Tent Sites
Fires Allowed
Pets Unknown
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
Picnic Table
Trash Available
Horsethief Lake Campground is located 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.
13 Reviews of Horsethief Lake Campground
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!

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.

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.

Secluded in such a busy area

I got to the campground late but there were a couple ofspots available. The attendant was SO lovely and made sure I had everything I needed before I went to my camping spot, right on the lake. The site was quiet and the restrooms were very clean. There was also a water pump available. Would definitely recommend!

Cute, Quiet, and Close to Everything

We arrived at Horse Thief Lake late on a Wednesday afternoon. Actually VERY late. It was around 7:00 pm on June 7, 2017. We were on a road trip and didn't have a firm schedule. We arrived without a reservation and were thrilled that they had three or four walk-ups available.

This campground serves both RVs and tent campers. The walk-up are was beautiful and quiet. We were in site 34, which is the closest to the road that circles through the campground, but it was above our site and we never noticed traffic.

It was early in June so many sites had reservations on them for the weekend, the walk-in area was less than half full. The sites are far enough away from each other that we were not bothered by any other campers.

The site had a great pad and nice wooden picnic table with a great fire ring. The fire ring was great in the morning as it was still pretty cool in early June.

Firewood was sold at the campground by the hosts for $5 a bundle. The hosts were very kind and kept the campground immaculate.

The vault restrooms were very clean, but there were MANY flies by the afternoon outside of the restroom.

We had some HEAVY rains while camping here and the people in the site closest to the lake, and near the top of the hill (amazingly) were flooded out and had to dry everything in the morning and move to another site.

We had no problem with critters bothering our camp. There are no bear boxes and the camp hosts told us they had never heard a report of bears being in their campground.

This was a great base camp for us. It is only 2 miles to Rushmore and we went to Custer's campground (and drove though TONS of animals including buffalo, prong horns and others, the Crazy Horse memorial and the Iron Road.

Convenient Camping for Rushmore, Crazy Horse & Custer State Park

If you're touring the Black Hills, and hitting all of the outdoor attractions, Horsethief Lake is perfectly placed to access it all. The sites are basic, but have everything you need -- toilets, firepit, picnic table.

We were traveling with a small trailer and a tent, and there wasn't much room to fit them both on the same site, and had the choice to either pitch the tent on gravel, or on a slope (site #20). There were lots of trees that worked to hang up the hammock which was a positive. There weren't many available sites to choose from due to the proximity of the campground to Rushmore.

This campground is one of the closest (if not THE closest to Rushmore), and allows you close access to the park without having to stay in the touristy trap town of Keystone. There isn't any cell access in the campground, but you can drive up to Rushmore for a very clear signal if needed.

If you're spending a lot of time in the Black Hills, there are plenty of National Forest and state park campgrounds to choose from. This one is mostly great as a peaceful place to camp if you're intending to see the area.

Horsethief Lake is Heaven

This campground is amazing. The only drawback is that it does not have flushing toilets or a shower, BUT, the views are beautiful. The campground is nestled into the forest right next to the lake. It is only two miles from Mount Rushmore, so if want flushing toilets they are only a short car ride away. There are spots for camper trailers as well as plenty of tent sites.

Horsethief Lake trail is about 3 miles long and the trailhead is right at camp. It is an easy hike that puts you right in the middle of the Black Hills. If you are more adventurous the trail connects to the Centennial Trail which is 111 miles long.

This campground is five stars even though it doesn't have flushing toilets or showers. This campground used to be first come first served only but it now has some reservable sites on ReserveAmerica.com.