The Notch Trail is my favorite hike in Badlands National Park, South Dakota. This epic trail leads to incredible views of the Badlands Wall, a wooden cable latter up the side of a cliff, and epic views of the White River Valley!
Notch Trail Badlands National Park
Distance: 1.5 miles out and back round trip hike.
Elevation Gain/Loss: 125 feet
Time: Approximately 45 minutes to an hour, depending on if there is a line to use the ladder.
Difficulty: Moderate to Difficult, there are steep cliff edges and climbing up a cable wooden ladder
Restrooms: Restrooms are available at the trailhead.
Accessibility: This trail is not ADA Accessible
Pets Allowed: No pets allowed on trails. Backcountry roads are a great place to escape every day with your pet.
Where is the Notch Trail Trailhead
To get to the Notch Trail parking area, drive 2 miles East of the Ben Reifel Visitor Center on the Badlands Loop Road (Route 240).
The trailhead is on the East side of the road and is a shared parking lot for the Door Trail, Castle Trail, Window Trail, and Notch Trails.
The Door and window trails are on the same side as the parking lot while the Castle Trail is across the road and continues west. The Door Trail is on the north of the parking lot, Window Trail in the middle of the parking lot, and the Notch Trail begins from the south end of the lot.
Hiking the Notch Trail
The Notch Trail kind of reminds me of hiking the Narrows at Zion National Park. I say this because they both start off as a nice easy hike starting into a wide canyon and the further you hike, the higher and narrower the cliff walls become. That's where the similarities end and you are quickly reminded that you are in the Badlands!
You hike through a few bends in the canyon up to a point where you see a large wooden ladder. This is the most exciting part of the hike but there can be a line to use the ladder.
Once you hike the ladder, follow the trail to the left to the area of the trail with cliffs to the side. Just remember to keep to the right side of the trail and watch children.
Once you pass through the cliffs, you will hike through the canyon to the Notch where you will be rewarded with exceptional views of the White River Valley and its wonderful rock formations below! Make sure to take some time and soak in this view before heading back the way you took to get here.
Make sure to check out my Badlands National Park Ultimate Hiking Guide for more great trails in Badlands National Park.
Notch Trail Alternate Route
If you wish to pass hiking both the ladder and the cliff portion of the trail, simply continue hiking up the canyon until the trail meets back up just past the cliff section.
The Notch Trail has spectacular views and is without a doubt a top attraction of Badlands National Park.
Having said that, this is also very important to watch out for your personal safety.
Badlands is known for having Rattlesnakes so always watch where you step and know what to do when you come across one of these venomous snakes.
Make sure to keep an eye out for Bighorn Sheep while hiking as they are common in the Badlands.
I also recommend sturdy hiking boots. I have been asked for years what pair of boots I use, I have been hiking in Zamberlan's for well over a decade and can't say anything but great things about them!
This trail is not for those with a fear of heights. This hiking trail has a log ladder as the trail climbs over 50 steps at a 45-degree angle. You will then hike the cliff section where you will walk along a narrow ledge and a drop-off.
From the top of the Notch Trail, you can see the Visitor Center, Cabins, campground, and Cliff Shelf Nature Trail below.