I stood in front of my closet perplexed. It wasn’t until the moment I needed to pack that I realized I had no idea what was truly ahead of me. I’d packed for dozens of camping trips over the years, making it easy to grab my tried and true hiking pants, loungewear and other gear for the journey. But my upcoming stay at Under Canvas Mount Rushmore wasn’t quite a camping trip; it was a glamping trip—and I had no idea how to prepare.
Under Canvas Mount Rushmore Brings Unique Glamping to the Black Hills
Under Canvas Mount Rushmore brought glamping to South Dakota’s Black Hills in 2018. The glampground is one of eight Under Canvas sites across the country with locations near the Grand Canyon, Moab, Yellowstone, Glacier, Zion, the Great Smoky Mountains and Tucson. It’s a perfect option for campers looking for a luxurious way to get away.
But what, exactly, does glamorous camping look like?
As I stood in front of my closet, I decided to embrace the glam. I tucked away my stained hiking pants and stinky Tevas and put on some strappy sandals, flowy pants, a dressy top and a pashmina shawl. In my suitcase, I packed all the toiletries I’d never dream of bringing with me on a backpacking trip, a bottle of wine with some ceramic wine cups, my coziest slippers and a couple of good books. I was ready for the fanciest camping of my life.
Seeing Mount Rushmore from a Stylish Glamping Tent
As I drove the twists and turns of Highway 244 East, I passed Mount Rushmore National Memorial on my left. I stole a quick glance at the iconic granite sculpture and then looked to my right at a dense pine forest. Allegedly, Under Canvas Mount Rushmore had a phenomenal view of the memorial, but from here, I had a hard time picturing where it could possibly be.
After descending the mountain down into the town of Keystone, I turned right off the highway and quickly found myself bumping down a dirt road, following Under Canvas signs deeper and deeper into the woods. After a small hill, the forest opened up to what looked like a camping oasis. I drove by large canvas tents thoughtfully placed among the trees and then parked and walked up to the large canvas reception building. It was a warm, golden, dry day and the glamp staff greeted me as though I was checking into a spa for the weekend.
A wonderful receptionist named Valerie walked us around the property for a quick tour before taking us to our tent. The reception area stretched into a relaxing game room and dining area before exiting to an expansive back patio with seating. As we walked out back, I looked up and a big grin overtook my face. Right in front of us was one of the absolute best views of Mount Rushmore National Memorial in the distance.
10 Things Campers Should Know about Glamping at Under Canvas Mount Rushmore
While I only spent one night at Under Canvas Mount Rushmore, I learned a lot about glamping. I used each moment to soak up the rustic extravagance of the experience, sipping wine and coffee on my tent’s wooden porch while jotting my musings into a journal. These are some of the things I learned about glamping at Under Canvas Mount Rushmore to help you prepare for your own luxurious nature escape.
1. Glamping Means No Detail is Too Small
Under Canvas did not cut corners when establishing its Mount Rushmore site. The grounds are very well-kept and the facilities are designed with care.
Our tent had a comfortable king size bed with fine linens and a steel blue canvas bed cover that accented the beige canvas tent. It had a western-themed area rug on its wooden floors, two leather lounge chairs and multiple areas in the canvas that could be unzipped to create windows.
The common areas allow for relaxation and endless hours basking in the presidential view. The reception area even built the floor around a granite boulder, adding a natural feel to the indoor space.
2. It’s Still Glampy when Nature Calls
You won’t be using a pit toilet and hand sanitizer at Under Canvas Mount Rushmore. Our tent had a full bathroom, which included a flushing toilet, a shower and a sink. The shower and sink handles have to be held down to keep the water flowing, so it still feels a little rustic in that way, even though those handles are all made of a tasteful brass.
Pro tip: The shower takes a bit to heat up, so you may want to hold the handle down for a few minutes before stepping in. It’s also nicer if you can wait until the late morning to shower, once your tent has had a little time to warm in the sun.
3. Under Canvas Mount Rushmore’s Restaurant Isn’t Your Average Cookout
Under Canvas Mount Rushmore has a restaurant called Embers that does breakfast and dinner service—how’s that for camping? Some of the entrees we tried for dinner were the roasted pheasant, the mushroom raviolis and a grain bowl with salmon. We also added on a bottle of wine and the bananas foster for dessert. In the morning we dined on breakfast burritos and bottomless coffee.
The food was definitely of higher quality than I would expect from a camping trip, though the portions felt a bit too small on the dinner side. I was also disappointed that all food orders come served on disposable dishware. We’d brought our wine cups to feel fancy, but I left wishing I’d brought other reusable options to reduce waste. If you’re going to glamp at Under Canvas Mount Rushmore, make sure to bring your picnic set.
