One of my favorite parts of road trip planning is finding lodging. On the longer trips, I always try to strike a balance between camping (which I still love even though I usually sleep terribly) and the kind with a bed, indoor plumbing, and occasional kitchen facilities. So one night might be at a motel, Airbnb, or local lodge (always try to support local!), followed by some camping, followed by more indoor lodging. This was a two week trip, and the first night was spent in a really, really nice Motel 6 in Mankato, MN (yes, you read that right! Best sleep of the whole trip was had there!). But the second night was probably the one I was most looking forward to during this trip.
I’ve known that the further west one goes in this country, the more opportunities there are for “Dispersed Camping” and I am all about the opportunity for wide open views with no price tag on it. Dispersed camping is basically federal land that you can stay on for up to 14 days at a time at no cost. These spots aren’t terribly hard to find, and are more convenient for people with RV’s or “Van-lifers”, as they often lack facilities, and I was actually looking for hiking trails when I stumbled upon this one. When I saw “Badlands Boondocking Area” pop up on the map as I zoomed in, I didn’t hesitate. Boondock in a Prius? Challenge accepted.
As we pulled off the main road, we were greeted by grazing cattle, also a thing in these parts. The road was definitely not made with a Prius in mind, and care was required, but it worked. And thankfully there was no rain in the forecast, otherwise this wouldn’t have been an option. In the photo above, you can see in the distance all the RV’s and vans parked along what is referred to as “The Wall”. We drove up past that curve and took a left and found a spot along that section. This spot is actually located in the Buffalo Gap National Grasslands, but has the most spectacular views of the Badlands and is considered one of the best camping spots in the country. It’s just a couple miles from Pinnacles Overlook and the main drive through the park, and the town of Wall is a short drive north for supplies. Did I mention the views? THIS, this view is what all those vans and RV’s are seeing on the other side.
The sunsets are pretty epic too.
Would I recommend? Highly! Even if you’re setting up a tent out of your Prius. We weren’t the only Prius there either, and there were a few other cars scattered about. Just watch out for gifts from the cattle when you step out of your tent in the morning.