Cyclists who prefer paved roads may want to ride on a portion of the Badlands Loop Road. It surprises many cyclists to discover how much more impressive the Badlands are without a windshield between you and the landscape. Remember that the Badlands Loop Road is very steep in several places, most notably the following passes: Cedar Pass, Norbeck Pass, Dillon Pass, and Pinnacles Pass. The change in elevation can be over 250 feet in less than 500 meters.
22 Miles | Mostly Downhill Option
If you have a vehicle available to provide a shuttle service, you may want to begin your ride at the Pinnacles Overlook, eight miles south of the town of Wall, and end your ride at the Ben Reifel Visitor Center. Although this route is primarily downhill, there are still at least two distinct climbs to be made en route. During summer, traffic is quite heavy during all daylight hours. Be a defensive rider at all times.
8 miles | Mostly Downhill Option
This route also requires a vehicle to provide shuttle service. Cyclists should be dropped off at the Fossil Exhibit Trail and ride to the Ben Reifel Visitor Center. This route is all downhill or level but does include stretches with narrow shoulders.
“Fat tire” cyclists – those suitable for gravel roads – may want to take a ride on the Sage Creek Rim Road, located in the northwestern corner of the park. This gravel route winds along the northern edge of the Badlands Wilderness Area, past Roberts Prairie Dog Town, and includes a trek through the oldest exposed layers of the White River Badlands. You can start from any pull out along the Sage Creek Rim Road or the Sage Creek Campground. The entire road is 22 miles long (one way). Wildlife is abundant, including the American bison. Watch for ruts and loose gravel. Sage Creek Rim Road may experience heavy traffic during the summer months.
A long but fairly easy ride after the initial hill climb, this route takes you through ranch land and badland formations. Starting from the Ben Reifel Visitor Center, ride up the steep Cedar Pass along the Badlands Loop Road. Once at the top of the Pass, turn left on the gravel Old Northeast Road. Follow this road six miles past the park boundary to a junction. Continue straight (north) for one mile, then follow the road as it turns left. Stay on County Road CH12 through ranch country for 6 miles until you reach a T-intersection at the Big Foot Road. Turn left (south) and continue into the park to the paved Badlands Loop Road. Turn left and return to the Ben Reifel Visitor Center. 11 miles paved, 16 miles unpaved.
This is also a fairly easy ride after the initial climb up Cedar Pass. Start from the Ben Reifel Visitor Center, riding up the steep Cedar Pass. Once at the top, turn left on the unpaved Old Northeast Road. Follow this route for 6 miles past the park boundary to a junction. Bear right (east), parallel to Interstate 90 until you reach Cactus Flat. Here you will find a convenience store, a campground and motel, gas, and the offices for Minuteman Missile National Historic Site. Turn south on Highway 240 and continue past the park entrance to the Ben Reifel Visitor Center. If you entered the park by car, remember to bring your entrance receipt with you. You must present this at the entrance station or you will be expected to pay $7 per person. 9 miles paved, 8 miles unpaved.
A fairly easy ride through rolling grasslands, this route offers good opportunities for wildlife viewing. Start at the junction of the Badlands Loop Road and the Sage Creek Rim Road. Follow the unpaved Sage Creek Road west for seven miles to the junction with County Road 502. Follow the signs to Wall until you reach a paved road. Turn right on the paved road and travel until you reach Highway 240. Inside Badlands National Park, Highway 240 is called the Badlands Loop Road. Take Highway 240 south through the Pinnacles Entrance and back to the junction with Sage Creek Rim Road. If you entered the park by car, remember to bring your entrance receipt with you. You must present this at the entrance station or you will be expected to pay $7 per person. 12 miles paved, 11 miles unpaved.
Numerous tracks and dirt roads crisscross the Buffalo Gap National Grassland. Stop at the National Grasslands Visitor Center in Wall for information on accessing these lands administered by the U.S. Forest Service. Additionally, the state of South Dakota provides off-road travel in some areas near but not in Badlands National Park. For more information, contact a park ranger.