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Castle Trail / Medicine Root Loop

An excellent hiking loop with stunning sandstone formations, contrasted by vast open prairies.

Hiking Moderate

6.4 km
30 m
30 m
1-2 hrs
Low Point
788 m
High Point
806 m
Castle Trail / Medicine Root Loop Map

The Castle Trail is the showpiece hiking trail in Badlands National Park. It's the longest maintained trail and makes for an excellent shuttle or loop when paired with the Medicine Root Trail - seen here. Along the way you'll pass through vast open prairies, mud hills, and "through intricately carved buttes, sod tables, washes and gullies with useful perspective on the powerful erosive forces that shape the Badlands." Source


The main way to access this loop is from a small trailhead on Old NE Road, though some maps simply list it as "National Park Road." Another good option is to take Saddle Pass Trail and access the loop from the west. Neither of these trailheads are large, so larger RV's and trailers are not recommended. If you are in a larger vehicle, consider parking at the Window and Door Trailhead nearer to the NE Entrance. There, you should hike the Castle Trail west to access the loop.

The loop can be hiked in either direction, though Medicine Root Trail is slightly less scenic than the formations you'll find on the Castle Trail. "You may however enjoy the variation, perspective and open space," contrasted by the unique sandstone formations on the Castle Trail. Source.

Worth noting, the entire trail is exposed, with very few options for shade or shelter. Be extremely mindful of the weather forecast and be sure to pack plenty of water for the trip. Long sleeves and/or sunblock are also highly recommended.



Hiking along trails with some uneven terrain and small hills. Small rocks and roots may be present.

High Exposure

3 out of 4

Some trail sections have exposed ledges or steep ascents/descents where falling could cause serious injury.


2 out of 4

Away from help but easily accessed.

Best time to visit

all year round


  • Wildlife
  • Historical
  • Picturesque
  • Wild flowers

Similar routes nearby

Guidebooks in this area