A short, self-guided loop highlighting the geological history of the badlands.

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Difficulty

FATMAP difficulty grade

Easy

Description

The Coal Vein Trail offers answers to many of the questions you likely have about the badland's unique, barren, and vast features were formed.

"[The] beautiful layers of rock tell a story of the 60-million-year geological history of the badlands," the [NPS](https://www.nps.gov/thro/planyourvisit/upload/Coal-Vein-508.pdf) notes, and along the way, you can expect to learn about everything from "ancient swamps to recent coal fires" that once defined the desolate landscape.

This loop is self-guided and unpaved.

It's an easy hike that everyone in the family will enjoy. On average, the Coal Vein Trail takes about 30-45 minutes to complete, and it begins at its own trailhead accessed along Scenic Loop Road.

The parking area is small, and there are no facilities, so plan ahead and visit one of the park's visitor centers or the [Cottonwood Campground](https://www.nps.gov/thro/planyourvisit/cottonwood-campground.htm) beforehand, though neither are particularly close. [Click here](https://www.nps.gov/thro/planyourvisit/upload/Coal-Vein-508.pdf) to enjoy this hike with a complete interpretive guide courtesy of the NPS. After you finish this hike, head over to nearby [Buck Hill](https://fatmap.com/routeid/2744105/buck-hill-trail) and hike to the highest point in Theodore Roosevelt National Park! [NPS](https://www.nps.gov/thingstodo/hike-coal-vein-trail.htm)