The sunrise at Badlands National Park begs for my attention as sunlight peeks through the window of my cabin. The serenade of the Western Meadowlark motivates me to climb out of my hand-crafted pine bed and brew a cup of coffee. As I slip on a flannel shirt and open the door, I find the perfect spot to celebrate the morning South Dakota-style, the back porch.
To fully experience South Dakota’s Badlands National Park, I stayed in a Cedar Pass Lodge cabin. The quiet rock formations come alive as the sun breaks and a symphony of birds celebrate the arrival of another day. Rabbits nibbled on prairie grass as I enjoyed my morning ritual of coffee in my favorite flannel shirt.
Hits of Cedar Pass Lodge
My kids love cabins. For them, adventure awaits at every corner. I love staying in Badlands National Park since it extends my national park experience.
When the day visitors leave, the park returns to its rightful owners – the animals. Most day visitors miss the animal encounters since most animals prefer sunrise and sunset. Along with cottontail rabbits, I saw wild turkeys, a porcupine, bighorn sheep, turkey vultures and western Meadowlarks.
The Cedar Pass Lodge cabin has a rustic warmth that resembles the original, but includes all the amenities that modern travelers need. With the mini-refrigerator, microwave and coffee maker, I had a place to put my cold cuts and coffee creamer.
Misses of Cedar Pass Lodge
When I think of a western national park lodge, I think large log and stone buildings with a grand gathering places with leather chairs and roaring fireplaces. The Cedar Pass Lodge is a collection of free-standing and duplex cabin units. The restaurant is located within walking distance at the front Cedar Pass Lodge area.
Like the lodging within any national park, guests might miss some conveniences. My cabin didn’t have an alarm, an iron or a bathtub. Like most national park lodging I’ve visited, Cedar Pass Lodge doesn’t have a swimming pool.
I found a few picnic tables outside the cabins but grills are not available. Due to the dry conditions, open fires aren’t allowed at the Cedar Pass Lodge cabins.
The Details of Cedar Pass Lodge
The Cedar Pass Lodge ($$) is located at 20681 South Dakota Highway 240, in the North Unit of the Badlands National Park near the Interior Entrance. It’s approximately 70 miles east of Rapid City, and open seasonally from April 15 until October 15.
The Cedar Pass Lodge cabins were built in 2013 to resemble the original 1928 cabins. Pets are welcome in the cabins with a $20 a night charge. The cabins are built around a horseshoe gravel drive and I parked in front of my cabin.
Since Cedar Pass Lodge is within Badlands National Park, all visitors must pay admission for the park. It's $15 for a 7-day pass or use an National Park Service annual pass.
I visited the Cedar Pass Lodge in May.
Built in 2013 to gold-level LEED standards for efficiency, Cedar Pass Lodge features 26 free-standing and duplex cabin units. Fabricated in nearby Rapid City of locally-sourced materials, the cabins feature beetle-pine harvested from the nearby Black Hills, where pine bark beetles destroyed many trees.
Within walking distance of Cedar Pass Lodge, I found the Cedar Pass Restaurant, a gift shop and Ben Reifel Visitor Center.
From both of my porches – one on each side – I had a front row seat for a spectacular sunrise and then sunset. The front entrance has a screen door to allow in fresh air and the porches feature Lodge Pole pine chairs.
My cabin featured two queen beds dressed with white linens and a Native American inspired quilt. The beds, the table and chairs along with the chest of drawers were hand-crafted of Lodge Pole pine in nearby Montana by a family-owned business. The bedside lamp was crafted by the Lakota tribe of South Dakota. With the vaulted ceiling and light colored beetle-pine paneling, the cabins are cozy yet have ample space.
I found a 32-inch flat-screen TV, a mini-refrigerator, a coffee-maker with coffee and tea and a microwave. Inside the mini-refrigerator, I found a bag of ice. My cabin had a ceiling fan, decorative light fixtures, a bedside lamp and four windows with blinds. My cabin had heat and air, though I didn’t use it.
My bathroom in the Cedar Pass Lodge cabin had a separate vanity area with stained concrete counters and double sinks. The toiletries included were: shampoo, conditioner, body lotion and a bath and facial bar.
The bathroom had a separate room with the shower along with the toilet. My cabin didn’t have a tub. The Cedar Pass Lodge cabins feature bamboo towels.
I found a hair dryer in the tiny closet area that has a rod but no door. It was just big enough to hang clothes and too small to store my luggage. I left my luggage on a luggage rack outside the bathroom.
Activities at Cedar Pass Lodge
Badlands National Park is at my doorstep and ready for exploration. The Ben Reifel Visitor Center is within walking distance, open year round from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. and 7:30 a.m. to 7 p.m. during the summer. The Door Trail and the Window Trail are close by and family-friendly. Junior Ranger booklets, the NPS educational programming, are available at the visitor center.
Dining at Cedar Pass Lodge
The Cedar Pass Restaurant, located in front of the Cedar Pass Lodge cabins, is open from April 15 until October 15 from 8 a.m. until 7 p.m. The restaurant serves local favorites, like fry bread, Indian tacos and buffalo burgers, alongside locally-sourced fish and beef. I devoured a breakfast Indian taco with eggs. South Dakota beer and wine is also available.
Next to the Cedar Pass Restaurant, I found an artisan gift shop with everything from local Native American wares to basic camping equipment and snacks.
Tips from a TravelingMom:
- Badlands National Park has a poisonous snake, the Prairie Rattlesnake.
- Give large animals, like buffalo and bighorn sheep, 25 yards for your safety.
- Bring water bottles, visitor centers have bottle fillers.
- Cell service is limited in Badlands National Park.
- Cedar Pass Lodge has complimentary Wi-Fi.
- Picnic tables can be found a Cedar Pass Lodge and camp stoves are allowed.
- Finish your day in Badlands National Park with a glass of wine, remember your bottle opener.
- Picnic tables are located at the Cedar Pass Lodge cabins.
- Ground fires are prohibited but camp stoves are allowed.
- No utility sinks or guest laundry facilities are available at Cedar Pass Lodge.