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Sage Creek Wilderness Area Loop

Intermediate/Difficult

Trail

22.2 mile 35.7 kilometer loop
99% Runnable
Intermediate/Difficult

Elevation

Ascent: 639' 195 m
Descent: -639' -195 m
High: 2,896' 883 m
Low: 2,595' 791 m

Grade

Avg Grade: 1% (1°)
Max Grade: 17% (10°)

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No Dogs
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Trail shared by Luke Snow

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A trail-less loop that follows the natural topography and geographical features in the Sage Creek Wilderness

Luke Snow

Features Birding · Commonly Backpacked · Spring · Views · Wildflowers · Wildlife

There is no filterable water in Badlands National Park. It is recommended to pack in a gallon a day per person.

Overview

While this route will lead you off trail and into the incredible hills of the Badlands, you'll find the loop easy to navigate. The solitude and the sights along the way make the multi-day route well worthwhile.

Need to Know

This path technically does not have a trail and therefore should be reserved for those who are comfortable orienteering and using a compass/map/gps. There are sections that follow washes, game trails, and horse trails; however, most of the path is through tall grassland and navigating washes.

Description

An incredible journey through the heart of Badlands National Park, this path traverses grassland, washes, ravines, and rock formations to survey the bulk of the Sage Creek Basin and the Tyree Basin. It is recommended to be taken in 3 days 2 nights, and given that there is no established or maintained trail, should be reserved for those comfortable navigating and orienteering with a compass, map, and GPS.

Day 1 consists of a trek around classic badlands formations for 1.7 miles until you veer inwards to make your way up to the oasis of Deer Haven. Once at Deer Haven one may choose to camp here and complete the remainder of the loop in the last two days or continue onward to make for a shorter day 3. Whichever the backpacker chooses, the next step is to summit The Wall and descend into a wash that is followed for another ~3 miles until you climb out and strike out into the prairie of the Sage Creek Basin. If you did not camp in Deer Haven night 1, camp at some point in the basin.

Navigate a series of washes and head west to descend into the Tyree Basin on the Western side of the main formation the path circumnavigates. Head due south to the Tyree Basin Pass ascending and descending washes along the way. Before you arrive at the pass you must navigate through a maze of washes. It is highly recommended you use a GPS or the Trail Run Project mobile app for this section of the, as it is easy to get lost in the washes or take a wrong branch.

Once through the pass, bear east, following the fenceline of the park until you reach a fence that blocks the path. This will mark the final steep descent into the Conata Basin. Camp in the Conata Basin for the short 4-mile trip out on day 3 or continue onward if you camped at Deer Haven. After descending into the basin make for the fenceline, ducking under it to continue due east towards the prominent rock formation that juts into the basin, being mindful of the lone llama that inhabits this space. Duck under one more fence making straight for the end of the point. At this point, you'll have returned to the point in which you veered northwest to ascend Deer Haven. Follow the path in reverse to return to Conata Picnic Area to complete the loop.

Flora & Fauna

Bison, rattlesnakes, antelope, deer, prairie dogs, coyotes, juniper trees, sage, grasslands

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Trail Ratings

  4.7 from 24 votes

#266

Overall
  4.7 from 24 votes
5 Star
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4 Star
21%
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Run Rankings

#2

in South Dakota

#266

Overall
119 Views Last Month
7,414 Since Jun 2, 2017
Intermediate/Difficult

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Photos

Badlands formations strike awe in the hearts of their visitors.
Jun 4, 2017 near Kadoka, SD
Looking back down at the juniper trees after climbing up out of deer haven
Jan 26, 2019 near Kadoka, SD
2 Bighorn Sheep near the trailhead
Jan 26, 2019 near Kadoka, SD
Enjoy gorgeous views on the ascent to Deer Haven.
Jun 4, 2017 near Kadoka, SD
Bison roam the basin in the shadow of a beautiful butte.
Jun 4, 2017 near Kadoka, SD
Sun setting over tent at deer haven
Jan 26, 2019 near Kadoka, SD

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