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.
There's no getting around that this is a well-maintained park. We stayed here in 2018 for a over a month. October 2019 stay was for three weeks. Everything was fine until a rouge storm was predicted to come in the last week we were to be there. We decided that it might be best for us to head back home. So, I went to the owner and told her what our intentions were and wondered if we might be able to get a few nights credit(not a whole week) with them for 2020 as we were going to come back again. She said she would have to discuss it with her husband and let me know. Two days later still no answer. My wife saw them together while she was walking the dog and again asked if we could get some days off for the 2020 stay, we were planning with our grown kids. They were very rude about it and said they would not do that. We were not asking for any money back. But since we had been with them the year before for over a month, we hoped they would like to get a little more money out of us the following year. I guess they feel that they are the best place in Custer, and they don't have to be worry about any lost revenue. The day we left it snowed up to 6 inches that night and stayed in the teens for the next 3 days. Our propane tank in the motorhome would have run out the first night. So, if you have a problem while you're there don't look for any understanding from these people. Most of the bad reviews I saw after this encounter was how rude the owners were. There are other nice RV parks in Custer. We will give them our money.
We called around to campgrounds in the area same-day. Good thing we called in advance, because their pet policy forbids any "pit bull" breeds. Our dog is a senior mixed breed that we rescued from an LA shelter. During our cross-country roadtrip from Southern California to Massachusetts, this was the only campground that discriminated against a dog by their breed, rather than by their actual witnessed behavior. We've never had an incident at any campground during the dozen of times we've camped with our dog; in fact he usually becomes friends with other neighboring camp dogs and interacts with them very well off-leash (where allowed). I understand that campgrounds are trying to ensure the safety of all guests, but dog aggression is better detected by observed behavior, not breed. (For example, I was bitten by a black lab while biking in northern Minnesota). This policy is not KOA-wide, but rather on a site-by-site basis. If you are traveling with large dogs, there were a few other breeds on their restriction list, so make sure to check before you make a reservation.
We were looking for a campground in the area for a same day reservation on a Friday. We called in the early evening and they still had some spots left, very friendly staff. The forecast predicted some rain, so we wanted to find a campground that had some roofed structures at each site. The roofed shelters at each site don't cover the tent area, but we were able to connect our tarp to the side of the shelter and spread it over our tent for some extra protection from the wet. It worked really well. The campground has shower onsite for no extra charge, they were very clean and functional. The drinking water tasted strongly of chlorine to us, which was unfortunate. Another downside is that the sites are quite close together and not very scenic, so the experience feels more like a place for vacationing families.
A little way from town. Roads were pretty good to get there. Rustic site but settled on a nice lake. Stay limit is 14 days. We were there overnight and were completely alone. Very quiet. Could tell that it was a good spot for bird hunters. We stayed there on a Monday and noticed that it had been busy over the weekend. Would stay again.
I spent the night here and had to pay the entrance fee to the park as well as the camping fee for my tentsite. They had only a few tentsites available amid all the RV sites, but they were right on the edge of the playground, so the families had to walk right through my campsite to get to the play area. Not too big a deal as no one wanted to use the play area at night while I was sleeping, but still. I also looked over at the power lines. There was a flush toilet facility close by but there was a very bright light on all night. Good for families needing to navigate in the dark but not wonderful if you like sleeping in darkness. And though I was told that quiet hours began at 10PM, the site next to me was quite loud through the trees until at least midnight so the quiet hours are not enforced. Meh. I don't think I'll be going back.
You have to travel down 12 miles of gravel road in the Badlands to reach this campground but it is so worth it! The campsites are all on the outward edge of a big circular road, pretty close together, but still very quiet and respectful. There is NO COST and there are 2 vault toilet facilities provided. The adorable prairie dogs are everywhere but go to sleep with the sun. During the evening, a wild bison came to the campground edge to graze. The campground filled up by dark, so be sure to get there early for a place to camp. Picnic tables are also provided, some with sun shades.
$750 monthly rate. Sewer hook up, water, and electric are the only amenities on site, unless you’re close enough to the WiFi. The water spigots stick up 2’ above the ground and you’re told if you don’t want it to freeze you’ll need to heat trace and insulate it at your own expense. I showed up mid October and the bathhouse is closed for the season. The campground is conveniently located between a highway and a railway, both are highly active.