Pro tip: Listen to the staff recommendations for food. Valerie had given us a head’s up about the bananas foster dessert, and it’s certainly a tasty treat. Our breakfast burritos were recommended by the waitress in the morning, and she was right—super tasty and very filling.
4. Black “Hills” Can Be a Deceiving Name for the Region
Mount Rushmore National Memorial stands at an elevation of 5,725 feet. The Black Hills include the highest peak east of the Rocky Mountains—Black Elk Peak at 7,242 feet.
What does this mean for your glamping adventure? The Black Hills can have 70- and 80-degree days but then still drop to a cozy mountain chill at night. Bring a sweater (or, you know, your best glamping shawl).
The glamping tents each also come with a wood burning stove. The glamp staff will demonstrate how to use it and provide all of the matches, fire starters and wood you need to keep your tent toasty throughout the night. As a bonus, the stoves give the tents a wonderful campfire scent.
5. Yes, You Can Actually See Mount Rushmore from Here
Living in the Black Hills, I’ve seen a fair share of advertising for different services and camps that somewhat deceptively make it look like you’re going to be flying right over Mount Rushmore or practically camping with Washington, Jefferson, Roosevelt and Lincoln all peering over your tent.
Mount Rushmore National Memorial is a restricted airspace and the immediate land around it is managed by the National Park Service and does not offer camping. Therefore, getting great views of the memorial outside of the park do exist, but they’re minimal. I can attest that Under Canvas Mount Rushmore has one of the best views of Mount Rushmore National Memorial without being in the actual park. The memorial is close enough to make some details out and far enough to get a unique, landscaped view.
6. You’ll Stay Partially Connected
Under Canvas Mount Rushmore does not have Wi-Fi. In addition, the tents do not have electricity. However, the staff help create an atmosphere where you’re disconnected in nature, but also connected enough for some simple conveniences.
The glampground has excellent cell phone reception (at least with Verizon), and the site provides battery chargers in the tents for your phone. Each tent also comes with two rechargeable bedside lanterns and one portable lantern to use walking around the grounds at night. In addition, the main reception area has plenty of board games and a gift shop for your entertainment needs.
7. Glamping Activities Abound On Site
We were sipping wine on our tent porch around 6:30 p.m., thinking about making moves toward dinner, when we heard the relaxing sound of a guitar begin over toward the main reception area. It turns out that Under Canvas Mount Rushmore has live music during dinner several nights per week. It created a nice ambiance as we sat on the main patio, gazing at Mount Rushmore, and enjoying a nice dinner.
Under Canvas Mount Rushmore also offers yoga classes some mornings, nightly s’mores sessions and staff will help you book plenty of local adventures and experiences throughout the Black Hills.
8. At Night, You’ll Remember You’re at a Campground After all
A stay at Under Canvas Mount Rushmore all feels very glamorous, but come bedtime, you realize you’re still in a campground environment and sound travels. There’s the camper in the tent next to you who snores. There are the late-night music and “woo-hoo” types that think everyone wants to hear their party. There’s a baby camping for the first time who lets you know how he really feels about being there at three in the morning. There’s a barking dog. There are the camp golf carts driving by on gravel roads to respond to campers’ late night calls.
It’s in these moments where you may begin to wonder why you paid so much to essentially sleep outside with a bunch of strangers. However, by morning’s light upon the canvas of your tent, birds chirping in the surrounding trees, it will start to feel like magic again.
9. Packing for a Glamping Trip is Far from the Usual
I started this article by sharing my complete confusion over how to pack for a glamping trip, so I figured I should share how that ultimately went. It turns out you can pretty much wear whatever you’d like to go glamping. Many people were in their day attire for hiking or sightseeing, but I also didn’t feel out of place in my decision to wear a slightly classier outfit. It all depends on your goals. If you want to relax, sip wine, read and gaze out at a great view, I highly recommend wearing something that makes you feel a little fancy.
The glamp staff also graciously brings your luggage to your tent via their fleet of golf carts, so if you need to pack a little extra, you’ll have some help getting your items to and fro.
10. Book at Under Canvas Mount Rushmore Online (and Early)
Under Canvas Mount Rushmore is open from May 9 through September 29.
You can make a reservation online via their website and learn all about the different types of tents they offer based on the size of your party and the amenities you prefer. Some tents have connected “hives” that allow for larger families or groups, and different tent types either offer an in-unit bathroom or a nearby communal restroom.
Prices increase significantly during the height of the season, so if you’re able to visit during the shoulder season, you may be able to score a better deal on your glamping getaway.