The Notch Trail at Badlands National Park in South Dakota is my Number 1 recommendation for a moderate hike that most people should try.
The hike is around 1.33 miles round trip and I would say can be completed within an hour depending on trail traffic. Unlike the other trails near it there is no boardwalk to follow instead it is a decently marked dirt path. After the cliff ladder which I will get to in a minute, you mostly will trace the edge of a cliff so if you are afraid of heights watch out.
The main attraction of this trail and what makes it unique is the 50 rung rope ladders that you need to climb!
This at least to me is an incredibly unique thing to bring to a short hike to really bring the fun level up a notch! (get it?! LOL).
The rope ladder is not extremely hard but if you do not like hikes or have any mobility issues, I would warn caution. I would recommend to at least walk out to the ladder if you are at the trailhead to really gauge how you feel about the climb.
The only other issue you may run into while doing the Notch Trail is a traffic jam that does form at the rope ladder. Depending on what time of the day you might get caught behind a line of people going up or a line of people coming down. Not much you can do here except enjoy the scenery and jump in when you get a chance.
Once you make it to the top the rest of the trail is easy to follow. The first part is following the edge of a cliff so make sure to stay to the right and do not fall!
At the end of the cliff edge you now are following some slight hills that really make this a unique and special environment. This area is not the best marked but if you stay to the right side you cannot go wrong.
Eventually you will hit the end of the trail, a massive drop off into the valley below with some amazing views. The views from the drop off are just mesmerizing and really show the unique landscape of Badlands National Park.
Now it is time to head back and hopefully not have a long queue to get back down the ladder. Luckily, the hike is quick, but it is hot out in the Badlands and I highly recommend some water, sunblock, and a hat.
Have you been to the Badlands National Park? Did you have a favorite trail to hike?
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