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National Parks on a Budget – Free Camping in Badlands National Park

Since travel is a big priority for our family, finding budget friendly ways to road trip is very important to us. I am always looking for ways to stretch our travel dollar and what better way to visit National Parks on a budget than free camping in Badlands National Park? We loved camping at Sage Creek Campground, and not just because it was free. Beautiful scenery, abundant wildlife and a laid back atmosphere make this campground awesome at any price.We stopped in Badlands National Park during our 12,000 mile summer road trip (read about our epic adventure HERE). When researching our trip, I was happy to learn about free camping in Badlands National Park at Sage Creek Campground. And I was even happier to camp at Sage Creek when we arrived and looked around. This place is fantastic!Located in the north unit of Badlands National Park, before heading to Sage Creek Campground, we visited Wall Drug where we drank our fill of 5 cent coffee and snacked on donuts before looking around the gigantic store/tourist mecca where we stocked up on supplies. After we had our caffeine fix, we headed into the park. Driving the desolate Sage Creek Rim Road into the campground is part of the fun. We only saw one other car as we passed herds of bison and sprawling prairie dog towns on the scenic winding dirt road.The campground itself is somewhat like a gypsy village with a circular drive surrounding a large grassy camping area where you can pitch your tent wherever you’d like or camp in your vehicle in the drive. Campers were spread out in tents, truck campers, camper vans and even RVs. Sheltered picnic areas and tables dot the campground and we snagged one to cook dinner.We spent our time hiking the nearby trails, ogling at the bison wandering through our camp, and relaxing in the sun. I loved the laid back feel of this campground. People were just hanging out enjoying the day, hiking, strumming guitars, reading and taking pictures. I will definitely stay here again the next time I am in the Badlands. 

Want to Take Advantage of Free Camping in Badlands National Park? Here’s what you need to know-

Sage Creek Campground offers free camping in Badlands National Park in a beautiful setting with abundant wildlife.

While bison wander through the campground, DO NOT approach them. They are wild animals and can easily hurt you. Enjoy watching the wildlife from a safe distance.

While the unpaved Sage Creek Rim Road was in great condition during our visit in June, it can get muddy after rainstorms and sometimes closes after especially bad weather.

Sites at Sage Creek Campground are first come, first served but rarely fills.

Bring plenty of water for drinking and washing. There is no water available at Sage Creek. We filled several gallon jugs before heading into the park. In addition, only pit toilets are available.

While there are limited covered picnic areas, Sage Creek Campground is fairly exposed so slathering on the sunscreen is a must. While it was sunny and warm during the day, nights were pleasantly cool and mild.

Have your camera ready! From the amazing scenery to gorgeous sunrises and sunsets to diverse and abundant wildlife, Sage Creek Campground in Badlands National Park is a photographer’s dream.Having amazing National Park adventures doesn’t have to be expensive. There are many ways to save money on your adventures and free camping in Badlands National Park is an especially wonderful one. Happy Travels!


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