The precipitous Badlands National Park may seem a foreboding landscape to many, with its deep canyons, soaring spires, and shortage of shade. But to daring, rough-riding mountain bikers, the craggy rock formations, challenging inclines, and solitary nature of the trails make them a prime location for rugged, two-wheeling adventures. Nearly 50 miles of trails are open for non-motorized use throughout the park. The Badlands offers wholly unique scenery the likes of which can’t be found anywhere else, from the richly layered colorations of the eroded cliff sides to the diverse wildlife sightings.
Within the western region of Badlands National Park lies Sheep Mountain Road, located on County Road 589 four miles south of the aptly named town of Scenic. One of the few designated trail networks open to mountain bikers in the park, Sheep Mountain provides ample riding opportunities. The out-and-back trail spans 14 total miles when traveled from beginning to end, although the ride can be shortened if you choose to park your vehicle further up the trail. Like all Badlands trails, Sheep Mountain meanders among deep canyons and scales steady climbs. The packed dirt surface is studded with loose rocks and eroded grooves, adding the occasional challenge to an otherwise easy-to-moderate ride.
When riding Sheep Mountain Road, be sure to come prepared with plenty of water and food, wear sunscreen, and dress in layers so you can peel off clothing as necessary. With its dry, dusty terrain, the Badlands can be grueling in the heat of a sunny summer day, with the plummeting evening temperatures providing a starkly cool contrast.
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