12 Best Campgrounds near Mount Rushmore

Nov 28, 2017

Sculpted to creation in 1941, Mount Rushmore is South Dakota's most iconic attraction, drawing more than three million visitors a year. It's not just the monument itself that earns such popularity, or the unique history behind the stoic faces and those who carved them, it's the surrounding Black Hills National Forest that makes Mount Rushmore a fun place to visit. Covering more than 1.2 million acres, the Black Hills National Forest is widely regarded for its luscious woodlands, elevated scenery, and the golden opportunities for adventure.

With a plethora of natural spaces to explore, the Black Hills surrounding Mount Rushmore also provide plenty of campgrounds. The U.S. Forest Service operates 30 non-electric campgrounds alone, including the coveted Horsethief Lake Campground near the memorial. Private campgrounds can be found all around Mount Rushmore as well, and like the Buffalo Ridge Camp Resort, they provide plenty of good reasons to hang out at camp for a while. Wherever you stay around Mount Rushmore, the best advice is to stick around awhile and explore the many other attractions in the Black Hills National Forest.

1 Horsethief Lake

Horsethief Lake

Located less than two miles away from the stoic faces of Mount Rushmore, the Horsethief Lake Campground is operated by the US Forest Service and can be found nestled among postcard-worthy Black Hills scenery. Beyond the heavily scented pines that surround the 36 non-electric sites of Horsethief Lake Campground, Horsethief Lake itself beckons for an afternoon swim. Other adventures in the immediate area include hopping on the long-distance George S. Mickelson Trail, or day-hiking the nearby Black Elk Peak, which is the state's highest point at over 7,000 feet. Horsethief Lake Campground can accommodate tents, trailers, and RVs, and all campsites lend access to vault toilets and potable water.

2 Buffalo Ridge Camp Resort

Buffalo Ridge Camp Resort
Buffalo Ridge Camp Resort | Photo Copyright: Brad Lane

Just on the outskirts of the amenity-filled city of Custer, the Buffalo Ridge Camp Resort provides a comfortable and convenient camping option in the heart of the Black Hills. Featuring 125 sites spread across 30 acres, Buffalo Ridge is only a thirty-minute drive to Mount Rushmore. The campsites at Buffalo Ridge are split between pull-through hookups and non-electric tent sites, including a few hand-painted teepees that can accommodate up to seven people. The campground comes complete with modern shower facilities, laundry services, and a variety of amenities, including a basketball court, mini-golf course, and playground. Alongside the scenic views of the Needles and Black Elk Peak that can be seen from each campsite, Buffalo Ridge also serves up live shows ranging from Grand Magic to Family Jamboree at the Buffalo Ridge Theater found on-site.

Address: 245 Centennial Drive, Custer, South Dakota

3 Sylvan Lake Campground, Custer State Park

Sylvan Lake Campground, Custer State Park
Sylvan Lake Campground, Custer State Park | Photo Copyright: Brad Lane

As one of the largest state parks in the country, and one of the best state parks in South Dakota, Custer State Park provides seven established campgrounds. While all the campgrounds provide an exciting overnight experience, the most sought after is the Sylvan Lake Campground located on the park's northern end. With 39 campsites that can accommodate tents and small camping vehicles, the campground has well-maintained restroom and shower facilities, as well as many nearby attractions that make reservations highly recommended.

Mount Rushmore can be accessed from Sylvan Lake Campground with a short and scenic drive along the Needles Highway, and adjacent to the campsites, the Sylvan Lake Lodge offers a lounge, general store, and restaurant for hot meals. The real appeal of the Sylvan Lake Campground however, can be found nearby on the shimmering, mile-long shore of Sylvan Lake, accurately nicknamed the Crown Jewel of Custer State Park.

Address: 13329 U.S. 16A, Custer, South Dakota

4 Mount Rushmore KOA at Palmer Gulch Resort

Mount Rushmore KOA at Palmer Gulch Resort
Mount Rushmore KOA at Palmer Gulch Resort | Photo Copyright: Brad Lane

Located just minutes away from Mount Rushmore, the Mount Rushmore KOA at Palmer Gulch Resort combines all the comforts of home with a good dose of vacation spirit. Featuring hundreds of campsites, ranging from non-electric tent sites to Deluxe Camper Cabins, the Mount Rushmore KOA also comes complete with modern restrooms, laundry facilities, and camp kitchens to help with meal time. Surrounded by luscious Black Hills scenery, the Mount Rushmore KOA provides bicycle rentals, live music, and a variety of dining options including a Chuck-Wagon Dinner Show.

