional trail)