Nomad View Dispersed Camping: The Top Badlands Boondocking Area

The most iconic boondocking spot we ever stayed at was overlooking Badlands National Park in South Dakota. “The Wall,” is an amazing badlands boondocking area right outside the Pinnacles entrance of Badlands National Park, and is the perfect camping spot for your trip to Badlands National Park.

As full-time RVers, we have traveled in our home on wheels all across the U.S. and have had the opportunity to stay among some unreal scenery.

We are breaking down everything you need to know for a perfect stay at Nomad View Dispersed Camping area, the top Badlands boondocking area!

About The Badlands & Badlands National Park

Hiker in a bright orange sweatshirt overlooking badlands in Badlands National Park

Tucked in southwestern South Dakota the Earth has been carved away by an ancient sea, leaving behind layers of sedimentary rocks characterized today by rugged peaks, deep canyons, towering spires, and eroded buttes shaped today by constant erosion by water, wind, and freeze-thaw cycles.

The alternating layers of sedimentary rock, including clay, sandstone, shale, and siltstone, create the vibrant and striking color variations seen in the Badlands. These colors, ranging from white and gray to various shades of red, pink, and orange, result from different mineral compositions and oxidation processes within the rock layers.

Overall, the fascinating geological history of deposition, uplift, and erosion over millions of years has given rise to the breathtaking and otherworldly landscape of the Badlands in Badlands National Park. It stands as a testament to the power and beauty of natural processes shaping the Earth’s surface.

This is a lesser-visited National Park and one we found to be underrated. The park preserves over 240,000 acres of the largest mixed grass prairie in the U.S. and offers ample opportunity for exploration and adventure!


When Is The Best Time To Visit The Badlands?

Spring and fall are the best time to visit the badlands of South Dakota.

These seasons will bring the mildest temperatures in the badlands boondocking areas surrounding Badlands National Park. They also lend themselves to smaller crowds, making for a more enjoyable stay and park experience.

Summer temperatures can soar, which can be less than ideal for dry camping (with limited or no access to air conditioning) and less fun for hiking and exploring Badlands National Park as well.

Getting Here

View of the badlands from "The Wall" in a pink-orange glow of sunset
View from the edge of “the wall” at Nomad View Dispersed Camping/ Boondocking Area

Getting to Badlands National Park is relatively straightforward, and there are a few options available. If you’re traveling by air, the nearest major airport is Rapid City Regional Airport (RAP) in South Dakota, located about an hour’s drive from the park. From there, you can rent a car, rent an RV, or arrange for transportation to reach the park.

If you will be visiting by RV or while on a road trip, Interstate 90 runs near the northern edge of the park, and you can take exits 110 or 131 to access the park’s entrances. The drive to the park offers scenic views of the South Dakota prairies, before unveiling the beautiful badlands areas.

  • Closest Cities to Badlands National Park:
    • Rapid City, SD (50 minutes)
    • Sioux Falls, SD (4.5 hours)

About Boondocking

Fifth wheel RV and truck sitting in grasslands in front of a bright orange sunset sky at the Nomad View Dispersed Camping badlands boondocking area in South Dakota
Boondocking at the Nomad View badlands boondocking area – one of our favorite free camping spots

Boondocking is RVing and camping “off-grid.” Typically, this means your RV is fully self-contained, suggesting you have a way to keep your batteries charged, a place to use the bathroom, etc. No reliance on outside amenities or resources.

You can boondock in a wide variety of places, ranging from truck stops and Cracker Barrel parking lots, to public lands such as BLM (Bureau of Land Management) areas or National Forest roads.

Boondocking is one of our favorite ways to experience new places as it is free, allows you to stay right in nature with million-dollar views, and often provides more space, privacy, and freedom than paid sites in campgrounds.

READ MORE: RV Boondocking For Beginners

About Wall South Dakota

Somewhere along the way, a small town northwest of Badlands National Park became a tourist attraction of its own.

Just a short drive from the Nomad View badlands boondocking area, this is one of those stops you make just to see what all the hype is about.

Best Things To Do in Wall, SD:

