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The Painted Canyon Nature Trail is a spectacular introduction to the dramatic landscape the badlands are notorious for.
Named after the vivid layers of colorful rock seen throughout this trail, this 1-mile loop is one of the park's most coveted hikes, thanks to its proximity to the interstate.
If you want a "moderate challenge with massive rewards," the park suggests starting here.
In addition to the "painted" canyon walls, the juniper thickets and rolling grasslands contrast the sandy washes and eroded, delicate badlands that stretch as far as you can see.
Just remember, though, this hike begins at the top of the canyon and leads down into it - so every step downhill means another step uphill later on. Unique to the rest of the park, this hike begins and ends off of exit 32 on I-94, making it an excellent roadside stop even if you are just passing through.
It's open year-round and could take anywhere from 30 minutes to 2 hours, depending on how often you stop to soak in the incredible views.
The trailhead and visitor center also double as a highway rest area, and facilities are typically available year-round. [NPS](https://www.nps.gov/thingstodo/hike-the-painted-canyon-nature-trail.htm)