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.
Great location if you are visiting the Badlands. The sites were all nice with lots of trees around. The pull through sites in the back of the park were huge. Modern and clean bathrooms and showers. The pool was over chlorinated but was clean and well kept. Friendly staff that you can tell really care about making this a nice campground.
One of the largest KOAs in the US. It’s basically a small town with two pools, a village of shops and restaurants, tons of activities, and a large horse stable with trail rides. We had a nice back in site on the edge of a hill with plenty of privacy. However most the full hookup sites were really tight and had no shade.
Very close to Mount Rushmore and within about 30 minutes of most of the Black Hills attractions. If you want the resort RV esprit will be tough to find somewhere better.
The pool and activities at this campground make it great for kids. At the time of our visit I-90 was being rebuilt nearby so access from the interstate was more difficult, but this isn’t the fault of the campground. Some sites seem a little right but we had one in the end which was very close to the bathroom and pool.
We stayed here one night because we couldn’t get reservations for three nights at Sylvan Lake Campground. It had very nice and clean private bathrooms with showers and WiFi included. Our little popup was dwarfed by many of the larger RVs and there was very little space between sites. Nice location and close to lots of tourist attractions. Will be even nicer when the construction is finished and the pool is complete.
This campground had beautiful sites with enough space between them to feel like you have a little privacy. We even saw some friendly marmots climbing up the rocks the first day. Close proximity to Sylvan Lake which includes swimming, fishing, kayaking, canoeing, and stunning rock formations. Also close to the Needles Highway. We took day trips to Mount Rushmore and Bear Country, where my kids got it feed baby bear cubs. You will be off the grid with no cell service up there so plan accordingly. Bathrooms were nice enough and showers were included but lacked hot water. Overall, a great camping experience!
Prairie Woods Farm Vineyard campground
The Dyrt is an amazing community to be a part of! If you become a Dyrt Ranger you get incredible opportunities to review camping gear and one of the latest things that they offered was for Dyrt rangers to be reimbursed for a camping trip at a pre-selected private campsite listed on Hipcamp.com or Glampinghub.com. A lot of Hip Camp listings that I’ve come across before appear to be of the“alternative” variety where you are on someone’s unmowed field. I despise doing tick checks, so I was extremely pleased when I came across this vineyard site when I perused The Dyrt’s curated list of available “bounties” to claim.
This property is located in Lonsdale, which worked out perfectly since they had availability for the day that I needed to pick up my husband from a conference nearby in Northfield. We lucked out that some friends had availability and were able to join us for our stay. The drive here from the Twin Cities is absolutely gorgeous- rolling fields, perfect trees, and happy cattle are a telltale sign that you have arrived. If you go east into Northfield you have a ridiculously charming AND thriving historic downtown with food, coffee, and nearby breweries (we went to Tanzenwald and Chapel brewing down the road- both were good but I think the consensus was that we liked Chapel better). We stocked up on snacks at a Northfield co-op and beer at a liquor store a few blocks away. We did not explore too much of Lonsdale so there might be some good stores, but we didn’t want to risk getting out there and not having any options.
The property is approximately 20 minutes west of all of Northfield, and the scenic drive goes quickly. A telltale sign that you have made it is a roadside vineyard. You park by the house in a designated parking area that has a small wagon to haul your stuff and also a mailbox with informational pamphlets about the property, the surrounding areas, and also includes personal information about their family. The grapes grown here go to the Chankaska winery, which is not only one of the best wineries in the state but their son manages it. Super cool! There are a few different mowed routes that you can take to get to the campsite, the majority of them were well-mowed and my tickphobia made me avoid one grassy trail option that looked like a pain to mow with how wet it has been.
The campsite itself has room for two medium sized tents, has a clean picnic table, and a tall fire ring with newspaper nearby in a tin. The portapotty was nearby and is well lit with solar lights at night. It was really a unique experience being right on a vineyard! Treat yourself to a walk around the vineyard, and if you are into outdoor yoga (I’m not) there is a spot near the road that is flat and open and has a great view of the rolling hills. One of the best aspects of this stay was the she-shed. Despite living in Minnesota, I have yet to obtain a screen house. The she-shed was an invaluable retreat away from the swarms of mosquitoes that eventually descended upon us. We visited when it was hot and humid, so the only improvement would be a fan to help circulate the air. On the other side of the she shed is a portable toilet. I was intimidated by a toilet that you have to read directions to use, so I just opted for the portapotty while we were there.
The property isn’t on a main road, but the campsite is close to the gravel road so you might hear some cars going by. This was such an infrequent occurrence that it was almost remarkable. At night we heard a pack of coyotes in the distance, and in the morning there were multiple bird songs layered over one another. Thanks Dyrt for putting this place on my radar!!
GCI Pod Rocker chair with Sun Shade Review
As I mentioned above, as a Ranger for the Dyrt I get opportunities to try out camping products. For this trip I chose to review the GCI Pod Rocker with Sun Shade which currently sells for $75. I was extremely impressed with the size of this chair the first time I opened it up. I was expecting something on the same scale as those small close-to-the-ground pod chairs that are sold as adult-sized but in no way are large enough to fit the average adult. This chair is generously sized, has arm support, and offers my preferred angle of back support.
