Badlands National Park
Notch Trail

Ladder leading out of canyon

The Notch Trail is a short but spectacular and fun trail in Badlands National Park. The trail leads up a small box canyon that gets narrower and more convoluted till suddenly you are presented with a surprising twist in the trail - a ladder that leads to the upper reaches of the canyon and an amazing view of the land south of the badlands.

The ladder is not for the faint of heart, but if you can make the climb, it's worth the effort!

From the intersection of I90 and South Dakota 240 near Cactus Flat South Dakota, drive 6.1 miles south to the parking lot for the Notch trail. There will be a National Park entrance station along the way where you will need to pay a fee to enter the park.
Coordinates for the hike: 43.7603300,-101.9280700
Parking / Trailhead amenities
The paved parking lot is enormous. There is a clean pit toilet in the parking lot and an informational kiosk. The parking lot provides access to four different trails - Notch, Window, Door, and Castle. Window and Door are short easy trails. Notch is moderately difficult, and Castle is a long out and back.
Trail observations
The Notch Trail leaves directly from the south end of the parking lot. The trail is well worn and marked with yellow blazed signposts. The trail heads along the bottom of a canyon and is easy going till you reach a ladder that takes you to the rim of the canyon. Climbing the ladder and skirting the rim of the canyon require some skill and a lot of caution. When you reach the notch, there is again a sheer drop.
For all of that, or maybe because of all that, this is an excellent hike!
Note that I personally would not do this hike if it was wet or raining.
Trail statistics
The trail is 1.61 miles long. The sum of all the uphill climbs is 72 feet.
Trail waypoints
0.11 miParkingParking lot
0.18 miTrailheadTrailhead
0.52 miLadderBadlands ladder
0.57 miEdgeTrail along the edge
0.62 miDangerDangerous cliff
0.80 miTurn rightTurn and head up to the notch
0.83 miNotchThe Notch
1.75 miEnd of trailEnd of trail
Trail map - Notch Trail
Altitude chart - Notch Trail Parking Trailhead Ladder Edge Danger Turn right Notch End of trail
Difficulty: Moderate
Terrain: Badlands
Trail surface: Dirt
Type: Out-and-back
View: Open
View: Overlooks
State: South Dakota
Country: United States of America
National Park Service page
List of Badlands trails
Printable trail map in PDF format (14 Mb download)
Printable trail map in PNG format (4 Mb download)
Waypoints in CSV format
Waypoints in KML format
Instructions on using a trail description page
Instructions on using a trail map printout
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Trailheads for Nebraska South Dakota, and Wyoming (No additional trails)
Trailheads for Nebraska and South Dakota (No additional trails)