This is a great campground on the west band of the Missouri River. Very nice and well kept facilities but beware there are lots of cottonwoods and at times during our stay it looked like it was snowing.
Access to this area is off highway 44 but be prepared for several miles of minimally maintained dirt road (with some big hills) to get there. I'd stay here again but I'd also research when the cottonwoods are not shedding their seeds.
I'll definitely be staying at this campground on my next visit to the Black Hills. Very nice for tent camping or boondocking with a small trailer. If you are looking for full RV hookups, they do have them but the RV sites are a bit tighter than I might prefer.
Free dispersed camping is nice. Fire is not allowed. I had issues with the tent pad being about a foot too short for my tent (3 person tent) but that's more a personal issue. It was a pretty busy spot while the sun is out. We definitely had an intense hail/thunderstorm so ended up sleeping half the night in the car. Where nice places for morning hikes.
Stayed here one night on my way to Mt. Rushmore. The actual campground is open late Oct-April I think. But there are 5-6 sites outside the access gate to use when it’s not open. Has a pit toilet that was clean. Easy place to stop for the night.
Friendly staff at check in. We were tent camping and were given a weird site at the back of the tent area when nobody was there. Sorta weird but we rolled with it. They have a camp store, pool, laundry, showers and clean restrooms. The pool was nice but got crowed because it was smaller.
The best draw to this campground is that it’s a 2 block walk to the famous wall drug store. So there is tons to do. The badlands national park is a must see and very close as well. I would recommend this campground again for its location and friendly staff.
Camp host greeted us upon arrival and helped put water on. We stayed 2 nights, in town for a wedding. Most of the sites were flooded with only 3 available, we were the only TT along with the camp host. Showers were clean and ADA. The beach was mere feet out the rear of the trailer. Watertown is close with plenty to do if one needs to wander.
This campground is right next to the road and is only 3 miles from Crazy Horse and a few miles from the town of Custer. It makes it easy to hop on and off the highway (which also makes it a bit loud). It is a perfect spot to be able to get to Crazy Horse for Sunrise or if Sylvan State Park is full and you are trying to find a site nearby (our situation).
Sites include, picnic table, fire pit. Showers are hot and free to campers. However you should wear shower shoes in them.
There is also a heated pool and a laundry room.
Tent Sites: 5 People per site,$25 per night
RV Sites:$50 per site
There are also cabins and a deck house that fits more people.
We were in and out late night and early morning so we didn't get to see it in the daylight but it fit the bill for an overnight stop.
Nice grassy spots next to the highway.
Not a lot of privacy.
$20 a night.
Pit toilet bathrooms, fire rings and picnics tables.
Campground review: This lake is amazing! It makes the busyness of the road and the cost of the state park. We were staying there for a day and had to pay for a 7 day pass which was$20 just to enter the park. The campground is across the road from the lake and it is the perfect distance to there in about 2-3 mins.
The sites are well covered but the campground is right next to the road so it is a bit loud on busy weekends. The general store at the lake was basically empty when we were there because it was a busy weekend but typically it is stocked with food and basic essentials.
Gear review: As a ranger we often get to review fun gear! This trip I was able to bring along the Steel Camping Mug from Banner and Oak.
This mug is perfect for a casual campground mug. It radiates the temperature of the drink so be careful with hot beverages. The design on it is perfect for starting the day with the intention of trying something new! It holds about 8 oz of liquid.
The one thing I would be aware of is the lip on the mug. It is a bit of a dip on the underside so if you don’t drink out of it just right, it will spill down your chin.
Campground Review: This location is great if you are looking to be close to Hot Springs, Wind Cave, and Custer State park. It is located just north of town and just South of Wind Cave’s entrance. The campground itself is very exposed and the spots are lacking of shade. You are in a canyon like area so if you get one of the side spots, you will have shade starting in the early afternoon.
The sites are spaced far enough apart where you feel a tiny bit of seclusion and there is plenty of space to put multiple tents on flat ground. It is in a red wall canyon so be careful of being too loud because sound travels. The lake has a large and beautiful swim beach and is perfect for a day on the water.
There are bathrooms down by the swim beach, a boat launch, and picnic tables. It is a great lake for fishing. We were snagging them left and right. And contrary to the name, it was perfect temps to take a dip in. There are two campsites right on the lake but you need to snag them in advance. They apparently book up fast.
