We left the mountains of Denver last week headed North to the Dakotas, expecting to find plains and grasslands (perhaps these would be sort of boring we mused?) and not much else. We were surprised to find South Dakota full of rolling hills reminiscent of Northern California, lush with greenery after a wet spring and chock full of wildlife.
Stopping briefly for the night at Wind Cave National Park (we didn't go into the cave due to a minimum $10 per person tour fee), we continued on to Badlands National Park, which in fact isn't so bad afterall. Those lands are indeed pretty amazing.
I think the thing that impressed me most about Badlands was the pervasive wildlife.
Other things to do: In addition to lounging around with our bison neighbors, we also took a half day to drive the main road through the park (Badlands Loop Road) from Sage Creek Campground down to the park headquarters and visitor center and stopped at many of the lookouts. Along the way, we hiked the short Fossil Trail, which is an interesting look at the park's rich fossil record, and the equally Saddle Pass trail, a quarter mile hike/climb straight up the badlands wall to nice views.
Camping: We stayed in Sage Creek Campground on the park's northern edge, and recommend everyone make the trip. Its a primitive site, so there's no running water and only pit toilets, but the resident heard of wild bison, the lovely surroundings, and the rotating cast of neighbor campers make it very worthwhile. It's also free to stay here! The campground is accessed by an unpaved road, but the road was in good shape even after the heavy rains we experienced (though always good to check conditions with park rangers at the entrance stations). Don't be deterred if Sage Creek Rim Road is closed - there is a back entrance to the campground that never closes as far as we can tell.