  • Wall Drug Store: The town gained fame primarily because of Wall Drug Store. Originally a small pharmacy, it transformed into a sprawling shopping complex that offers a unique experience for visitors. Wall Drug Store features numerous shops, restaurants, and attractions, including Western-themed stores, a café, an art gallery, and even a dinosaur statue. It’s a place where you can take a break, enjoy a meal, and shop for souvenirs.
  • Badlands National Park: Located just a few miles south of Wall, Badlands National Park is a breathtaking natural wonder. It showcases a rugged and dramatic landscape characterized by eroded buttes, spires, and colorful rock formations. The park offers opportunities for hiking, scenic drives, wildlife viewing, and photography. Explore the park’s trails, learn about its unique geology, and marvel at the incredible vistas and diverse plant and animal life.
  • Outdoor Recreation: Beyond Badlands National Park, the Wall area and Buffalo Gap National Grassland provides additional opportunities for outdoor recreation. Camp, hike, or bike in the surrounding prairies and hills, enjoying the tranquility and natural beauty of the region.
  • Local History and Culture: While Wall is primarily known for its tourist attractions, the town also has a rich history and culture. We highly recommend exploring the nearby Minuteman Missile National Historic Site, which preserves the history of the Cold War-era missile silos and offers guided tours. Additionally, the nearby Wounded Knee Museum and the Prairie Homestead Historic Site provide insights into the local history and Native American culture of the region.

Best Boondocking Areas in South Dakota’s Badlands

The stunning badlands stretch beyond Badlands National Park and can be found throughout the lands of the Buffalo Gap National Grassland that surrounds the park.

Free camping and boondocking in this area of badlands are part of the Buffalo Gap National Grasslands. Typically you will only find paid camping within National Park boundaries, with designated campgrounds serviced by the NPS, and free badlands boondocking areas being reserved for other types of public lands.

This being said, Badlands National Park is unique in that it does have free remote camping within the park for small RVs, in addition to a paid campground option.

More on all of the badlands boondocking area camping below:

Nomad View Dispersed Camping (“The Wall”)

Aerial drone shot of RVs camping on "The Wall" at the nomad view dispersed camping area just outside of Badlands National Park in South Dakota
“The Wall”

This first boondocking spot in our list is the one we chose to stay at and the top spot we recommend.

The infamous “Wall” is a boondocking location that has been popularized by the movie “Nomadland.”

With its stunning views and proximity to the Pinnacles Entrance of Badlands National Park, this is one of our favorite free campsites and one we consider a must-visit for RVers and camping enthusiasts.

You can expect this location to be filled with RVs or tents nearly every night… and it is clear to see why! Mesmerizing sweeping views of the badlands, right outside the entrance of Badlands National Park.

Hike, hang out with the bighorn sheep, soak in brilliant sunsets, and watch the Badlands change colors as the sun crosses the sky throughout the day in this picture-perfect free camping spot.

This location is busy and you can expect a lot of turnover. So…don’t fret if you don’t secure the best site when you first arrive, you just might be able to change spots throughout your stay!

​What we loved about the Nomad View Badlands boondocking area:

  • Unique views on the edge of the badlands with amazing sunsets and clear star-filled nights
  • Close to the Badlands National Park Pinnacles entrance station where you can see bison, pronghorn, prairie dogs, and bighorn sheep
  • Great cell service, Starlink access, and solar!
  • Plenty of room, with spots for many RVs of various sizes
  • As far as free camping, this location has easy access in addition to some of the best views you can get

What To Know Before You Go:

  • This area is windy, with wind gusts over 30 mph not uncommon throughout the plains! Think about your setup based on the wind direction and be careful along the edges of the wall (which is in fact a very sharp and steep drop-off in many places). We enjoyed parking across from the wall’s edge to have more space in the grass and still have great views.
  • Sites are very unlevel. Bring plenty of leveling blocks to help level out your rig
  • This camping area is far from many of the hikes near the main Ben Reifel Visitor Center for Badlands National Park. This being said, the drive through the park along Badlands Loop Road is gorgeous, and we highly recommend making the journey across the park no matter where you choose to stay.

Recommended Driving Directions

  • There are two entrances to this free camping area along “The Wall.” We found the second entrance (closest to the Badlands National Park Entrance Station) to be the easiest to navigate with our larger rig. The first entrance is doable but has a very steep hill to get up to access most spots. You can take the second entrance and drive back to the spots accessed by the first entrance, although it is quite sloped side to side. Both roads have large potholes that require navigating around. Take it slow and you should be okay, but always be sure to check first. Road conditions change often!
  • Road conditions can vary depending on recent weather. Access roads to the camping area may be muddy and slick after heavy rains, as the area can be prone to flooding. Each entrance is a dirt road that leads to a grassy area where you can camp in the grass or along the edge of the wall in the rocks and dirt.
  • Use the radio towers as a marker. The access road that we found most suitable for larger rigs is the second road, which is located after the radio towers. The spot for boondocking is a vast area not far off the main road that leads into the park. We recommend using an RV Safe GPS like RV LIFE (one of our top RV travel apps) for directions, and cross-checking that with Google Maps. Most of the drive will likely be easy interstate miles, but we did find that our RV GPS took us on a roundabout way off the highway that we later found could have been easily shortened. 

