The dusty, canyon-shrouded roads of the South Dakota Highway 240 slice their way right through the heart of the Badlands National Park. For more than 30 miles the tarmac weaves its way in, out, over and under the rocky protrusions and alien monoliths that splinter up from the ground, offering up some seriously stunning panoramas of Middle America along the way. But, while relatively short in comparison to many of the continent’s famous road trip routes, the Scenic Byway is undeniably remote and ruthless in its perpetual montage of awe-inspiring nature, and travelers are treated to a real kaleidoscope of interesting features from beginning to end. For example, the Ben Reifel Visitor Center doubles up as one of the state’s best natural history centers and provides a truly encompassing introduction to the geological metamorphosis that occurred here over millions of years, while the en route Cedar Pass Lodge is said to cook up the best Sioux Indian Taco in North America!
The Ben Reifel Visitor Center represents the most encompassing and immersive touristic introduction to every facet of the Badlands National Park, from its lengthy natural history to its colorful array of past human cultures. Visitors are treated to a series of hands-on exhibits that range from displays of primordial fossils to scientific expositions of the region’s ecological makeup, while for those looking to do a little off-road exploration, it’s the perfect place to get local tips on hiking trails and other outdoors activities away from the highway.
This cluster of cabins and accommodations has recently been reconstructed to mirror the original style of badlands hovels from the early 20th century. Accordingly, guests are treated to cozy and authentic timber-built huts, each with wide, open porches that offer up panoramic vistas of the Badlands horizon from morning to night. Nearby, the Cedar Pass campground and RV Park make use of the vast plains of South Dakota to provide room aplenty for tents and mobile home travelers as well.
Food-enthusiasts who come to wind their way through the remote wilds of the South Dakota Badlands could perhaps be forgiven for thinking that they have to put their culinary appetite on hold for a while. But, amidst the rocky outcrops and uncultivated dust plateaus the Cedar Pass Lodge is said to serve up one legendary local staples that shouldn’t be missed. In fact, the lodge is now so famed for its mastery of the Sioux Indian Taco – a steaming amalgamation of spicy beef mince and American beans all served with a topping of fresh salad – that visitors flock from miles around to taste it.