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12 Best Campgrounds near Mount Rushmore, SD

Written by Brad Lane
Jun 8, 2020

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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 golden opportunities for adventure.

With a plethora of natural spaces to explore, the Black Hills surrounding Mount Rushmore also provide plenty of campgrounds. Campgrounds near Mount Rushmore include 30 U.S. Forest Service non-electric campgrounds alone. This includes the coveted Horsethief Lake Campground, which is the closest campground to Mount Rushmore.

Private campgrounds can be found all around Mount Rushmore as well, like the Buffalo Ridge Camp Resort, providing plenty of good reasons to hang out at camp for a while.

For more ideas on the best places to stay, see our list of the top campgrounds near Mount Rushmore.

See also: Where to Stay near Mount Rushmore

Note: Some businesses may be temporarily closed due to recent global health and safety issues.

1. Horsethief Lake Campground

Horsethief Lake
Horsethief Lake | Photo Copyright: Brad Lane

Less than two miles away from the stoic faces of Mount Rushmore, the Horsethief Lake Campground is operated by the US Forest Service and is 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 is the closest campground to Mount Rushmore. For summer visits, reserving a site ahead of time is the only way to guarantee a spot. Sites at Horsethief Lake can be reserved six months in advance. Horsethief Lake Campground accommodates tents, trailers, and RVs. All campsites have access to vault toilets and potable water.

Don't confuse Horsethief Lake Campground with Horse Thief Campground & Resort, which also operates in the immediate area. The Campground & Resort is a privately owned facility, which does offer a great place to stay. It features an abundance of RV spots, as well as tent sites and cabins.

Official site: https://www.fs.usda.gov/recarea/blackhills/recarea/?recid=26009

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, Buffalo Ridge Camp Resort provides a comfortable camping option in 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 and laundry services. The grounds of Buffalo Ridge also include 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

Official site: https://custerhospitality.com/buffalo-ridge-camp-resort/

3. Sylvan Lake Campground, Custer State Park

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

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 camping 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. 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

Official site: https://gfp.sd.gov/state-parks/directory/custer/campgrounds/sylvan-lake/default.aspx

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

Minutes from Mount Rushmore, 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 mealtime.

Mount Rushmore KOA provides bicycle rentals, live music, and a variety of dining options including a Chuck-Wagon Dinner Show.

Surrounded by luscious Black Hills scenery, Mount Rushmore KOA also provides easy access to adventure. It's a 12-minute drive to the memorial from the KOA, and other prominent attractions, including the Crazy Horse Memorial and Custer State Park, are also within the same radius. The KOA also operates the Mount Rushmore Lodge, which features spacious suites and an impressive two-story fireplace.

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

Official site: http://www.palmergulch.com/

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. It is also home to one of the largest Forest Service campgrounds 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.

Adventure activities are easy to find at Pactola Lake both in the water and out. Whether renting a boat, scuba diving in the clear waters, or hiking 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.

Location: Rapid City, South Dakota

Official site: https://www.fs.usda.gov/recarea/blackhills/recreation/camping-cabins/recarea/?recid=26129&actid=29

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. The campground provides easy access to the park's astonishing 71,000 acres to explore. The majority of the 56 campsites at the Game Lodge Campground can accommodate large RVs with electric hookups, while a few are designated for non-electric tent camping only.

A shared restroom facility with showers is within the campground, as well as several freshwater spigots. The neighboring State Game Lodge features 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

Official Site: https://gfp.sd.gov/csp-campgrounds/

7. Roubaix Lake

Roubaix Lake
Roubaix Lake | Photo Copyright: Brad Lane

Owned and operated by the United States Forest Service, Roubaix Lake Campground offers 56 non-electric camping sites spread between four different loops. Every campsite lends 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.

Another top spot to visit nearby, the Wild West city of Deadwood is approximately 13 miles to the north.

Official site: https://www.fs.usda.gov/recarea/blackhills/recarea/?recid=25901

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 and most complex caves in the country. 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 popular for those who like to lose themselves in the natural scene. A real appeal of the campground, besides its quieter surroundings, is the immediate access it gives to the daily guided tours of Wind Cave offered by the National Park Service.

The campground sits within an hour's drive of some of the best Black Hills attractions, including Custer State Park, the city of Hot Springs, and the Mount Rushmore National Memorial.

Official site: https://www.nps.gov/wica/planyourvisit/campgrounds.htm

9. Oreville Campground

Oreville Campground
Oreville Campground | Photo Copyright: Brad Lane

The Oreville Campground is popular among the hikers and bikers of the Black Hills area. Operated by the US Forest Service, the campground features 26 campsites able to accommodate tents, trailers, and RVs.

Only 10 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.

The campground provides immediate access to a wide range of multi-use trails, including the 100-mile George S. Mickelson Trail.

Oreville Campground also provides vault toilets and potable water for all overnight users. Thanks to its key location in the Black Hills and its spacious woodland campsites, the campground tends to stay busy throughout the extended summer months.

Address: 24462 US-385, Custer, South Dakota

Official site: https://www.recreation.gov/camping/oreville-campground/r/campgroundDetails.do?contractCode=NRSO&parkId=70015

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.

When it comes time to see Mount Rushmore from the campground, the granite memorial can be discovered only 15 miles away. For those looking for indoor accommodations, the campground also features camping cabins that sleep up to five people. Echo Valley is a great family campground and is well known for its quiet sites tucked into nature.

Address: 12129 Echo Valley Road, Custer, South Dakota

Official site: http://www.echovalleypark.com/

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 delivers on both.

The campground is located on the southwest side of the park and is less than an hour's drive from Mount Rushmore. The campground features 31 campsites, including flush toilets, potable water, and large trailer capabilities.

Blue Bell Campground also lends access to the nearby French Creek Natural Area, where hiking is abundant, and the 18-Mile Wildlife Loop Road, where bison outnumber the automobiles.

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

Official site: https://gfp.sd.gov/csp-campgrounds/

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 is nestled comfortably in pinewood surroundings. The campground comes complete with bathhouses, laundry services, and a playground.

The campground is also surrounded by several hiking, biking, and equestrian trails. To check out Mount Rushmore from Big Pine, visitors can traverse the Black Hills Parkway, with spectacular views the entire way. The Crazy Horse Memorial is even closer to the campground and is accessible with a 12-minute drive.

Address: 12084 Big Pine Road, Custer, South Dakota

Official site: http://www.bigpinecampground.com/

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.

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imageMore Campgrounds 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.

imageMore Places to Visit in South Dakota: There is more to South Dakota than just Mount Rushmore. 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.

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