The sites are only $10 a night and there is no camp host. However, the bathrooms do get regularly cleaned and the sites are well maintained. The campground is in really good shape. Nice grass and clean fire rings and picnic tables. There is also a large shaded picnic table area where you can have gatherings.
As a Dyrt Ranger, sometimes we get the honor of being able to review gear! This campground I decided to break out my Eclipse Solstice Sun protection shirt.
It helped me feel protected by the sun but yet, was a light enough material to be able to move freely while paddleboarding. I like the finger design to cover the back of your hand too. Most shirts only have the thumb hole but this one has elastic around the middle of the hand to put around the middle finger to keep the back of your hands protected too. The downside to this design is the outline. It kind of just drapes over you like a poncho, so there is no real fashion design around it. The pinched sides let air flow in and out easily but also make it a bit complicated to get into. I got caught a lot in the middle gap while just trying to throw it on.
We happened upon this while up for a wedding in Pierre. It is a free campground! There are RV and tent sites, a dump station, water fill up, bathrooms, and even a park. The tent sites are right on the river and there is even a beach that you can hang out at. You are right on the Lewis and Clark Trail for riding.
The tent sites are pretty secluded for it being a city park. It was a little noisy at night but it was perfect for waking up in the morning and watching the clouds flow over the river with a cup of coffee in hand.
I chose this campground when I was looking up a quieter campground near Custer State Park. And it turned out to be the perfect spot for what we needed. It was centrally located in the Black Hills. About 10 mins down the road from the town of Custer. We camped in site 4 which was a lovely site literally just up the hill from the lake. It was a 2 min walk to the bathroom in either direction. The site was a bit rocky and hard to find a good place to put a tent but would be perfect for an RV. We were able to place a couple tents and hammocks to sleep in but if we had a larger tent we wouldn’t have found a spot in our site for a tent. The lake was perfect.
There is a boat ramp to be able to put in kayaks, paddle-boards, or any other non motorized vessels. The lake is the perfect size to paddle away and feel like you have escaped society for a few minutes. The campground was secluded enough to where you didn’t see and hear all the other campers. The bathrooms were well taken care of and the camp hosts were lovely and very accommodating.
The site was$26 a night with a$2 per pet per night fee. You can buy firewood from the camp hosts for $5 a bundle.
As a Dyrt Ranger, we sometimes get the chance to review gear. This trip we were able to test out Eclipse Sun Sleeves. We do a lot of fishing and we are constantly worried about keeping our arms protected without getting sunscreen into the water supply or being over heated. These sleeves worked out perfectly for both of those reasons!
They stayed upright and didn’t roll down while moving around. The material was lightweight and quickdry. The fingers are halfway covered so it made it easy to maneuver with rods in hand. UPF 50+, reliably blocks 98%+ of UVA and UVB rays, chemical-free, and hypoallergenic. We were both able to wear the same size sleeves and they didn’t stretch out the whole weekend.
I stayed at Broken Arrow for 10 days in my A frame camper(no horses), and all I can say is“wow”. The bathrooms are clean and beautiful and the sites are very well maintained and level. They even have lights on the site signs to help when you get there late. There is coffee for you in the office, and also a small store. But the very best thing about Broken Arrow is the owners. Dan happily greeted me when I walked in with a“Julie’s here!”. By the end of my 10 days, it felt like I was leaving family. I’ve already made my reservation for next year. If you are lucky enough to find open availability, take it. You won’t regret it.
We stayed here 2 nights in September and rode motorcycle through the Badlands/Custer State Park during the day. Few trees, but the newly planted ones will soon offer more shade. Very roomy sites so you’re not right on top of each other. Camped along the river- fishing/swimming access right from the campsite. Hands down best shower/bathroom facilities I’ve ever seen in a state park. We have a small enclosed trailer, so was nice to have electric. Always haul our water- good as none on site. Dump station and water in park, but not at sites.
The park is conveniently located between Custer and the Custer State Park. Good sized lots and 50 amp full hook ups.
Several remote electric only sites, and many tent sites.
The park has not only multiple pull throughs, but most sites handle a 45 foot coach with ample room for the toad.
Just far enough off the hiway to be quiet during even bike week, and super clean.
Very convenient to the state park and Custer and forestry roads for hiking or 4 wheeling.