The US National Park With A Sunrise And Sunset Unlike Anything You've Ever Seen

In South Dakota's Badlands National Park, you will see staggering natural beauty everywhere. All of America's national parks offer incredible experiences, from traversing rocky shores and exploring hidden sea caves to embarking on solo hikes up tropical mountains – but few can compete with Badlands when it comes to incredible views. This once-in-a-lifetime destination has a jagged rocky landscape that looks like nowhere else on Earth. No one would blame you if you couldn't tear your eyes away from the red canyons, striped and stratified mountain ranges, and uniquely shaped rock formations. Still, an even more incredible sight may await you if you look upwards.


Badlands National Park is one of the most incredible places in the United States for stargazing. Some regular visitors think Badlands is most beautiful during storms when dark clouds roll across the vast open sky, but the most unforgettable sights are probably at sunrise and sunset. If you're there at just the right moment, the red, orange, and yellows of the rocks are enhanced by the warm glow of the rising or setting sun, extending the light in the sky onto the landscape below.

Where to watch the sunrise

If you're willing to get up before dawn, sunrise over the Badlands is an awe-inspiring experience. The National Park Service recommends a few spots for those wishing to get the absolute best view of the morning sky. One easy option if you plan to enter the park from the Northeast Entrance is Big Badlands Overlook. The walk to the overlook is extremely short, only around 30 minutes, so this U.S. park trail isn't just for experienced hikers. If you're hoping to sleep as late as possible without missing the sunrise, it could be the ideal choice.


Another easy option is the popular Door Trail, which overlooks some of the park's most jagged and rocky terrain. The Door Trail is even shorter than the Big Badlands Overlook, and you should be able to get there and back in about 20 minutes – not including the time you spend admiring the sunrise. If you prefer to drive to your destination, try Norbeck Pass. It's only about a 10-minute drive from the Interior Entrance of the park, and there are multiple pullouts, so all you have to do is pull over, get out of the car, and look out at the brightening Eastern sky. If you're lucky, you might even see some bighorn sheep grazing.

Where to watch the sunset

The sunset is just as beautiful as the sunrise at Badlands National Park. If you time your trip just right, you will be treated to an incredible, glowing golden view of the rocky canyons. Your easiest option is the extremely popular Pinnacles Overlook, which is just two minutes from the Pinnacles Entrance Station, and from there, it will probably take you less than five minutes to reach the overlook itself. It is pretty high up, providing an unparalleled view of the Southern sky – and you might even spot a herd of bison far below.


If you'd rather look west to see the sunset, your options are more limited, but Conata Basin Overlook is a good choice. It's easy to get to, only a little over 10 minutes from the Pinnacles Entrance station. It provides a view of the Western sky and looks out over the paleosols, unusual ancient hills with shocking red bands running through them. These look particularly stunning, bathed in the warm light of sunset.