August 22, 2011After our first night in the Sage Creek area, we enjoyed a beautiful sunrise and watched a buffalo roam through the campsite. We decided that we would drive to the east end of the park so we could start hiking the established trails. After some coffee, we started our drive on the Badlands Loop Road towards the Ben Reifel Visitor Center. The drive to the east end of the park was thick with fog and the roads were slick with dew, which was not what we had experienced at our dry campsite. We drove slowly around sharp turns and curves and went to a few overlooks, in hopes that the sky would soon clear up.
Once we had arrived at the visitor center, we went in to get a trail brochure and then headed over to Notch Trail. The trail was narrow, going through a canyon but it was easy to walk on. We made it to the ladder which wasn't hard nor scary going up but the return trip was another story. The trail up above the canyon was scary because it had a 20+ foot drop off on one side. To make matters worse, the ground would sometimes give way with the sediment crumbling beneath our feet. The Notch Trail was also slanted, making it harder to hike especially since we didn't have trekking poles to help us balance. My hiking boots were my saving grace, giving me great traction and ankle support. The boots really came through and I was very thankful that my shoes were sturdy and didn't budge to the flagging ground.
The trail was mainly easy except for the height. I would definitely recommend the use of trekking poles in the Badlands due to the composition of the ground. I would also recommend to do it early so there are less people on the path as it is narrow in some areas and there is only one way up and down via the ladder. Overall, it was a very enjoyable and short hike.
Drive to Notch Trail
|Morning in Sage Creek|
|Driving to Notch Trail via Badlands Loop Road|
|Morning scenery in Badlands|
|Gorgeous colors from the Yellow Mounds|
|Slippery, dew covered overlook|
|First part of the trail: going through the canyon area|
|Climbing up the ladder|
|Looking down from the ladder for the descent. The first couple of rungs are vertical so it was a bit challenging.|
|Top of the ladder and surrounding area|
|Trail: follow sticks that mark the path, confusing in some areas as there was no well worn trail|
|The drop offs on the side of the trial|
|The Notch view!|
|Standing in the Notch|
|Surrounding area near the Notch|