If you are headed to Badlands National Park with high hopes of seeing wildlife and you’re also looking to go camping in Badlands National Park, then you just might love Sage Creek campground!
Sage Creek campground is one of the 2 campgrounds in Badlands National Park.
This campground in the Sage Creek area is the one that will feel a bit more like a “wild” camping experience compared to the other Badlands campground, as Sage Creek is located in a more remote area of the park.
What type of wildlife might you see camping in Badlands National Park at Sage Creek campground?
Now, wildlife is wild, and they are free to do what they want! This means that with wildlife, there’s no guarantee that you’ll see them!
1. You will see prairie dogs when camping at Sage Creek campground.
Except, you are nearly guaranteed to see prairie dogs at Sage Creek campground.
Actually I want to say you will 100% definitely see prairie dogs, except nothing in life is guaranteed. 😜
But you will most likely absolutely see prairie dogs when camping here at Badlands National Park… unless the prairie dogs up and decide that Sage Creek campground is no longer suitable as their home. (This may happen if they start to find their natural food source scarce for example.)
As of August 2021, Sage Creek campground is an actual prairie dog town! Like, nearly the entire campground! You will be setting up your tent in the prairie dog town, right next to prairie dog holes.
Share the Badlands prairie dog campground video with the people you’ll be traveling to South Dakota with!
This means that as long as it’s still an active prairie dog town, then you are pretty much guaranteed to see prairie dogs, and see a lot of them! How fun!
That said, just observe them! Don’t engage with them. This also means don’t feed them. Keep them wild!
2. You may see buffalo when camping at Sage Creek campground.
Another animal you may see when camping in Badlands National Park at Sage Creek campground is the buffalo! (aka bison. Buffalo and bison are the same thing.)
You aren’t nearly as guaranteed to see buffalo when camping here as you are the prairie dogs, but it can still be very likely that you do see buffalo!
There are prairie dog researchers who work in the Sage Creek campground every morning at dawn, and they said that buffalo are at the campground pretty much every day.
In my case, there were buffalo to be seen walking directly around (and through) the campground both mornings I was at Sage Creek campground. Both times the buffalo went through between 6am and 7am.
Share the Badlands buffalo campground video with the people you’ll be traveling to South Dakota with!
Otherwise, if you miss the buffalo in the early morning, there are also generally buffalo to be seen a bit off in the distance, so they do frequent the area surrounding the campground.
3. You may hear coyotes overnight!
I heard coyotes both nights I was at Sage Creek campground, and I’m pretty sure I saw one during the day too. It was walking through the outside of the campground.
Is it safe to camp with buffalo around?!
Sage Creek campground was the second campground I camped at in the Dakotas in which buffalo freely walked through the campground getting up close and personal to tents. (The other was Cottonwood Campground in Theodore Roosevelt National Park.)
First, to be clear, do not underestimate buffalo! They can seem like gentle giants as you watch them slowly move across the campground. But they can turn aggressive really quickly if they feel threatened.
That said, it is possible to camp safely with buffalo. In short, don’t do anything to make them feel threatened! This basically means stay away from them and don’t engage with them. Just let them go by. If you don’t bother them, they won’t bother you!
The general guideline that the National Park Service says is to “maintain a distance of 100 feet whenever possible” from the buffalo. When you’re at the campground it’s possible that you may not adhere to this if the buffalo decides to walk by your campsite. If this happens, just don’t do anything to provoke them and they will have no reason to stop to hurt you!
More below about the practical stuff to decide if camping at Sage Creek campground is for you!
I have a lot of 30-90 second South Dakota outdoor travel videos. A few of them might be on this page. If you can't see the video directly above, it might be because you have an ad blocker. Save the South Dakota video playlist to watch on youtube later!
See the best of South Dakota outdoors:
- Best places to visit in South Dakota for VIEWS
- Planning a South Dakota camping trip
- Best things to do in the Black Hills for views
- Best things to do in Badlands National Park for views
- Camping cabins in South Dakota state parks
A few things to know about camping in Badlands National Park in the Sage Creek area
1. Sage Creek campground is FREE camping in Badlands National Park!
If you want to camp for free in Badlands National Park and drive to your campsite, then Sage Creek campground is where you want to go. (You can also go backcountry camping for free. See more about that.)
While there are no camping fees, there is a fee for Badlands National Park. This will be around $30 for a 7-day pass per car. (There is no day pass.) See current fees. Generally speaking, if you plan on visiting at least 3 national parks within a year, it may be worth looking at the annual national park pass.
