take a ride across the badlands

Shout out to Jason Aldean & this song for the title inspiration! ~~~

After trips to Devils Tower in Wyoming, Mount Rushmore, Crazy Horse Memorial, and Custer State Park, Amy and I were ready to finish off our Black Hills road trip with one final stop: Badlands National Park.

Y’all ever been to the Badlands?

IMG_4189DSC_0159Amy just graduated from the best university in the world AND turned 22 in May, so celebrations were CLEARLY IN ORDER. Celebrations in the form of a helicopter ride across the Badlands, to be exact.


We got up early that final Sunday of Amy’s trip out in the wild west and drove the 2 hours from Custer to the Black Hill Aerial Adventures little helicopter pad in the Badlands. The guys who worked there — pictured here with our pilot, Mike — were SO friendly and we loved them so much. Mike took us out for a 6-mile loop of the park and gave us a little Badlands lesson as we tried to take video, photos, and soak it all in “in the moment” simultaneously.
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While high up in the sky, we learned that “badlands” are actually a type of terrain and that there are landscapes and geological formations similar to what we were seeing at Badlands National Park all over the world. There are lots of places with extensive badlands formations across the United States and Canada, but they also exist in New Zealand, Spain, Italy and Taiwan. WHO KNEW? Not me.

According to Mike (and Wikipedia), badlands occur where softer sedimentary rocks and clay-rich soils have been extensively eroded by wind and water.

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We spent hours driving through the park, stopping at scenic overlooks and walking out into the Badlands. There were some areas where it was recommended you stay on a wooden boardwalk that extended out into the rocks because of particularly soft terrain and the possibility of rattlesnakes nearby… and then there were areas where you were free to roam as you please! We did a little bit of both — climbing all and down those rocks was a good time.
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We pulled over at one point when the sun started coming out bright and strong to do a little more climbing and exploring. Pictured below is Amy being an ACTUAL LUNATIC out on this itsy bitsy tiny little piece of rock. It was a some-hundreds-feet drop and she was all nonchalant, hanging out out there like it was no big deal. These damn youths.

(To be honest, I actually walked out there first, but was then stricken with such fear I had to crawl back to safety on my hands and knees.)
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I’d been fixated on the Badlands since I first read about them in my beloved 501 Must-Visit Destinations book when I was in junior high. It was even more vast and beautiful and strange than I thought it would be — and now that I know there are MORE places like this that exist around the world, I hope I’ll be able to see some of those someday too. New Zealand has always sounded like an intriguing place…

Have you ever take a ride across the Badlands?

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  • Reply camerapacker

    Some really great shots.

    September 7, 2015 at 7:53 am
  • Reply Paula

    Helicopter over Badlands! Excellent choice…and some gorgeous photos.

    September 7, 2015 at 4:06 pm
    • Reply Kristen

      It was definitely a cool way to see the place!

      September 7, 2015 at 9:09 pm
  • Reply shmamyhopf

    Photos don’t do it justice, but they come pretty close!!! This stuff was bananas. remember how many times we said we felt like we were in a science fiction movie? i miss it.

    September 7, 2015 at 7:39 pm
    • Reply Kristen


      September 7, 2015 at 9:10 pm
    • Reply Kristen

      You could just come back

      September 7, 2015 at 9:10 pm
  • Reply Hannah Myer

    A HELICOPTER RIDE?!? I’ll be darned. These photos are so legit, as per usual. Gosh I love this strange beautiful country.

    September 7, 2015 at 8:46 pm
    • Reply Kristen

      A damn helicopter ride.


      September 7, 2015 at 9:10 pm
  • Reply Moani Hood

    Cool photos! It’s so neat to see all the layers in the rocks there. Nature is amazing!

    September 8, 2015 at 12:48 am
    • Reply Kristen

      Preach that girl! Nature is soooooooooo amazing!

      September 8, 2015 at 12:50 pm
  • Reply Margie

    Beautiful shots. I guess I didn’t realize exactly what the Badlands were. My bad. Helicopter ride looked like a really fun way to see the Badlands. I’m glad I wasn’t there to see you girls on edges of rock with 100 foot drops. Would have had a heart attack!

    September 10, 2015 at 9:29 am
    • Reply Kristen

      I was having enough heart attacks for the both of us.

      September 10, 2015 at 11:56 am
  • Reply Ingrid

    You managed to capture some really nice shots of the Badlands. I was wondering if the helicopter ride would be worth it and it looks like it was. I may have to go back and give it a whirl 🙂

    September 11, 2015 at 9:22 pm
    • Reply Kristen

      Totally worth it!

      September 11, 2015 at 11:20 pm
  • Reply Cecilia

    I love the photos 😀

    September 11, 2015 at 10:33 pm
    • Reply Kristen

      Thanks, Cecilia!

      September 11, 2015 at 11:20 pm
  • Reply skyward eyes - Roadtripping: Boulder, CO to Albuquerque, NM

    […] Take a ride across the Badlands […]

    December 8, 2016 at 2:38 pm
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