There are not a ton of reviews out for this chair yet, but we bought a different style of rocking GCI chair that the reviews say can eventually have squeaks when you rock on it, so there might be some lube required in the future. Maybe I have a lemon, but one of my first observations was that the sun shade is difficult to adjust. The first time I tried it I actually thought I was breaking it and tried to find a youtube video to make sure that I wasn’t missing any hidden button that would make it glide between positions. I would be more annoyed with the shade if this were at a premium price point, but it isn’t so I’m not. I did contact the company and they suggested that I loosen some screws, but they warned that if I unscrewed them too much then some inner pieces would fall apart. I’m not super interested in making the sunshade inoperable, so I’ll just deal with it and hope that continued use loosens things up. Overall I think that this is a great chair if you spend any time sitting outside and you are bound to have hordes of people approach you with questions!
My three girls and I were so excited to get to our campsite after an eight hour drive. When we got to the office, we had to wait to check in, because the keeper was on the phone. It gave us a chance to check out the pool. Nasty, green and tiny is how my kids described it to me. We finally were able to talk with the check in lady and she said “ well, I guess I’d call the pool out of order, probably for the summer!” I then got the map of the campground and bought a small bundle of wood…$8.00 a bundle…! We found our site, ten feet from a swamp on uneven, unmowed grass. The fire pit, was tiny, with a half of a grate for cooking. We actually, set up our tent, under an out building, since that was the only ground that was level and not swarming with mosquitos. We are making out the best we can, but will NEVER be back to tent, or camp at this campgrounds again!
This is actually on Lake Yankton not Lewis and Clark Lake but it is a nice peaceful place with nice grass, benches and parks, the lake has good fishing for all species would recommend going has nice bathrooms as well as good bike trails
Its a first come first serve/ same day reservation
Could see water from everywhere on site was nice and clean and very grassy
Had nice open spots very spacies
Was nice and clean with friendly rangers
We camped here over the weekend with our dogs. The campground is within 10 miles off of I90.
The park is not very big so there are not many campsites. Some have electric hook up, others are just for tent camping. All of them provide a picnic table and a fire pit. They also have little log cabins. We stayed at campsite 6 which was a very good spot. Some of the other sites seemed very close together without much privacy or shade.
The park staff (rangers, camp host and volunteers) was extremely friendly. They always made sure that we had everything we needed. The rangers also offer different programs on the weekend like learning about geocaching or how to make campfire desserts.
There is one bathhouse for the entire campground. It seemed a little old but got cleaned daily. There are also several vault toilets around the area. From the campground you have access to the water. There are also several short hiking trails from where you can see the rock formations.
It was just a very short ride to the Devils Gulch (Jesse James historical site) or Split Rock Park. There is also a Dollar General close by. We would definitely recommend the campground.
Really spacious campground with plenty of spots. Didn’t feel as crowded or too close to each other like a lot of other national park campgrounds. The Elk Mountain Campground is conveniently located to the visitor center and cave entrance. The Elk Mountain hike starts at the campground and is a nice little hike to do before you settle in for the night.
Tent spots are $11.67 although when I originally researched the campground people were saying $7.00/night. The lake is right at the campground and depending on where you pick your spot, you can have a view of the lake. The butte can be seen from pretty much every tent spot. Decent sized campground overall. Outhouses were clean and campground host was really nice.
Our family had a great experience staying over the 4th July. We had a issue with our trailer jack not working properly when we first pulled in, the gentlemen working were more then happy to lend a hand. The kids loved the pool and the game room, will definitely come again.
We stayed is lot 25. It was next to the lake. So nice. The only thing I would say to any one looking to stay at this lot is make sure it doesn’t rain. It rained both night we were there the tent turned in to a waterbed at night. We could live with that. It was so nice there the hiking my daughter really enjoyed it as well.
Simple campgrounds in Wind Cave National Park. The campground was well maintained and in great condition. The location can't be best as you're only 1 mile from the visitor's center and central to the park.
There is a hiking path nearby that gets you up so you can view the amazing area surrounding you. We heard lots of animals through the night and loved it.
Our only complaint was that the lights from the very simple bathrooms were so bright at night they ruined our night vision. Do not choose a site near the bathrooms.
We stayed at site 120 and had good views of the lake. Short walk to the toilet which did not have running water but that was expected. Our site was a little slanted, but we found a spot nearby to play bocce ball. It rained our whole trip and I forgot to take pictures.
This National Forest campground is directly across the 2-lane "highway" from Custer State Park, a beautiful park with several campgrounds, vintage lodges and cabins, lovely small lakes and plenty of opportunities to see wildlife (we saw bison -- of course! -- mountain goats, wild burros, deer, and turtles). Bismarck Lake campground is small and quiet (except for generators until 10 pm --- grrrr!) with several really beautiful sites. There is water and the vault toilets were super clean. We were in Site 2, one of the worst (right next to the campground road with a slope down to the picnic table/fire pit), but it was still pretty nice. The best sites are 4, 5 and 8 which all have lake views; 6 and 7 which are next to each other on a large rock outcrop, with graded sites for tents -- they are close together though; and 21 (20 on one map) which is in a meadow all by itself (the Recreation.gov and Forest Service maps of the campground have numbered the sites differently; both show site 8 on the wrong side of the road). There is a good graded path down to the lake, a sweet bridge over the dammed part of it, and a boardwalk around one side of it. The lake is gorgeous -- so beautiful at dusk. Across the highway in Custer State Park is Stockade Lake, which has its own little beach and a playground. Stockade Lake South Campground has free showers (you have to pay a $20-per-car one-time fee to get into and use any/all the facilities in Custer State Park -- totally worth it as there is so much to do!). Mt. Rushmore is just over a half-hour away; the Badlands are about 1 1/2 hours. Custer is a pretty cute little town (as opposed to Keystone, near Mt. Rushmore, which is a true tourist trap) with a good little grocery store (Lynn's DakotaMart) and an Ace Hardware, as well as a GREAT pie shop/bakery/cafe.