Now, being a free campground does mean that it doesn’t come with very many luxuries.
2. The Sage Creek campground is mostly for tent camping, as there are limitations for RV camping.
The campground is for tents and smaller RVs.
The official limitations for RV camping at Sage Creek campground, according to the National Park Service:
Motor homes, pull behind trailers, and other recreational vehicles greater than 18 feet in length are prohibited.
This limitation does not apply to horse trailers.
3. You can’t reserve campsites at Sage Creek campground.
Sage Creek campground is a first-come first-serve campground in Badlands National Park. This means that it’s not possible to reserve a campsite, and you won’t know if there’s availability until you show up.
It is said that the Sage Creek campground rarely fills up. Officially it’s listed that there are 22 campsites at Sage Creek campground.
The campground is a wide open space. In the off-chance that you do arrive to a full campground, you will probably be fine trying to find enough space for your tent, although maybe you will annoy your neighbors a bit. 😜
4. Once you arrive at the campground, you claim a campsite by occupying any open campsite.
There’s nothing you need to do otherwise. There’s no form you need to submit or anything like that.
If you’re sleeping in your car, you might need to get creative to claim your campsite.
5. The campground is a wide open space.
The campground is one loop.
And most of the campsites are located in the middle of the circle along the road of this loop.
There are also a few campsites located towards the hills.
From anywhere in the campground you can basically see every single campsite.
There is also a separate camping area for horse campers.
6. Watch your step around your campsite so that you don’t step into a prairie dog hole!
7. As you’re driving around the campground watch out for prairie dog crossings!
8. There are campsites with a sheltered picnic table, and campsites with no shade.
And aside from this shaded picnic table, you won’t get any other shade at your campsite.
9. Be prepared for the HEAT!
10. There is NO drinking water.
There is no drinking water at Sage Creek campground. Bring your own water and plenty of it!
11. Be prepared for sleeping in cool weather!
Even if it’s 100+ F during the day, it’s possible that it will be in the 50s F at night!
12. Be prepared for WIND!
It can be a good idea to make sure you bring stakes and a hammer with you so your tent won’t blow away.
13. Be prepared for RAIN!
It actually did rain overnight (thunder and lightning) when I was camping at Sage Creek campground.
14. There are no-flush toilets.
There are basic outdoor toilets at Sage Creek campground.
👆 Spot the buffalo!
15. There is a trash area for campers, along with a recycling area.
16. There is NO electricity.
Sage Creek campground has no electric campsites.
17. There are NO showers.
There are no showers at Sage Creek campground.
18. You need to drive a gravel road to get to the Sage Creek campground.
The Sage Creek campground is located in a more remote area of Badlands National Park, and the road to the campground is a gravel road. So no matter which direction you are coming from, you will be driving a gravel road at least part of the way.
Being in a more remote area also means that you may be driving one hour one way to get to the main sights of the park. This includes the Door Trail, the Window Trail, the Notch Trail, the Castle Trail, and many other overlooks.
19. If you’re awake early enough, not only might you be able to see buffalo, you might also see a nice sunrise!
More rustic Badlands camping info
Other need-to-know from the National Park Service about Sage Creek campground:
Generators are not permitted.
Due to fire danger, campfires are not permitted in this campground and collection of wood is prohibited.
However, camp stoves or contained charcoal grills can be used in campgrounds and picnic areas.
When using charcoal grills, ensure the charcoal is cool prior to disposal to prevent a trash fire.
And that’s a bit about camping at Sage Creek campground!
See more camping in Badlands National Park:
See more wildlife in Badlands National Park:
HAPPY RUSTIC CAMPING IN BADLANDS NATIONAL PARK!
Watch the videos to see South Dakota in action!
Find more amazing things to do in South Dakota: Watch my South Dakota videos on youtubeIf you see an activity you like, look in the description below the youtube video for the individual blog post about that specific activity!
Plan more of your trip to South Dakota and beyond
- Best places to visit in the Badlands and Black Hills
- Quick things to do in Badlands National Park for views
- Things to do in the Black Hills for views
- Things to do in Custer State Park for views of the Black Hills
- Things to do in Mount Rushmore
- Driving from Badlands National Park to Mount Rushmore
- Driving from Mount Rushmore to Yellowstone
- 7 day drive across Wyoming
- Things to do in Theodore Roosevelt National Park (North Dakota)