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.
A primitive campground without drinking water or electricity. Fires are not allowed. There is is space for RVs and horses. It is a national park so check on pet regulations.
The upside, Buffalo can wander through your camp. Or pose in the prairie next to the camp. Great hikes into the park.
Oh, all the things they say about being careful around buffalo, they mean it. I saw a couple who walked too close to a buffalo. Lucky for them the startled animal went away but they were in serious danger.
We had to cancel our reservations last summer (2018). We did so well in advance of our visit. The owner refused to give a refund, but promised us a credit for the summer of 2019. We would have preferred our money back, but a credit was reasonable. The credit was promised for this summer (2019). Now he says it was promised for last summer. And even though we all agree that we never used their facility and we paid for three nights - he now says too bad. So this is how he plays a shell game and justifies keeping all our money - and we never even visited. What a scam artist.
We stayed on our way from IL to Black Hills SD. Super easy access as well as easy pull through. Level enough to not unhook. Nice play area and pool. Also a neat little micro brewery walking distance, across the road. Very nice staff and an RV dealer next door. Very close to I-90 and it’s noise, but that comes with the easy access.
Electric only sites. Not really sites as much as semi wide spots in road. Most of the loops are backwards so that your awning would hang over road. We pulled in backwards, after clearing it with the young woman at the gate, and let our slide hang out to the road. Very strange. It is wide open camping. There is a permanent wind break/shelter at each site with picnic table. Did I mention it is wide open? The hills around the park are simply amazing. The sunrise and sunsets are inspiring. There is hiking nearby and a beautiful park drive loop that should not be missed. We stayed two nights and the wind blew about 50mph both nights. It was about 103° during the day. Plan to hike in the mornings. The bathrooms are old and in need of renovation, but clean. The dump station is situated by another loop that has the same wide spot in the road sites. A guy in a huge 5th wheel was parked in such a way that we had to back back about 1/4 mile out of the dump station to get out. He was totally in the way and was on top of his coach not caring. Thankfully it was not a busy morning at the dump. There’s all kinds in state and national parks. We were there for the scenery and the hiking so the super sparse conditions were fine.
This is a giant KOA with great check in procedures. They lead you right to the space and guide you in. It is a resort class campground, centrally located to everything you want to see in the Black Hills. The pools are nice, the play area got raves from our 9 yr old. Bounce pad, splash pad, playground, some ball pit game I can’t remember….and a movie every night. He went to bed tired every night. 😃 There are plenty of pull through spaces but they are TINY. We had to adjust our camper over a bit so our awning didn’t touch the neighbors camper, and even then I felt it hung out too close to the road. (With the massive number of first time amateurs in their rental motorhomes I wasnt very comfortable with that) No chance of putting up our pop up shelter either. It is very clean and well patrolled. There is a rodeo on the property as well as a chuck wagon dinner show. There is virtually no cell service here. The campground has a small strip of stores, ice cream, pizza, and the like. There is also a big camp store with plenty of supplies and souvenirs. Also an ok restaurant, just ok. This campground is minutes from Mt Rushmore, and close to Custer State Park, Custer, the Jewel cave, Wind cave, Needles Hwy, and lots more. Not always a big fan of KOA’s, but it is nice to be able to spend the day away touristing and not worry about your camper. The security there is good without being overbearing. Also, sorry for sounding snobby, the price keeps the riff riff out. There are some beautiful campgrounds all around the area, but for doing the tourist stuff this KOA works out great.
Visiting family in Sioux Falls. The campground facilities (bathrooms, showers) were very clean as was their small general store. Mini golf course could use some work. Right on I90 so road noise is an issue. The managers were extremely friendly and accommodating.
My family spent 7 days camping here. The location was great…It is an easy park to get to and it is not crowded. The bathrooms and entire campground are clean. The owners have bikes around the campground that you can borrow. The owners are so sweet and helpful. We look forward to returning here to camp.
This is one of my favorite state parks… ever! We stayed 3 nights ($87) for an electric back in site. The site was a concrete pad with a fire pit, picnic table and a little bit of grass that my dog enjoyed. The bathrooms were clean and the campground was nice to walk around. From there, we went to Wind Cave, Jewel Cave, Hot Springs, Mount Rushmore, Sylvan Lake (must see) and took in a play at the Black Hills Playhouse. There's a gift shop, small restaurant, and firewood across the street.
