The best camping in
South Dakota

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Camping South Dakota

The Mount Rushmore State is home to seven National Park Service sites that range from jewel-encrusted caves to ancient fossil beds. Black Hills National Forest in the western side of the state covers an additional 1.2 million acres that spill over the border into Wyoming and hold the highest peak east of the Rockies. At about 71,000 acres, nearby Custer State Park is one of the largest state parks in the country and home to an annual buffalo roundup that offers a true taste of the American West. The Black Hills, often referred to as the “island in the prairie,” is a perfect spot to start your South Dakota camping trip!

Travelers looking to lounge lakeside will be pleased with the many camping options available near the region’s 17 lakes. With stunning rock formations reaching out from the water, Sylvan Lake is one of the area’s most iconic places to take a dip and do some South Dakota camping. Nearby, Horsethief Lake is tucked into the surrounding ponderosa pines, yet only two miles away from the ultimate road trip stop, Mount Rushmore National Memorial. Those looking to pick up some speed can head north to Pactola Lake for a day of water skiing and a night of s’mores.

Prefer solitude? Strap on your backpack and hike the state’s 111-mile Centennial Trail, which provides a north to south taste of the Black Hills through prairie grasslands, dense forests, and high country terrain. Check with the different land management agencies along the way for specifics on where backcountry camping is allowed or where to find established campgrounds. Rather bike? The 109-mile George S. Mickelson Trail runs parallel to the Centennial Trail and is a rails-to-trails, car-free dream.

South Dakota camping is for everyone, and whether you’re exploring by foot or by RV, you’ll be able to find the perfect place to rest your head. Private and public campgrounds near the town of Custer offer RV hookups, and are a quick drive to Crazy Horse Memorial, the world’s largest in-progress mountain carving. Begun in 1948 by sculptor Korczak Ziolkowski at the request of Oglala Lakota Chief, Henry Standing Bear, this memorial is more than a work of art. It is a mission to preserve and honor the culture and tradition of Native Americans.

After camping on the island in the prairie, make sure to head east and watch the landscape roll into waves of grasslands before crashing into Badlands National Park. Head east farther still, and you’ll meet up with the mighty Missouri River. Use The Dyrt to find South Dakota camping options along the way that will open your eyes to the hidden beauties of the heartland.

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Recent Reviews in South Dakota
Great location and free!

Great location, there's a hike right next to the campground and it's a short drive away from prairie dogs and bison. We visited in the summer and it was very crowded. There is no shade in the area and the vault toilets were just ok in terms of cleanliness.

We loved that this place is free and so easy to access! Made for a great pit stop.

Amazing site with natural & historical adventures

Between the kayaking at Sylvan Lake, the resort amenities, hiking in Black Elk Wilderness, Black Elk Peak, this area is great. Needles Eye, Rushmore, nearby.

Stunning!

No electric, but that’s ok! Also, I recommend filling your freshwater tank at the RV station before unhitching. Cedar Pass was everything we hoped it would be and then some. Spectacular star gazing opportunities at night and easy access to the beautiful trails at Badlands. We definitely would come back to this place in a heartbeat.

Badlands

I gave this five stars because it's one of the only campgrounds within the National Park boundaries and it has really amazing views! There isn't much privacy, as it is flat with no trees, but you have a picnic table with a canopy at each site. The campground is a little rugged but has flush toilets and showers (used quarters). It was very close to the NP visitor center and is VERY WINDY! Make sure to secure your tent and belongings down really good or you will see them flying across the desert.

Mount Rushmore

This campground was a relatively small loop with primitive amenities. The host was friendly, but make sure you follow all the rules. His camper is on the right when you enter and that's where you check in. We were able to visit several places while camping here because it is very close to Mount Rushmore, Custer State Park, Jewel Cave National Monument, Wind Cave National Park and the The Black Hills National Forest. The campground offers many trees for shade and for hanging hammocks, a picnic table, firepit with grill, vault toilet (extremely foul odor in the summer), clean water spout, and firewood for sale. We even had access to Grizzly Creek at our site on the left, which was a nice place to cool off in July. We would stay here again, the only negative is that you can hear helicopter tours throughout the day.

Clean, plenty of shade.

We stopped at the Mitchell KOA twice in 2020. It's located very close to the highway (tho no noise). Decent sized pull thru sites with lots of big shade trees. Bathrooms and showers were clean. Did not use the pool. Small camp store. Staff was very friendly. Cheapest KOA we have stayed in.

Above and Beyond

We stayed in this campground in 2019. The first surprise was the owner delivering our ice to us. Each time we needed ice, he was on the golf cart bringing it to us. Unfortunately, while on the Needles Highway, we experienced truck trouble and needed to bring it to a dealer for repairs. They told us at the dealer that we would not be able to get the truck back for a week! We rented a car, but could we extend our stay at the campground? The owner told us that even if he had to move our camper behind the store due to other reservations, we would have a place to stay. We enjoyed that it was on the highway, but back far enough that there was no highway noise. The only issue for us was that we did not have bathroom in our camper, so every time we needed to go, it was either up the hill or down the hill. We usually took the truck (or rental car) to the clean restrooms. We definitely would stay here again.

Cedar Pass Campground, SD

Located within Badlands National Park, this campground couldn’t be more conveniently located to nearby hiking trails and all the Badlands has to offer. There is a visitors center with a small store in walking distance. Our site was essentially along a road, so privacy is limited, but you get your own awning and picnic table. The bathrooms weren’t heated and it was about 5 degrees which made our showers uncomfortable. The showers require quarters, but there is a no change machine. Use the vending machine to make change instead.

Tent camping is allowed all year, but most guests were staying in RV’s.

Perfect Camp for Climbers

Came from out of the area (from Pittsburgh) and found this awesome campground. Not much to do if you’re not a climber, but luckily that’s all we came to South Dakota to do. Walking distance to nearby climbing and nice views from the huge boulder in the vicinity.

Best Hidden Campground in Spearfish

After a 4 mile drive down a dirt road, we came upon this campsite and were delighted. We stayed for three nights to do some climbing in the area and this was a great spot to come back to each night. The one drawback was a lack of shade in some campsites.