5 Useful Tips for Hiking the Scenic Door Trail in Badlands National Park

It was Day 7 of our South Dakota road trip. We spent the morning visiting Wall Drug and exploring both the Minuteman Missile National Historic Site and the Delta-09 Missile Silo before heading to Badlands National Park. After a fun time exploring the badlands, Buddy and I are sharing our top 5 useful tips for hiking the short and scenic Door Trail in Badlands National Park.

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Buddy and his dad hiking the boardwalk section of Door Trail in Badlands National Park. Buddy is in red and his dad is in blue. MPA Project Travels.
Door Trail’s boardwalk in Badlands National Park

First, the details. Door Trail is a short 0.75 mile out & back trail. The beginning of the trail includes boardwalk that ends with a viewing area complete with benches to take in the views. The accessible boardwalk section of the trail is 0.25 miles out & back. From the boardwalk there are stairs that lead you off the board walk and onto the badlands. This hike, especially the boardwalk area, is a great hike for multigenerational families traveling together!

Door Trail was an easy and fun hike. During our visit, we stopped other scenic spots on the trail, to enjoy the views and explore the area. Buddy was so inspired by the beauty of Badlands National Park that he filmed his own avant-garde Movement Postcards on Door Trail.


Top 5 Useful Tips for Hiking the Door Trail in Badlands National Park

1. Bring lots of sunscreen and a hat

There is no shade on the Door Trail in Badlands National Park. And the sun can be intense, especially in the summer months. To protect you from sunburn, remember to bring sunscreen and a hat.

We arrived ready to hike Badlands National Park at 1:30pm on a sunny Thursday afternoon. It was 88 degrees Fahrenheit, which was perfect hiking weather for a family used to the heat of Southern Arizona. Although we applied sunscreen and I wore a hat and sunglasses, I still got sunburned!

I had a long sleeve light sun cover that I wore when hiking Wind Cave National Park. But I did not think to bring it out for our hikes at Badlands National Park. Oops!

If I were to do this trip again, I would not only reapply sunscreen more often, but I would also wear a long sleeve coverup when hiking Badlands National Park.

2. Bring your waterbottle

Because there is no shade at the Door Trail, the sun can be very intense at Badlands National Park. You definitely want to bring a refillable water bottle with you on your hikes in the Badlands.

During our trip to Badlands National Park, we kept two 2.5-gallon containers of water in the back of the car and we would refill our water bottles between hikes. The water container was next to our cooler filled with ice. Buddy would often drop one or two ice cubes in his water bottle to cool down his water. This is the water bottle I used on the trip. You can see I carried it with me on the hike using a carabiner clip in the picture below.

Yvonne & Buddy at the end of Door Trail at Badlands National Park.

Yvonne is wearing sunglasses, a hat, a black tank, jean shorts, and black shoes. Buddy is wearing a red shirt, gray shorts, and black shoes. They are posing near a brown sign with white letters that say "End of Trail."
Yvonne & Buddy at the end of Door Trail at Badlands National Park.

3. Where to park

The Door Trail shares a parking lot with the Window Trail, and the Notch Trail. Nonetheless, there is both ample parking and facilities at this trailhead. You should be able to finds a parking spot even during busy times.

But, consider arriving early if you want to beat both the heat and the crowds!

Speaking of crowds…

4. The Door Trail may be the least crowded short trail in the area

Of the three trails accessed at this trail head, the Door Trail may be the least crowded trail. Keep this in mind if you are visiting Badlands National Park during high season and would like a quieter hike.

Budd hikes the Door Trail in Badlands National Park with his Dad. Buddy is wearing red. MPA Project Travels.
Hiking the spacious Door Trail in Badlands National Park.

During our trip to Badlands National Park, the Door Trail had the least number of fellow hikers, site seers, and visitors compared to other areas of the park, inducing other trials and overlooks. When we visited, there were a handful of fellow tourists on the boardwalk section of the trail. However, there were less tourists hiking on the badlands portion of the trail. Also, the Door Trail allows for hikers to spread out and explore over a larger area which opened the space and created a sense of quiet and serenity. This was a feeling we did not find in other areas of the park.

5. Follow the yellow signposts

The Door Trail is marked with numbered yellow signposts that lead your way through the Badlands until you reach a sign that marks the end of the trail. Keep your eyes out for the yellow signposts to ensure you are on the right track. Because of the vast and wide-open space of the Badlands, you should be able to see your next couple of yellow signposts in the distance during your hike.

Buddy & Sal walking near a yellow signpost on the Door Trail in Badlands National Park. The yellow signpost is on the left with a number 5 written on it. Buddy is wearing a red shirt and holding a waterbottle.
Buddy & Sal walking near yellow signpost #5 on the Door Trail in Badlands National Park.

Buddy’s Tips & Thoughts on the Door Trail in Badlands National Park

Buddy’s Tips

Buddy reading a sign on the Door Trail in Badlands National Park. MPA Project Travels.
Buddy on the Door Trail
  • Stay away from ledges. There are drop-offs around the area you hike. Be careful where you step when looking at the views.
  • Bring a hat. I forgot mine in the car. But I didn’t get a sunburn like my mom!
  • Check out the dirt. I thought the dirt had an interesting texture. It was very hard rock but in a powdery type of way. It was very weird.

Buddy’s Thoughts

My favorite thing about Badlands National Park was the formation of the rocks. I really liked how the rocks were formed in weird ways.


Have you hiked the Door Trail in Badlands National Park? If so, what would you add to this list? Let us know in the comments below.

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14 thoughts on “5 Useful Tips for Hiking the Scenic Door Trail in Badlands National Park

  1. As an Arizona native, I’m also used to the heat in Arizona, so I think I could withstand the warm weather, too! I’ve been considering a trip to South Dakota to see Mount Rushmore, and I’d love to visit Badlands National Park while I’m there. Thanks for this helpful hiking guide to use when I finally visit!

  2. I agree 100% on the sunscreen tip! The only time I’ve been in the Badlands was in September and I remember absolutely roasting in the sun. Sorry about your sunburn – sounds like a great hike otherwise!

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