We stayed overnight in a PT W/E site for $38. The whole park is gravel, with some muddy potholes. They have several horse camping sites too and a few guests were using the stables. It's a short and safe walk into downtown Deadwood, if you'd like to do some drinking and walk home… which is exactly what we did.
We have stayed here many times and never been disappointed. The campground is beautiful and the new owners are very nice and professional. Facilities are clean and the location could not be better for accessing the Black Hills!
As a Ranger on The Dyrt, I sometimes receive compensation for reviews like this one. We received a coupon code for The Dyrt's online product store in exchange for trying out the new online camping reservation system to make a reservation for Plenty Star Ranch.
We reserved a campsite for Plenty Star Ranch through The Dyrt, and it was a breeze to go through the process. We were emailed the reservation information, payment was taken via bank card, and it all made the check-in process very fast upon arrival. We needed to change our camping date and all the contact information was in the email, so we called and owner Isa was more than understanding (it was going to storm, then snow, then get really windy for the night we reserved).
This campground is actually a small, working ranch located right next to a bison ranch, which had just had about four bison calves born in the previous week. They were fun to watch run and play in the field next door. Plenty Star Ranch itself allows you to bring your own horses (for a small fee) and there is plenty of room for them to enjoy. There are cabins, campsites, and RV hook-ups, all conveniently located along the rural Highway 385 north of Pringle, SD.
We planned to pitch a tent for the night, but the weather has been pretty harsh in the Black Hills this spring, and temperatures were going to be well below freezing overnight. We are hearty campers and planned to tough it out, but owner Isa insisted that we take one of their two cabins instead and upgraded our stay for no additional cost. My boys (8 and 12) and I stayed in their 3-person cabin which has a queen bed and a pull-out twin. They provided all the linens (though we used our own pillows by choice) and the cabin was nicely heated with electric heat. We definitely stayed much warmer that night than we would have been in a tent! It was super cozy and quiet in the cabin!
The cabin is located about 50 yards from the public bathroom, which is also heated, well-lit, and attached to their garage. Parking is right next to the cabin, making it a breeze to unpack. There is a picnic table on the porch in front of the cabin, where we could cook and eat, as well as a table inside. In the morning I set up my Primus stove and made coffee, which I sat on the porch and enjoyed while watching whitetail deer and Canada geese stroll past. There is a goose nest right on the island in their pond, and I am sure it is neat to watch the goslings grow all summer!
Tent camping sites are located in one of their former pastures, and we saw plenty of level, gravel RV sites with hook-ups around the main living area. There are two shower stalls next to the cabins that are ready for your solar shower bag to be attached (we thought that would be really fun), and in the off-season they allow guests to use their shower inside the main house. We didn't need to take them up on that since we were only staying one night, but they also invited us up in the morning for coffee and cocoa (usually out on the porch, but it was about 35 degrees that next morning- brr!).
Isa and Jack (the owners) are very friendly, and were a lot of fun to chat with, I would definitely return to Plenty Star Ranch for another getaway evening or weekend in the future. They currently have plans to move their smaller 2-person cabin up into the canyon behind the main house and put it completely off-grid. It would be a perfect getaway for a couple, and what a gorgeous setting back in the hills!
If you are looking for a quieter place to camp in the Black Hills, you should definitely consider Plenty Star Ranch, as it is only about 8 minutes south of Custer, but greatly removes you from the hustle and bustle of the tourist towns. It is just minutes from Wind Cave National Park as well, which is a must-do when you are in the area!
One more thing to note: the only cell service in the immediate area of the ranch is AT&T. We knew that going into the weekend, so planned on not having service (we have Verizon), which for us is no big deal - after all, we were camping! :)
A very cool and unique campsite on the grounds of the Laura Ingalls Homestead near De Smet, SD. Unique in that you can camp right on the open prairie and for only $10 a night. Just pick a spot of grass and you’re good to go. There are some picnic tables you can choose to be near or just head out on the frontier. There are also options to camp in a covered wagon as well as a bunkhouse. RV spots are available and include water and electric hookups. Well appointed and clean bathrooms (electricity and flush toilets) are on site with showers.
