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Door Trail – Badlands National Park

Badlands National Park, South Dakota


Badlands overlook, the "door"


About .75 mile roundtrip

Parking Lot Elevation

2605 ft

Summit Elevation

2626 ft

Elevation Gain/Loss

21 ft

Time Required

Less than 30 minutes


Not allowed on hiking trails in the park


There are entrance fees to the park

Water Info

Bring a bottle of water.

Best Season

Spring, Summer, Fall


Open year round

Sun Exposure

No shaade

Trail Condition

Wooden boardwalk for a few hundred yards then dirt and rocky trail


Yes. Pit-style. Near trailhead

Visitor Center

Yes. The Ben Reifel Visitor center is located a few miles south


By permit only


Bring some snacks


Good sturdy shoes, hat and sunglasses if the weather is hotter, camera

GPS Coordinates:

Trailhead: 43.76355, -101.92669
Trail End: 43.76192, -101.92159

Trail Map

Driving Directions

The Trail:

The Door

This short trail is part wooden boardwalk and part dirt/rock trail.  It is very easy and it never really gained in elevation over the entire length of the trail.  You could easily just hike on the wooden boardwalk, through the “door” and then go to the overlook and turn back around.  Or if you wanted to add a little more adventure you could follow the yellow poles all the way out to the better badlands overlook – this is what I did.  You are free to hike around this area where you want but please be careful as there are steep drop offs and sharp rocks.

I saw lots of families with little kids running around.  I could hear them yelling and shouting with delight as they climbed up and over all the rock formations exploring on their own.  If I had kids and I lived near Badlands, I would bring them here often so they can use all their energy!

Back to the Trek…

The Door

The trail begins on the wooden boardwalk and goes for a few hundred yards until you come to the “door” which you can see in the picture below.  It is basically just a wide cut in the dirt and rock that opens up to a greater overlook of some very interesting formations down below.

This is the "Door"

This is the “Door”

From the Door, the boardwalk turns left and ends at some benches.  You could easily just come here and take in all the rock formations and go back to your car.

The Door

The boardwalk ends here

The boardwalk ends here

Or you could go off the boardwalk and follow the yellow numbered poles all the way out to an even better overlook!

If you go back from the benches you will see a numbered yellow pole which as been hammered into the ground.  Follow all of these until you see one which says “End of Trail”.  This is where a really cool overlook is located and it gives you a great idea for why this area is so neat.  Plus this is where you can go off trail and go wherever you please! Who wouldn’t want to do that??

The Door The Door The Door

Really cool looking rock formations

Really cool looking rock formations

The Door

Once you are at the end of the short yellow pole trail you will see that your trek out here was worth it!  I spoke with a ranger at the Visitor Center and she said that this trail is the first trail she recommends visitors do because it gives you a good sense for what Badlands National Park is all about and I can see why!

The Door The Door The Door The Door

The Return:

Follow the yellow poles back to the boardwalk.

Personal Thoughts:

The Door trail was my very first hike in Badlands National Park.  Even though it was very short I enjoyed getting off the wooden boardwalk and exploring on my own for a little bit.  I could see why all the little kids around loved this area because I was having a great time too!

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The Bottom Line

Difficulty is basically the length, duration and stress of the Trek. If the Trek is really long then it will receive a higher rating. If the Trek is short then it won't receive that high of a rating. However, difficulty rating also includes how tired we were at the end of the Trek.

Technicality is how strenuous the Trek is. If there is lots of bouldering or if there is bushwhacking involved then the rating will be higher. Technicality also includes if there are steep inclines or the need for ropes and other equipment.

Enjoyment is strictly how much fun we had doing the Trek. Regardless of how tired and exhausted we were, if we had a ton of fun doing the Trek then it will receive a higher rating.

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About The Author
Jeff Johnson
Questions or comments? I'd love to hear from you! JeffTJohnson@ymail.com

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