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Scenic, South Dakota: Badlands Frontier Town

Updated on October 31, 2011

An Old West Town On The Edge Of The Badlands

Scenic, South Dakota is the real deal - an old west town on the western edge of Badlands National Park. In the early 1900s, Scenic was a siding - a railroad stop on the way to Rapid City and the Black Hills. Adjacent to the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation, the town grew up as a watering hole and meeting place for cowboys and Indians alike.

In its heyday, Scenic was a thriving frontier town with a church, bank, post office, grocery stores, hotel and even a high school. The town began to decline in the 1930s with the end of the Black Hills gold rush and the beginning of the Great Depression. There was not enough jobs to go around and families began leaving, first in a trickle, then in droves. The closing of the railroad line to Rapid City set Scenic on the road to becoming a ghost town.

Today, only eight residents remain in Scenic. There are a couple businesses on the main street through town - a curio store called the Tatanka Trading Post, a museum, the Longhorn Fuel and Convenience Store and the Longhorn Saloon. As of this writing, only the Tatanka Trading Post remains open.

Update! The Town of Scenic is sold! Congratulations to the new owners!


The town of Scenic is for sale! Most of it anyway. The current owner is asking $799,000 for the 46 acre parcel which includes a U.S. post office land lease, 2 homes, 2 jails, The Longhorn Saloon, the museum, the Longhorn Fuel and Convenience Store and two homes.

The parcel is currently owned by Twila Merril, whose ill health has forced the sale. The original asking price was $3 million. After two years on the market, the price has been lowered in hopes of attracting a buyer.

A township board is in charge of the unincorporated town. Fire, water and sewer services will not be affected by the sale of the above parcel as they are owned and run by the township.

Scenic Church
Scenic Church

Wide Open Prairie, and Wild Horses Too!

Scenic is right on Highway 44 from Rapid City to Cedar Pass and Badlands National Park. It is estimated that as many as 700 cars pass through the town each day, although few stop anymore.

The church in the photo no longer exists, having been torn down in 2006, but it used to sit right on the open prairie as you enter the town of Scenic from Highway 44. There is also a herd of wild horses that you may occasionally catch a glimpse of, if you're lucky!

While this scene might look lovely and inviting, please remember that rattlesnakes love to hide in tall prairie grass, so please don't go walking through here unless you know how to handle rattlesnake bite.

I'll never forget my first trip to Scenic and the story I heard in the curio shop about rattlesnakes. So be careful and stick to the road!

Learn More About Old West Ghost Towns

Songs of the Old West

Get that Old West feeling while traveling to Scenic by listening to these great cowboy songs.

Scenic Jail
Scenic Jail

The Jail

This is the Scenic Jail house! It is no longer in use needless to say, but you can peek through the windows. There is nothing "tourist-trappy" about the old west artifacts in Scenic, it's the real deal, and looks much the same as it did when the town was founded.

A walk through the curio shop yields decades of western ephemera, from Natives and settlers alike, as well as artifacts of living on the Great Plains (such as rattlesnake rattles!) You can spend hours in the shop searching through boxes and under tables for treasures. The proprietress is very friendly, so don't be shy and she may share with you some stories about living in a ghost town on the edge of the Badlands.

If you're planning to visit Badlands National Park, it's worth it to make a stop in Scenic, which is just a short drive from the Park's entrance. If you're traveling to Rapid City or the Black Hills, Scenic is a quick stop off of Interstate-90 and well worth the visit.

You won't find a chuckwagon supper in Scenic (although you'll see plenty of those if you're heading to Rapid City or the Black Hills!). If you're staying in or near Scenic and want to whip up some cowboy grub, give this easy recipe a try.


  • 1 container prepared pulled pork (or shredded BBQ pork)
  • 1 can pinto beans
  • 1 can corn
  • 1 can Mexican-style tomatoes (with chilis)
  • 1 (6 ounce) can tomato paste
  • 1 can beef stock
  • 2 t. cumin
  • 1 t. chili powder
  • 2 t. garlic powder
  • 2 T. apple cider vinegar
  • 1/2 t. coriander powder
  • 1.5 c. shredded Monterey Jack cheese (optional)
  • 1 c. green onions
  • sliced (optional)


  1. Add tomato paste and beef stock to a stockpot and cook over medium heat until warm. Add corn, pinto beans, tomatoes and seasonings. Stir over medium heat until warmed through. Add the prepared pork and simmer for 15 minutes. During the last 5 minutes, add shredded cheese if desired. Remove from heat and serve topped with sliced green onions.
Cast your vote for Cowboy Grub

How to find Scenic, South Dakota

A markerScenic, South Dakota -
Scenic, South Dakota
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What do you think?

Did you like this lens? If so, please give it a thumbs up at the top of the page. Other thoughts or comments? Please share them in the box below!


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    • profile image

      debsadreamer 3 years ago

      My Husband and I found it,by way of getting lost!

      We have some great shot's of the stores and the Jail inside and out!

      I was so interested in it all!

      I would love to know some true story's of thge town and the Jail!

    • Yawapi LM profile image

      Yawapi LM 5 years ago

      It's in a great location, the back door to Badlands National Park - from what I hear it was purchased by a man from California. Let's hope he keeps the old west vibe going!

    • Lady Lorelei profile image

      Lorelei Cohen 5 years ago from Canada

      Oh how wonderful it would be to own an entire town in South Dakota. A badlands frontier town looks like it could be quite the scenic tourist destination.

    • profile image

      RetiredRebel 6 years ago

      Good lens! I am going to share this with others.

    • Yawapi LM profile image

      Yawapi LM 6 years ago

      Thanks! Do you mean the picture of the lizards? That's from my blog, it's a post about Reptile Gardens, which is another great place to visit in the Black Hills. No, there aren't any giant lizards running around Scenic, but in all honesty, there could be rattlesnakes so if you visit (and I hope you do!) just don't go wandering off in the tall grass of the prairie.

    • yayas profile image

      yayas 6 years ago

      Very interesting page about Scenic, South Dakota. I was wondering 'bout the pictures of the critters near the end; what are they an' where are they in South Dakota? Are they also in Scenic? They do not look fun.

    • profile image

      KarenCookieJar 6 years ago

      It looks like the wild west, cool place

    • Yawapi LM profile image

      Yawapi LM 6 years ago

      glad you liked it! I think the town has so much potential, it's in a great location. I hope someone has the funds to buy it and restore it.

    • profile image

      trippste 6 years ago

      Greet lens, this town looks beautiful!