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Badlands: Medicine Root/Castle/Saddle Pass Loop

Intermediate

Trail

7.0 mile 11.2 kilometer loop
100% Runnable
Intermediate

Elevation

Ascent: 189' 58 m
Descent: -189' -58 m
High: 2,648' 807 m
Low: 2,588' 789 m

Grade

Avg Grade: 1% (1°)
Max Grade: 4% (2°)

Dogs

No Dogs
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Map Key

Trail shared by ktboundary Thompson

Weather

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All Clear 14 days ago See History

A scenic loop to see magnificent badlands formations, prairie and huge vistas.

ktboundary Thompson

Features Views · Wildflowers · Wildlife

National Park rules apply.

Overview

The route crosses a large portion of the park allowing views of the White River Valley, badlands formations, bison and solitude. The trail is fairly level and not to difficult to navigate.

Need to Know

Some portions of the trail cross badlands formations which make the trail hard to follow. Stop and take the time to make sure of your path. An entry fee to the National Park is required.

Runner Notes

Summer can be brutally hot and dry with no water. Thunderstorms can be dangerous and wet ground is extremely slippery and difficult to navigate. Bison may be present and should be given a wide berth. Watch out for cactus and rattlesnakes.

Description

Begin at the Door and Window parking area and cross the street to start the trail. You immediately head into a wash and to the right do some small climbs up and down washes. Pass some badlands and marvel in their sculpting. Run along dry stream beds and over open prairie. The trail heads south across the Old Northeast Road where you meet the Medicine Root Trail.

The Medicine Root Trail is a generally rolling trail connects with the Castle Trail near the Old Northeast Road and again at the intersection of the Castle and Saddle Pass Trail. Trail users are provided the opportunity to explore the mixed grass prairie while enjoying views of the Badlands in the distance. Watch for cactus and rattlesnakes. Continue on into the prairie and possible sightings of bison. This trail also turns to the south and passes along beds of rocks that were deposited by glacial stream.

A junction of the Medicine Root, Castle and Saddle Pass is encountered where you continue straight south on the Saddle Pass trail to the edge Badlands Wall and to an expansive view over the White River Valley. The park ground is visible from the overlook.

Loop backwards on the Saddle Pass Trail and turn right (east) down the Castle Trail. This portion of the trail has great views of close up badlands formations with draw and steep ravines. Parts of this section are difficult to follow as the trail disappears in the hard badlands dirt, so make sure to take the time to look ahead to find the right path through. Also, this section is rocky and uneven. The trail eventually head back to the Door and Window parking area backtracking on the initial section of the Castle Trail.

Flora & Fauna

Flowers in the spring, bison, rattlesnakes, prairie dogs, antelope and bighorn sheep.

History & Background

To the Lakota, this harsh and desolate landscape was known as "mako sica," meaning land bad." Early French trappers similarly described the area as bad lands to travel across." Today, geologists consider all the places in the world with similar topography and formation badlands.

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Check-Ins

Jul 20, 2019
Jake Gutwein
Ran a little different route with an extension to finish up Castle Trail. Great route to see the badlands! 10.5mi — 1h 45m
Jul 18, 2019
K Hall
7mi — 0h 58m

Trail Ratings

  4.4 from 29 votes

#341

Overall
  4.4 from 29 votes
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Run Rankings

#3

in South Dakota

#341

Overall
160 Views Last Month
3,975 Since May 7, 2015
Intermediate

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Photos

Storm clouds on the Castle Trail.
Apr 15, 2016 near Kadoka, SD
Twilight along the Medicine Root Trail.
May 12, 2015 near Kadoka, SD
View from Saddle Pass. Credit: Familyrambling.com
May 8, 2015 near Kadoka, SD
Badlands National Park
May 12, 2015 near Kadoka, SD
Medicine Root Trail - Badlands, SD.
Jun 7, 2016 near Kadoka, SD
Prairie Dog and Shadow, Badlands National Park
Mar 26, 2020 near Kadoka, SD

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