When visiting Badland National Park in South Dakota there are several options to stay as an RV’er but for an immersive experience into the landscape, free camping located just outside the park gates and some of the most scenic views you need to stay at The Buffalo Gap National Grasslands known as the Pinnacles and commonly referred to as “Nomadic View” aka “The Wall”.

Dry Camping

Our camping preference is dry camping or boondocking and there is in our opinion no better way to see the Badlands. Staying on the wall and experiencing the landscape, sunrises and sunsets on the similar terrain as the Badlands and being approximately 2 miles from the park entrance is an excellent way to visit the area.

If you are familiar with boondocking you already have some expectations but if not you need to know that the terrain could be rough, the area has strong winds, unlevel parking sites, no services including trash, water, or restrooms and depending on the time of year you could have the place to yourself or as with us during our June visit be on the wall with 130+ of your newest friends.

The grasslands just like any dispersed camping area has a “Leave no Trace” approach. There are no dumpsters onsite so all garbage will need to be packed out with you. At the time of this writing campfires are allowed however asked that the rock ring be scattered after use. Campfires on the Wall will be discontinued in the later part of 2023.

If boondocking isn’t your thing there are other options. There is a RV park (Sleepy Hollow Campground) located within the town of Wall just 7 miles from the park entrance. It is a typical RV park located within walking distance of Wall Drug with mostly pull thru sites and 30/50amp full hookups. There is also campground located within the Park (Cedar Pass Campground information here) that offers electric only but has dump station onsite for a $1 fee.

Where is it

As you are driving from the City of Wall on the South Dakota Highway 240 just about 6.5 miles outside of town you will see one large radio tower on the right side and two radio towers on the left side of the road (43.89313, -102.23871). At the two towers there is a dirt entry with a cattle guard crossing into the Pinnacle Grasslands dispersed camping area and will lead you to the Wall.

There is an earlier entrance prior to the tower entrance (43.918982, -102.238701) however I would recommend entering by the towers. The earlier entrance leads your through the grasslands first and although will get you to the same area there is a somewhat steep bump to get over. I spoke with a few people with travel trailer that came in that direction without issue however we were concerned with a fifth wheel having the bed hit the underside as it pivoted over.

Both entrances also are marked and show up on Google Maps.

The roads coming into the wall are dirt roads and have some ruts and potholes however not bad just need to be taken at the correct speeds. When trying to find a spot on the wall you will also find that most all sites are not level with a lean inward requiring blocks on one side. We did see that there are some more level spots in some of the grasslands but most are looking for the experience of parking near the edge.

Where to Camp

When coming down the road you will either go left or right to find a spot – most everybody will go right. It is said to be better views on the right hand side however the space is much more limited. You are able to see the end of the boondocking area from that turn but may not realize it. If you are visiting on the off season I would recommend right. On the right side most people are lined up much closer and most try to park on the edge for that view. If you decide to go right there is space down at the end to turn around unless it is really busy and we have seen rigs blocking up the turn around.

During our time on the wall we stayed on the right side at this spot 43.892623, -102.227991. The one thing to be aware of in this area since the views are said to be better we had many people a day walk up by our door on our camp side of our rig to look off the cliffs to take pictures. Some people dont understand camp etiquette and would walk under the gooseneck of our 5th wheel to come over.

If you go left this is a much larger area and twists and turns along the cliffsides through the grasslands. There are many spaces that are on more level surfaces down here and in my opinion the views were still fantastic. Those areas would seem to be much more private opposed to those on the right.

Pick a spot and enjoy. It is recommended you do not get to close to the edge as the winds are often high in the area. During our stay we had a day where we put in the curb side slide as did many others around us.

Changes coming to “The WALL”

During our stay on the Buffalo Gap National Grasslands aka Nomadic View or The Wall on two of the days we counted over 130 of our closest friends taking in the views with us. There is a lot of space up there so 130 seems like a big number but it does start getting closer than what you typically desire while boondocking.

While speaking to the Ranger for the area we learned that this will no longer be the case going forward. At the time of our stay it was proposed that the fall of 2023 would bring changes to how you choose your spot. Currently you can drive up and pick the best view or maybe the most open spot and call it yours for the duration of the stay. You will still be able to pick a spot but now they are going to have designated defined spots to camp in.

Having defined spots will bring the times like we saw exceeding 130 campers on the land to a mere 70 defined spots where you will be able to park your camper and one vehicle. This might not be a popular decision however we were told that the decision was necessary due to the amount of people using the land and the need to control and protect it going forward.

Having the defined spots might actually work better for us dry campers that like some space. Although most of us understand how to choose a spot and respect your neighbors we did see several areas where somebody parked extremely close to another camp and we have a few closer than desired friends as well.

At the time of this writing I verified with the Ranger of the area that the proposed plan was still moving forward. I was told that currently up on the wall there are poles stuck in the ground to start the process however they are not currently enforcing any change. I spoke to a friend who had recently stayed on the Wall and he stated he saw the poles but didnt know what they were for.

What do you think of this change? Will this be a positive change for both the land and us dry campers on our next visit?

Important Links

Dispersed Camping Sheet for the area – This is the sheet they give you for dispersed camping when stopping by the visitor center in town.

Motor Vehicle Use Map

Cedar Pass Campground (Inside Badlands NP)

Google Map Locations

We started our RV journey in 2019 and have traveled over 50k miles between our three fifth wheels. 2021 brought a new set of experiences for us selling our home and going full time in our Beacon and has been a bumpy road.

We are blessed to have each other and the support of our family and friends as we continue our journeys.

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