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.
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.
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
My partner and I traveled to the Badlands area in July with our teardrop camper. We were looking for a base campsite for which we could venture out on day trips to Badlands NP, Custer State Park, etc. Horsethief Lake Campground was perfect! The campground is located in the Badlands National Forest (make sure you do not mix it up with the RV Private Park Campground of a similar name) and is within a stone's throw to Mount Rushmore. (You get great views of Rushmore from the road.)
The lower loop is for RVs and the upper loop is tent camping though we did see tents down on the lower loop. Our site #17 was ideal. We were right on the lake with gorgeous views. We also had access to water spigot which was right across the road. The camp hosts sell ice and firewood. We did have some foot traffic near our site accessing the trail to the lake from the upper loop but everyone was nice. Temperatures even in July were nice and cool and there seemed to be a constant breeze.
I will say that the camp host was fairly cranky so check in was a little interesting. We had read reviews elsewhere about her so we were prepared. When we checked in, we stopped at the entrance hut and sat for a few minutes but it was unmanned. During our trip we had experienced a lot of campgrounds doing contactless check in due to COVID precautions. We thought this may have been the situation. We saw the camp hosts' spot at the entrance and slowed down to see if anyone was there. It appeared to also be unmanned so we just proceeded to our site (we made advanced reservations). We were just backing in to the spot when a 4 wheeler came zooming into the site. The camp host began berating us for "blowing through the check in". We explained that we had sat at the hut (for 3 minutes) and did slow down at the camp host site but thought maybe they were doing contactless check in. She then acted like we were idiots because there was paperwork to fill out. We tried to move past that and be polite but we did see her interact with other campers in a similar manner. This is definitely a negative which could effect your experience.
Other than that minor challenge, I would highly recommend the Horsethief Lake Campground. The location is convenient, the scenery gorgeous and if you are a lake person, it is a great spot to tube or lounge.
Great site next to the lake with trails down to and around the water all around. Not very secluded, but wasn’t crowded. We had site #32. There were more secluded sites down a short walk from where we were. One bathroom and water spout. There were A LOT of bees.
Really had a great time here! This was one of the cleanest, easiest, and funnest campgrounds we’ve been too! The kids had plenty of hiking, swimming, and kayaking to do…the rock jumping was awesome! 30 foot jump!!!! Warm water and Mount Rushmore was legit and super close. Going to go back!
Nice campground with private access to Horse Thief Lake. $26 / night for tent place. Vault toilets, water, fire pits w/ grill grate, no showers
The walk in tent spots were okay in the bottom loop, but the walk in spots in the top loop were better. Too many RVs for my liking, but that’s a personal thing.
Don’t forget to jump off the cliff!
They sell firewood and ice at the shop.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.