Here are recommendations, with one absolute essential.

Recommendation #1 Jeans

walking across rocky soil good in hiking boots with tread.

A jacket that can be removed and tied around the waist is a good idea. Jeans and sturdy hiking boots with good tread for rocky areas.

Clothes are recommended, especially the kind that protects your body.  We recommend against hiking in shorts any time of the year in the Badlands – too many thorns and cacti, biting bugs and rocky surfaces.  Blue jeans are good.  In the winter, you will want an extra layer underneath because the wind will force its way through the jeans.

Recommendation #2a Layers

You’ll want a couple of layers on your torso: t-shirt, long sleeve shirt, sweatshirt and or jacket.  Layers keep you warm and also can be removed when it gets too warm

This time of year, layer up, but be prepared to “unlayer.”  You’re moving and working up a sweat. Sun-facing rocks and hills absorb and reflect heat, so temperatures can warm up enough you’ll want to take off your sweatshirt and tie it around your waist.

Recommendation #2b Safety or blaze orange vest

Standing on a foothold on China Wall in good boots.

The nearly vertical rock face of China Wall affords few footholds, but good boots make the difference.

In the fall, it is a good idea to not be mistaken for a mountain lion, elk, or deer.  Nor do you want to get between a hunter and the hunted without being seen.

Wearing a reflective orange safety vest is a good idea hiking the badlands in the fall.

Even up on the China Wall on the Maah Daah Hey trail, low-cost reflective safety vest helps keep hunters alert to your location.

You don’t need to get decked out in hunter blaze orange gear (though that’s not a bad idea) when low-cost retro-reflective safety vests will help you stand out.


Recommendation #3 Hat

woman hikes up rock wall of a hill in the Badlands of North Dakota.

Much of a Badlands backcountry hike means going up the face of steep rocks. Good boots are essential. A cap, jacket, and blue jeans are important.

Wear a hat to protect your head from the sun.  Even a baseball cap is better than nothing.

!!Essential Boots!!

8 inch tall Red Wing Irish Setter hiking boots

Hiking boots are an essential item.

Impractical shoes for hiking the badlands were in a mess of litter.

In a mess of litter including bottles and shotgun shells, someone cast off these useless shoes. They are exactly the kind of shoe that will not work hiking the badlands.

One item that is an essential is a good pair of boots.  Don’t try hiking in tennis shoes for several reasons.  1. You need soles that grip the ground to give you good traction.  You’ll be going up and down hills, and even small hills require traction from good hiking boots.  2. We recommend you protect your ankles to provide more strength when side-stepping up or down a hill. 3. Boots protect your feet from thorns and cacti.

8 inch tall red wing Irish Setter boots.

Red Wing Irish Setter 8-inch tall hiking boots hold on to the hillside.

We have a couple different kinds of hiking boots to wear, depending on the season.  In cool-season hiking, these Red Wing Irish Setters are very lightweight, warm, waterproof, and they have an amazing tread that holds you in place so you can get up the sides of hills without slipping.  They seemed a bit clunky and oversized at first, but once out on the trail, they earned a place in the list of essentials.  While this may be an endorsement, it’s not a paid endorsement, just our recommendation.  Any sturdy over-the-ankle lace-up waterproof boot with good tread will do the trick.