About South Dakota Camping
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.