Badlands are a type of dry terrain where softer sedimentary rocks and clay-rich soils have been extensively eroded by wind and water. They are characterized by steep slopes, minimal vegetation, loose, brittle soils and high drainage density. Canyons, ravines, gullies, hoodoos, pedastals and other such geological forms are common in badlands. Badlands often have a spectacular color display that alternates from dark black/blue coal stria to bright clays to red scoria (volcanic soil). Foot travel can be difficult even when dry and when wet is nearly impossible due to the slickness of the clay-like soils after rains. Climbing or scrambling on badlands is extremely dangerous due to the fragility of the topsoils, as well as destructive to the landforms.

Badlands regions exist throughout the American West. Some of the better-known badlands complexes lie within the following parks: Badlands National Park in South Dakota, Theodore Roosevelt National Park in North Dakota, Makoshika and Medicine Rocks State Parks in Montana, Petrified Forest National Park in Arizona, Capitol Reef National Park and Grand-Staircase Escalante National Monument in Utah and Death Valley National Park in California. There are dozens of other lesser known badlands complexes scattered throughout North America, from southern California, as far east as Nebraska and all the way north through Alberta, Canada.