Nearby Attractions To Explore

Modern visitor center of the Minute Man Missile National Historic Site in South Dakota
Minute Man Missile National Historic Site is only 20 minutes east of Wall, SD
  • Wall Drug: Honestly, this was not our cup of tea. While it was interesting to see how much of a popular attraction this has become, it is certainly a bit of a tourist trap. One of the places you go to experience and learn more about an area, more than a true draw itself.
  • Badlands National Park: Drive the scenic Badlands Loop Road and enjoy the picturesque overlooks. A few of our favorite trails include Notch Trail and Castle Loop
  • Buffalo Gap National Grassland: You can hike in here, directly from your spot on “The Wall”!
  • Minute Man Missile National Historic Site: We found the exhibits at the visitor center extremely eye-opening and educational. A great stop that has easy access to the East side of Badlands National Park for a complete day trip when exploring over that way from the Nomad View Dispersed Camping Area

If you want to learn more about Badlands National Park while you are exploring, consider a self-guided audio tour. If you want a more guided experience, you can also a private tour of the park.

Double rainbow appearing through storm clouds over RVs parked on "The Wall" badlands boondocking area
The view of RVs overlooking the badlands is a beautiful sight that is a hallmark of the Nomad View Dispersed Camping Area

Other Badlands Boondocking Areas & Camping Options

While the Nomad View Dispersed Camping area is the most popular Badlands boondocking area and the top free camping area we recommend, it is not the only option for camping near Badlands National Park.

There are a few additional boondocking areas just outside the park’s boundaries in the Buffalo Gap National Grassland, as well as two camping options inside the park.

Bison grazing on the side of the road in front of fall trees by the pinnacles ranger station
Just a minute away from the Nomad View boondocking area, the Pinnacles Entrance Station is a popular hangout for bison herds

Additional Boondocking Areas:

Developed Campground Options Operated by The National Park Service

Badlands National Park has 2 campgrounds, 1 is paid and 1 is free:

  • Sage Creek Campground: 22 free rustic first-come, first-served sites. RVs over 18 feet are prohibited. No generators allowed

As an additional note, Badlands National Park is an open hike park, which means you are free to explore and backcountry camp anywhere in the park, as long as you are 0.5 miles from any trail or road and out of sight. Great news for backpackers!

You can read more about backcountry camping in Badlands National Park from the NPS here.

Resources For Boondocking Near Badlands National Park

One of the trickiest things about boondocking is figuring out where to fill fresh water and where to dump your black and gray tanks.

Here is what we found to be the best local water filling and dump stations near the Badlands camping areas:

Local Potable Water Filling Stations 

Boondocking means you are responsible for your own water and proper dumping of your RV’s black and gray water tanks.

When boondocking near Badlands National Park, your best bet is to plan ahead, but there are a couple local options:

  • There is a free water spigot just inside the Pinnacles Entrance Station to Badlands National Park nearest to the Nomad View dispersed camping area where you can fill your water jugs. This spigot is NOT threaded for use with a traditional hose, so don’t try to bring your entire RV into the park to fill, as it will not work. This is a good place to bring individual jugs or a water bladder
  • Sleepy Hollow RV Park in Wall has also been known to allow non-registered guests to fill and dump tanks for a fee (only a few miles from the Nomad View dispersed camping area). We recommend calling first to confirm

Local Dump Stations

No RVer wants to tow long distances carrying all the extra weight of full black and gray tanks after spending time boondocking.

Luckily there are a few convenient local dump stations (even one that is free!):

  • Loves Travel Stops & Country Stores 602 (West of Badlands National Park)

Our favorite resources for local dump stations while boondocking include Sanidumps and RV Dumps

Make it a Complete Dakotas Roadtrip

Badlands Loop Road cutting through vibrant yellow mounds and striped badlands in Badlands National Park
Badlands Loop Road offers a scenic drive through Badlands National Park

South Dakota and North Dakota both have dramatic, out-of-this-world landscapes with plenty of free camping and boondocking options.

During our first year-long RV road trip we made our way through North and South Dakota, and fell in love with the following destinations:

  • Medora, North Dakota: Exploring Theodore Roosevelt Nationa Park
  • Custer, South Dakota: Exploring Custer State Park, The Black Hills National Forest, Wind Cave National Park, Mount Rushmore National Memorial, and Jewel Cave National Monument
  • Wall, South Dakota: Exploring Badlands National Park, Wall Drug, the Buffalo Gap National Grassland, and Minute Man Missile National Historic Site

If you love boondocking and are looking for inspiration for your next getaway, check out our favorite boondocking and free camping spots

Helpful RV Boondocking Tips & Resources

Some helpful tips and equipment based on what we have learned boondocking and dry camping throughout North America in our fifth wheel since 2021:

Equipment List:

Helpful Apps:

View our entire list of apps we have found most helpful for RV travel and camping.

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