The other really cool thing about this spot—especially for families—are all of the fun activities at the homestead itself. There’s a one-room school house with tours, a barn with animals, a covered wagon ride where you (or your kids) can lead the horse-drawn wagon, opportunities to learn how to make a jump rope, twist hay, wash clothes—all things the Ingalls family had to do on a farm from long ago.
A night or two in the summer is great though with no shade for the campsites field, it can get warm but evenings on the prairie are gorgeous. All in all, a great spot to set up that is cheap but with nice facilities and staff.
I have been staying at Days End for about 16 years. The hosts are always welcoming and hospitable. The will go out of their way to make your stay enjoyable. The amenities and the location can't be beat. If you're up there for the motorcycle rally, you will enjoy clean facilities and a good time for everyone. I've introduced the campground to many friends and acquaintances and once they've stayed here, they return year after year. Days End takes it to the next level with their cabin rooms and glamping. You will find sites for tent camping all the way to full hookups and cabins…..
Perfectly located, Clean Bathrooms, Perfect sites, they also have Cute Cabins and Glamping available!
Huge campsites with views of the lake. Some of the biggest camp sites on our trip. Some had more privacy than others. Both RV and tent sites.
Picnic tables, camp fire pits. Drinking water. Close to the Jewel and Wind Caves and Mr. Rushmore. About 50 sites total, with the best being on the lake side.
Vault toilets only where we were, though other parts had flush toilets.
Nice day use area with access to the lake. Boat ramps. Very popular with locals. A bit off the freeway, so no noise at night. Sites can be booked up to six months in advance, or sometimes grabbed at the last minute if lucky.
KOAs are not my norm when it comes to camping, but when on a long road trip you often have to find camping based on your location. We gave this campground a shot, and it reaffirmed why I don’t do KOA style camping. There is nothing really wrong with the park, but it did not suit us. Our campsite was a very un-level gravel pad that was within a few feet of the back of cabins. There was little in terms of privacy. The bathrooms were clean and semi conveniently located. I thought the pool would be a treat for my son after spending a couple long hot days of traveling, but it was so cold we couldn’t enjoy the water. The WiFi (another treat for my son) was weak and unusable from our site. The only pro for us was its close proximity to Mt Rushmore, Wind in the Caves, and The surrounding Black Hills sights.
If you are camping here, you came for the amazing views of the Badlands, and you have them from your campsite. It is a wide open campground with little to no shade except for the built in shade screen on your picnic table. Expect wind. We struggled a little to get our tent up at first due to the high winds that whip through the campground. There is little privacy due to the lack of trees and no fires are allowed. The visitor center is nearby and has all your last minute needs as well as a diner. There is also an amphitheater close where we caught a concert of new music inspired by national parks. Bathrooms were average with pay showers. Whatever the campground is lacking in amenities is overshadowed by the scenery of the Badlands.
This campground was great - it was fairly easy to get to (in an RAV4) and in the park which I liked a lot. They had rangers come and do some demonstrations which was fun. Only downsides were a lot of other campers and that morning heat.
We stopped to camp here for one night as we headed to the Badlands. We stayed in one of the four designated tent sites. You have to park and haul your gear to the site, but it is a short and easy walk. The 4 tent sites are near each other, yet feel secluded and private. Each site had a picnic table with built in sun shade and a fire ring. The park has a lake with a beach area - looked to have quite a bit of algae while we were there in early July. The area is very busy with boaters, and not a lot more than that to do. It was also a little pricey, as they charge extra fees upon arrival regardless of having paid online at time of making reservation. Overall, it was what we needed for a quick one night stop on an extended road trip, and we lucked out with a killer sunset.
No fee in off season, but is limited to 3 tent sites and 2 RV pads near the entrance. Surprisingly quiet considering the proximity to the road. Toilet was clean and unlocked. We decided to try and boondock somewhere near Custer and visit on our way home since we love this area so much. Just happened to spot this in the national Forest. Good thing, because we went for a walk at Sylvan Lake later on and I decided it was so beautiful, that would be the place I'd pop the question, right on those rocks. I carried that ring around for a week straight…
She said "yes." :)
Nice quite campground with bathrooms close to beautiful hiking trails
GRAND PRIZE $100 to Morsel Spork
4 RUNNERS UP WIN $50 to Grub Stick