I visited Sage Creek for one night in August 2017 during a solo cross country road trip. Though a very bare bones place to camp, it was one of my favorite overnight spots that month..
The only facilities are a couple pit toilets and picnic table shelters. No water. The campground is really one large circle, and it fills up with people. There isn't really an option for privacy.
However! It is a free place to camp and it is surrounded by hills and therefore sheltered by wind and morning / evening sun, and it is perfect if all you need is a place to sleep. A lot of folks passing through are also on long road trips, so you can chat and meet cool people on their own adventures. The sunset and sunrise were incredible, and at night you can hear coyotes howl and see the milky way. Bison and coyotes come through the campground on occasion. Despite being full of people, it felt quiet and peaceful and wild enough to have a taste of the landscape's true character. A bison grazed behind my tent all night and I slept incredibly sound.
I write when I travel, and as I watched the sunset from a hill above the campground I jotted down a poem:
Early August in the Badlands
The wind slides away today’s arid heat, swept
as if with a broom over the hills and horizon
following the sun’s trailing colors. The few trees and
grasses here sigh, relieved of harsh
rays, but now deprived of productive light. The birds -
swallows, hawks -
make final swoops before giving way the sky to bats’ delight
of insects and nighttime desert flowers.
The moon shakes her shawl of clouds and dusty haze;
Brighter. Gleaming silver underwater. Twilight
is her shining moment before the first stars
behind her brief solo and eventually blanket the above
in a sparkling quilt. The crickets rejoice, as do the coyotes –
Now is their time to Sing and to Dance and to Thank
the moon and then roam, playfully, over the prairie.
Sage Creek is a primitive campground located in the interior of The Badlands National Park. The campsites are first come first serve and are free to use. However there are only two pit toilets for the entire camp and no water is available so bring your own is a must. Buffalo continually frequent the campground so storing food away a night is a must. There are also limited trails in the badlands but sage creek campground is a great starting point for backcountry trips but following sage creek into the interior.
At the far western edge of Badlands NP sits this FREE (what?!, IKR) campground. No real sites, just a big flat open space with a small building that houses the toilets. No fires or water source either. Signs of wildlife everywhere so definitely watch your step, especially at night. Was very crowded the one night I spent there, but most everyone was quiet and respectful of each other's space. Beautiful views at sunset and sunrise.
Where else can you find FREE camping in a National Park? This place is beyond beautiful. It can be very windy in a wide open meadow and hot but there are covered picnic tables at least. The views ans wildlife are just unbeatable. Trails all around, very clean pit toilets, a lot of space and just plain gorgeous and peaceful.
Simple camping (almost like a dirt parking lot) a wide open space; but it's free camping.
Had the opportunity to watch 3 coyotes playing in the early dawn hours. What an amazing experience!
This place is spectacular!
I LOVED my time here at Sage Creek. It is quite the drive from anywhere else in the park, but it is amazing. As we were setting up our tent on the first night, a lone bison walked through and checked out what was going on. It was incredible. There is bison poop throughout, so watch your step. Also, there is no running water on site or anywhere nearby, so be sure to pack your own. There are pit toilets. There aren't really designated sites, everyone sets up somewhere in the middle. Additionally, there are some horse facilities, but I would check on the NPS website for the particulars on that. Overall, it was a phenomenal place to camp. We got there around 4 p.m. and there were still plenty of places to set up. (We went in late August.) There is not a lot of privacy, but I didn't mind. It's free, so you really can't beat that.
First off I never thought I'd say that sentence…I love bison and camping..but I did and I do. There are many primitive back country camping options in the badlands but as far as easy free car camping this and one other.
Great for a night in a tent or camper van. Whatever suits you find a spot and it yours as long as you can fit and your respectful. Make sure to bring everything you need if you plan spending several days here. There's lots of amazing hiking in the badlands it is truly a unique place. It was the first time I've seen bison and to be able to camp so close is out of this world. I've now been here at a couple different times of year and each season has something special to offer. There was also a bunch of other wildlife that I got to observe respectfully and take some pretty sweet pics. I also took a drive and found a creek to meander. The stones in the creek were clay like and every color. That was pretty rad. Take a few days here it will be well worth it.
Great, free camp spot on the far Western side of the Badlands. This place is a bit of a free-for-allbut there is plenty of space. The bison herds roam through here. There are many trails surrounding the campground as well.
There are two campground options in Badlands -- and several backcountry options -- and Sage Creek was an awesome place to crash our first two nights in the park. We arrived late at night, and without reservations, we didn’t want to risk driving all the way to the developed campground. Sage Creek never really fills up -- and sites aren’t exactly designated, anyway -- so we squeezed our tent in.
Camping at Sage Creek is free, but that also means there is no water available here, so be prepared. There are picnic tables and pit toilets. The campground is more of an open field, where you can find a place to pitch your tent or park for the night. We had no trouble finding a place in the busy June season.
Sage Creek gave us pretty decent access to some of the highlights throughout the park: along with just driving through the massive badlands, we loved the Notch Trail and the Sheep Mountain Table Overlook hoodoos.
You can read much more about our four days in the park on our blog: Switchback Kids (Badlands)
We've visited this part of the park frequently, mostly because it's free and you get to hang with the bison. But in the past years it's really changed. They now have a ring so to speak around the camping area. People park around it and then walk in and find a site. Not bad in a large group setting, it used to be much quieter. Knowing the bison is key. They can spook easily and there were people shining lights on them in the dark and in the past, we've witnessed where they don't care for that behavior. There are no fires allowed, which is fine, we brought our jetboil along. We saw a lot of camp stoves there. There are two enclosed pit toilets and a couple dumpsters, which was nice to see. There are bison all around and prairie dogs right in camp. Due to the increased numbers of people, there was a lot of light pollution, so what used to be a fabulous place to photograph stars, isn't so much anymore. Also, due to it being free and on the outskirts, no one to moderate excessive noise late at night. But all in all, it was a good place to rest for a couple nights. It is a really pretty place too and the wildlife can't be beat!