Watch the western sky

badlands cloudy looking northwest

Looking northwest we hoped the break in the clouds on the horizon would reveal a last glimpse of light on the landscape

Weather changes west to east.  So on a cloudy, overcast day, keep watching the western horizon to get an impressive view of the badlands.

Look for a break in the clouds right at the horizon.  When the sun gets down to that point, be prepared. The badlands will change colors.

First comes the golden hour, followed by the maroon hour then the blue hour.

Climb even just a little hill

hiking across a hill

Following an elk trail up a 250 foot hill makes the climb easier.

It doesn’t take much to get to a good vantage point to see a view of the badlands with changing colors.  We found an elk trail up hills for about a 250 foot elevation change. The trail edged up the face of the hill to the top.



There, the colors were still bleak, but we watched that break in the clouds on the western horizon.

At first it seemed like the sky would not cooperate to light up the valley.

For just a few moments the clouds on the western horizon broke to light up the Badlands valley landscape.









At first we saw the valley light up in gold.


Then, a few minutes later, the clouds gave us a fiery end of the day.

For less than 4 minutes the clouds broke to paint a fire in the sky.



  1. Watch the western horizon.
  2. Prepare 20 minutes ahead of sunset. 
  3. Get to an easy vantage point.
  4. Set your camera settings.
  5. Wait and watch.

All along the scenic drives in the north or south units of Theodore Roosevelt National Park, there are pull offs to park and low hills that present a view of the Badlands that is unseen from the road below.

I feel rewarded when a hoped-for sunsets and golden hours reveal themselves, if only for a few minutes.

Use a walking staff if you like. I find it helpful to keep my balance because I’m carrying heavy camera gear. Oh, and I’m old, too.

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