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
Top-Notch camping

Close to freeway and at intersection heading to Deadwood. All the things you could ask for in a campground: beautiful pool, great store, camping cabins, great bathhouses. Restaurants and nightlife, gambling can be had after a scenic, short drive. Can be a bit pricey, but why not splurge? You’re on vacation, after all……😉

My favorite place in the world

I love the black hills and this is Our go-to campground. It is well shaded and quiet and is well located within the park.

Nice campsite for the night

Big open area plenty of space right by the Missouri River. Can camp up to 7 nights. Road in can be a bit of a problem when it’s been raining. Facilities are just a pit toilet. But very peaceful with great sunsets.

Close to amenities

Nice secluded campground yet 10 min from Sioux Falls

KOA near Mount Rushmore, SD

This KOA campground was fantastic!  It was near the Mount Rushmore National Park in SD & it was easy to travel to the national park.  We stayed in a basic cabin & ate breakfast here before heading to Mount Rushmore NP (which I did not find all that exciting).

Because of the great experience here, we decided to stay at other KOA campgrounds on our way home (AZ to CT).

Photos forthcoming!

I thought I grew up in a small town...

The town is so small, the gas pumps still remind me of a rotary phone. Not much to write home about for this one-nighter. (Notice there's no pics) Felt a bit awkward pitching a tent here, although there were others doing the same and even car camping, and there were signs allowing it. I wouldn't recommend settling in at this one, let alone starting a fire. It's nice, though. Access to a bathroom with running water was nice, but I wouldn't drink from the sink, and the door wouldn't latch. Theres a small rope bridge over a portion of pond, and a covered area with tables, although I assume the latter is more for large get-togethers. Theres a small shop down the road that opens at a decent time and has coffee, as well as the afore-mentioned gas station. (gas was about the only thing they sold) Not too far off the beaten path, and Sioux Falls is a very short jaunt down the road.

Wide open spaces with plenty of room

We came in late, and although its seems like there are only about 10 designated sites with tables and the like, there's a bit off allowance for overflow and no one seemed to mind.  Got to the Badlands just in time to see it in the fading light while our eardrums got used to the silence. After that we had to force our way though a herd of bufallo, but they weren't hostile or scared. It's a long trek to get back there, just don't get in a hurry.

There is one vault toilet and some trash cans scattered about.

Typical

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.

Dog breed discrimination

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.

Easy Park

This park had a beautiful layout we arrived late Host showed us to our spot Far enough off freeway no highway noise! Was beautiful surprise to see a farm surrounding us in the morning