Notch Trail, Badlands National Park
Badlands National Park is located in the southwest portion of South Dakota. The park takes it's name from the other-worldly nature of the landscape, created by centuries of erosion. Spires and ridges of rock jut up from the surrounding plains, looking like a giant sand art project. Bands of yellow, gold, and red give the Badlands hills their distinctive look.
Several trails take you for an up close view of the formations. Some are relatively short and have accessible boardwalks. Arguably the most interesting is the Notch Trail. It's an out and back trail that it is only 1.5 miles long round trip. However, it's not the distance that makes it a difficult trail, it's where it takes you. The topography is desert-like, very dry and sandy. The first half the trail meanders down a box canyon. You then come upon a wide, 50 foot tall timber and cable ladder that goes up the side of a cliff. At the top you follow very narrow ledge that gradually ascends toward the notch. The hiker with a fear of heights may have second thoughts about this route.
When you reach the top of the trail you can scramble up into the notch and look down to the flat land 200 feet below. From this vantage point you can also see the small town of Interior. Once you taken your photos and caught your breath, you head back down the way you came up. This means going down that ladder. The whole route takes about 90 minute to two hours to complete.
The National Park Service does encourage proper hiking footwear and using caution because of the drop-offs. That's right - there are no railings along the Notch Trail.