Tent Sites
Fires Allowed
Pets Allowed
Drinking Water
About Horsethief Lake Campground

Located 10 miles south of Hill City, South Dakota, Horsethief Lake Campground is a delightful setting for visitors seeking recreation and relaxation in Black Hills National Forest. This campground is 2 miles from Mount Rushmore National Memorial and adjacent to Horsethief Lake. Sites are tucked into a forest of towering ponderosa and lodgepole pine.


Black Hills National Forest offers visitors a multitude of recreational opportunites throughout all seasons. Hiking, fishing, horseback riding, mountain biking, and riding off-highway vehicles are popular in summer and early autumn. Winter landscapes are ideal for snowshoeing, skiing and snowmobiling. Hundreds of miles of trails and roads offer a variety of terrain for mountain bikers. Hikers and bikers can access the nearby George S. Mickelson Trail, which traverses over 100 miles through the heart of the Black Hills. The majority of the trail follows an abandoned railroad branch line and includes 4 tunnels, over 100 converted railroad bridges, and 15 established trailheads. The trail surface is packed gravel, traversing mountain, meadow, and forest terrain. The trail is named in honor of the former South Dakota governor who crusaded for the trail. For those seeking higher elevations, a day-long trek to the summit of nearby Black Elk Peak is worth the effort. Black Elk Peak is the highest natural point in the United States east of the Rocky Mountains. Most of the summit is bare granite and offers expansive views of the surrounding area. An old stone tower at the top(Harney Lookout Tower), once used as a fire lookout, is still open to hikers.


Horsethief Lake Campground has sites able to accommodate tents, trailers, and RVs. There are several tent-only and walk-to tent-only sites.

The campground is equipped with picnic tables, campfire rings, vault toilets, and drinking water. Electrical hook-ups are not available.

Roads in the campground are paved.

Natural Features

Located in western South Dakota and northeastern Wyoming, Black Hills National Forest encompasses nearly 1.25 million acres of rugged rock formations, canyons and gulches, open grassland parks, tumbling streams, deep blue lakes, and unique caves.

Derived from the Lakota language, the words "Paha Sapa," meaning "hills that are black," honor the dark, pine-covered hills rising several thousand feet above the surrounding prairie.

Wildlife in the area abounds. Bighorn sheep navigate mountainous terrain, while elk, deer and pronghorn gather in forests and prairies. Bald eagles, hawks, osprey, peregrine falcon, and hundreds of other bird species can be found in the forest, especially along streams, lakes and rivers.

Nearby Attractions

Explore Mount Rushmore National Memorial, host to almost 3 million visitors a year from across the country and around the world. Visitors have the opportunity to learn about the birth, growth, development and the preservation of the United States, and take in the beauty of South Dakota's Black Hills.

Nearby Jewel Cave is the second longest cave in the world at 159.29 miles. It features sparkling calcite crystals and other rare formations, as well as some of the largest concentrations of passageways in the world.

Other possible day trips include Custer State Park, Crazy Horse Monument and Wind Cave National Park.

Charges & Cancellations

No refunds will be given for weather related events.

ADA Access: N

National Forest
Drive In
Walk In
Alcohol Allowed
Drinking Water
Fires Allowed
Firewood Available
Pets Allowed
Picnic Table
Trash Available
Horsethief Lake Campground is located in Black Hills National Forest in South Dakota
43.8951 N
-103.4842 W
Get Directions
From Hill City, take U.S. Rt. 16/385 south 3 miles to State Rt. 244. Turn left onto Rt. 244. Travel 5.9 miles to campground road symbol. Turn right at road symbol into campground.
18 Reviews of Horsethief Lake Campground
Beautiful and convenient location

This campground is one of the closest to Mt. Rushmore. Situated on a small lake, you can cliff-dive here, fish or visit the needles hiking trail. The campsites are nice, but fill up quickly. I'm a local and the prices seem very high to me for the area - $40 for a tent site and the pet fee was very high also.

So Beautiful

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.

Great weekend!


Awesome site with full bathrooms/ showers

This place was great! We had a pull in spot away from the crowd. It was beautiful. Lots of deer. Big clean bathrooms with nice showers. They also have a pool im the summer.

Breathtaking view

Stay on tent site 26 and you have access to the lake. You can either swim across the lake or drive around and attempt the jump off the big rock! The weather was perfect and it is 5 minutes to Mt. Rushmore. Take a drive through the black hills!

South Dakota Perfection

We had done a little research and this campground appealed to us from Reviews and location. We were greeted pleasantly upon our arrival and were given a site at the front which some may not prefer but the view was beautiful and we were blessed with watching a herd of 10 deer each evening across the street. This campground is family owned and extremely clean and quiet. We enjoyed watching other campers pulling in but thr noise was very minimal. The owners even come out in the evening and build a fire and chat. We were so impressed tbat we extended our stay. Although we didn't use it, there was a nice pool that was heated by an outdoor woodburning stove. They also have laundry facilities. We will definitely return on our next visit! We drove about 10 hours from our home state and were blown away that the couple right next to us was from our same city!!! Put this campground at the top of your list!! Easy access to one of the entrances to Custer State Park as well.

Perfect way to visit Mount Rushmore

This campground is VERY close to Mt. Rushmore and is a perfect location for simple hikes leading up to the big show. The terrain around the park is generally rocky with dramatic changes in elevation, but this campground feels level (for the most part). Our tent was a bit off angle, but we didn't notice it much after such an exhausting day running around and seeing the sites.

We were closer to the loop near the water which I recommend as that view is something to relish. The road heading to MR is close by, so you will get some road noise. Restrooms were meh, but they got the job done.

This place is really meant, in my eyes, for people that want to be close too Rushmore while still getting the thrill of hiking the Black Hills.

Around trails, spacious

Horse Thief Campground has nice, spacious sites. I had a tent campsite near the lake, and there was a trail to the water. Flyfishing we caught some trout on the lake and had them with dinner. The ranger was extraordinarily nice and offered to give us a ride to our vehicle after coming off the trail, we had just finished a seven-day backpacking trip and hadn't parked far away.

Good location, pretty lake, some traffic noise

Overall good campground. Good amount of space. A bit pricey but probably on par for the touristy area it’s near to. Bathrooms are pit toilets. Drinking water is clean. The lake near it is pretty, small, and near to a highway. Location is everything for this one, reservations would be advantageous. Park host is the coolest lady.

Beautiful little spot near Mt. Rushmore

We spent one night in one of the walk-in sites here. We were able to find an open site at 10 am with no reservation, although the drive-up sites looked all full. Despite a stormy night, we enjoyed this campground, with a beautiful view of the lake. It looks like sites in the lower drive-up loop are the most desirable, being right next the the lake edge. The campground is also quite close to Mt. Rushmore, which could be a pro or con.