Address: 12620 SD-244, Hill City, South Dakota

5 Pactola Campground

Pactola Campground
Pactola Campground Kimon Berlin / photo modified

With more than 14 miles of shoreline and 800 acres of water, Pactola Lake is the deepest and largest reservoir in the Black Hills and home to one of the largest Forest Service campsites in the area. Found on the south shore of this massive lake, Pactola Campground offers 86 non-electric campsites that can accommodate tents, trailers, and RVs. Adventurous activities are easily found at Pactola Lake both in the water and out, and whether you rent a boat, scuba dive in the clear waters, or hike the two-mile Osprey Trail to spot some wildlife, you'll see for yourself why Pactola is one of the best campgrounds in South Dakota. Potable water and pit-toilets can be found here, and despite the plentiful space, reservations are recommended for this popular campground located 20 miles from Mount Rushmore.

6 Game Lodge Campground, Custer State Park

Game Lodge Campground, Custer State Park
Game Lodge Campground, Custer State Park | Photo Copyright: Brad Lane

Nestled alongside the moving waters of the Grace Coolidge Creek, the Game Lodge Campground is in the heart of Custer State Park, providing easy exploration of its 71,000 acres. The majority of the 56 campsites at the Game Lodge Campground can accommodate large RVs with electric hook-ups, while a few are designated for non-electric tent camping only. A shared restroom facility with showers is located within the campground, and the neighboring State Game Lodge includes a gift shop, convenience store, and a Buffalo Safari Jeep Rides outfitter. Many of Custer State Park's attractions are within a short commute from the Game Lodge Campgrounds, and visitors interested in seeing Mount Rushmore can travel on the scenic Iron Mountain Road to lay eyes on the massive granite memorial

Address: 13329 U.S. 16A, Custer, South Dakota

7 Roubaix Lake

Roubaix Lake

Owned and operated by the United States Forest Service, Roubaix Lake Campground offers 56 non-electric camping sites spread between four different loops, all lending access to one of the best fishing and swimming holes in the Black Hills. Roubaix Lake isn't big enough for motorized boats, which makes it easy to avoid any wake as you cast a line or practice your backstroke. Each campsite at Roubaix Lake provides a picnic table and fire ring, and each campground loop has access to vault toilets and potable water. Beyond the shores of Roubaix Lake, the Black Hills have plenty of attractions to explore, including Mount Rushmore, which is an hour away, and the Wild West city of Deadwood, approximately 13 miles to the north.

8 Elk Mountain Campground, Wind Cave National Park

Elk Mountain Campground, Wind Cave National Park
Elk Mountain Campground, Wind Cave National Park

Located in the southern Black Hills, Wind Cave is one of the longest caves in the country, and the best way to explore this underground labyrinth is to stay a few nights at the Elk Mountain Campground in the National Park. Consisting of 25 non-electric campsites, the Elk Mountain Campground is situated atop the rolling prairie environment that defines the aboveground portion of Wind Cave National Park. All campsites at Elk Mountain share access to vault toilets and potable water during the summer and shoulder seasons.

Elk Mountain Campground tends to remain quieter than surrounding spots in the Black Hills, making it a popular spot for those who like to lose themselves in the natural scene. Besides lending immediate access to the many guided tours of Wind Cave, Elk Mountain Campground sits within an hour of some of the Black Hills' best attractions, including Custer State Park, the city of Hot Springs, and the Mount Rushmore National Memorial.

9 Oreville Campground

Oreville Campground
Oreville Campground | Photo Copyright: Brad Lane

Popular among the hikers and bikers of the Black Hills area, the Oreville Campground is operated by the US Forest Service and provides 26 campsites able to accommodate tents, trailers, and RVs. Only ten minutes away from Mount Rushmore, Oreville Campground also allows access to other area attractions, including the Crazy Horse Memorial and Jewel Cave National Monument, the third largest cave in the world. Oreville Campground provides vault toilets and potable water for all overnight users, and thanks to its key location in the Black Hills and spacious woodland campsites, the campground tends to stay busy throughout the extended summer months.

