Lodging In The Parks: Frontier Cabins At Badlands National Park
Sometimes you can't always find a room inside a national park, either because there are none (see Arches or Canyonlands national parks), or because there simply aren't enough rooms to go around, which often is the case.
When you encounter that, you need to cast your net a little farther to find a place to stay. At Badlands National Park, that place is just 8 miles beyond the park's Pinnacles Entrance.
Now, in the case of Frontier Cabins Motel, appearances are definitely deceiving. Located just -- and I mean just -- off Exit 110 of Interstate 90, the rather nondescript cabins are laid out in a U shape.
But the beauty lies inside these cabins.
North of the interstate you can find many of the usual chain-brand motels with their pedestrian, ho-hum room layout. At Frontier Cabins, the rooms are charmingly rustic. The white pine that went into the walls, ceilings, and the furniture casts a woodsy scent, and the outdoor motiff -- think antlers, nature and wildlife prints, towels with canoes embroidered on them -- makes you feel as if you are staying in a cabin in a forest high in the mountains.
The smoke-free cabins are well-laid out: you can opt for a room with two queen-sized beds, a room with either a queen or a king along with a queen-size sofa bed pull-out, or a kitchenette with two queen beds, a queen sofa bed pull-out, and a kitchen ready for food. Rooms also come with flat-screen TVs if you're not ready to call it a night, air-conditioning to fight off those hot South Dakota summers, ceiling fans to help move the air, small refrigerator, microwave, coffeemaker, even Wi-Fi.
The mattresses are firm and comfortable, the bedding better than you'll find in those chains. As for the upkeep, our group of six adults figured the cabins were no more than two years old, they were in such good shape. In truth, this is their fifth season.
The ADA cabin, though, needs some work. It can be hard to get up into the bed, and the tub/shower combo is not walk-in.
Out front the cabins have a small, but adequate patio with two Adirondack-style chairs. Some have a nice view off across pasturelands, other views are not quite as nice and aim off towards the interstate.
For kids looking for an adventure of sorts, there are a handful of full-sized tepees you can rent for the night. These have two cots, a lantern hanging down, and a small wood-burning raised fire pit. Obviously, small kids should not be left alone in these tepees.
In the common area between the two rows of cabins you'll find a small gathering place beneath a gazebo, complete with a high-end Jenn-Air BBQ grill, complete with wet sink, for your use. There's also a small sitting area, and a hot tub and a sauna, though I can't imagine using them from May-September. And a small shower room was being added when we visited.
While the proximity to the interstate was a concern, the cabins are well sound-proofed and we never heard any traffic.
We rented three of the cabins shortly before the Fourth of July for a night, and the one complaint I got from my brother-in-law was why we were staying just one night.