10 Echo Valley Park Campground

Echo Valley Park Campground
Echo Valley Park Campground | Photo Copyright: Brad Lane

Backdropped by the inspiring granite pillars of the Black Hills, Echo Valley Park Campground provides a quiet place to recharge as you explore the surrounding area. The Crazy Horse Memorial can be seen from the Echo Valley Park driveway, and once inside the campgrounds, visitors have easy access to the Buckhorn Wilderness Area, where you won't run into any crowds. Split between RV capabilities and tent-only sites, Echo Valley provides potable water, a shower house and laundry facility, as well as scenic grounds to explore on your own. And when it comes time to see Mount Rushmore, the granite memorial can be discovered only 15 miles away.

Address: 12129 Echo Valley Road, Custer, South Dakota

11 Blue Bell Campground, Custer State Park

Buffalo near Blue Bell Campground
Buffalo near Blue Bell Campground | Photo Copyright: Brad Lane

If you only have one night to stay in Custer State Park, you have seven different campgrounds to choose from. For the campground with the best chance to escape into nature, or see some wildlife, the Blue Bell Campground, located on the southwest side of the park and less than an hour from Mount Rushmore, can deliver both. Featuring 31 campsites, including flush toilets, potable water and large trailer capabilities, Blue Bell Campground also lends access to the nearby French Creek Natural Area and 18-Mile Wildlife Loop Road. In addition to the opportunities to see some wildlife, the Blue Bell Campground lies within walking distance of the Blue Bell Lodge, which, through its western-ranch theme, can have you kicking up your spurs to relax in no time.

Address: 13329 U.S. 16A, Custer, South Dakota

12 Big Pine Campground

Crazy Horse Memorial viewing deck near Big Pine Campground
Crazy Horse Memorial viewing deck near Big Pine Campground | Photo Copyright: Brad Lane

Just south of Mount Rushmore and the Crazy Horse Memorial, Big Pine Campground is a privately-owned facility that can provide the seclusion you may be looking for when visiting the Black Hills. Featuring primitive tent sites, 50-amp plug-ins for RVs, and spacious camper cabins, Big Pine Campground nestles comfortably in pinewood surroundings. The campground comes complete with bathhouses, laundry services, and a playground in addition to all the hiking and biking opportunities in the area. To check out Mount Rushmore from Big Pine, visitors can traverse the Black Hills Parkway, with spectacular views the entire way.

Address: 12084 Big Pine Road, Custer, South Dakota

Where to Stay near Mount Rushmore

For convenient hotels, check out the three towns and cities surrounding the memorial. Whether you stay in Keystone, Hill City, or Custer, you'll be sure to have quick access to Mount Rushmore, and the entire Black Hills will be right outside your window.

  • Hotels in Keystone: As the closest town to Mount Rushmore, Keystone is in the heart of beautiful Black Hills scenery. The K Bar S Lodge, in particular, gives great views of the Needles from the front porch of their rustic lodge accommodations. Just down the road, the Holiday Inn Express & Suites Mt. Rushmore / Keystone provides the dependability you'd expect from a national brand and plenty of features, including breakfast, free parking, and quick access to Mount Rushmore.
  • Hotels in Hill City: Travelers have a handful of options for quality hotels to choose from in Hill City. The Best Western Golden Spike Inn & Suites provides superior service and spacious rooms, as well as access to other area attractions, including Custer State Park and the Crazy Horse Memorial. Only a few minutes away, the Comfort Inn & Suites features a newer building and big bathrooms, as well as a pool, hot tub, and fitness center.
  • Hotels in Custer: South of Mount Rushmore, the city of Custer is home to Custer State Park. The Bavarian Inn, Black Hills offers a themed experience alongside its charming décor, and the Rocket Motel just down the street is a true blast from the past featuring clean rooms and comfortable beds. Also in the area, the Holiday Inn Express Custer features landscaped surroundings, a western-themed interior, and a free breakfast to begin an adventurous day.

Other Outdoor Options in South Dakota

After you've finished exploring Mount Rushmore and the surrounding Black Hills, South Dakota continues to deliver on amazing places to pitch a tent. For an overview, see our Best Campgrounds in South Dakota article. To narrow down the choices a little more, our Best Campgrounds in Badlands National Park article can point you in the right direction in this adventure-rich area.

If you're interested in exploring some of South Dakota's other natural wonders, the state is filled with fantastic state and national parks waiting to be discovered.

To explore a little more culture on your next South Dakota visit, the cities of Sioux Falls and Deadwood both offer natural and modern attractions.

More on South Dakota