13 Top-Rated Campgrounds in South Dakota

Written by Brad Lane
Updated Apr 13, 2023
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Author Brad Lane enjoyed a lengthy reporting trip throughout South Dakota and looks forward to exploring the Black Hills again.

Several memorable campgrounds dot South Dakota next to beautiful landscapes. Buttes, colorful woodlands, and swaying prairies are just some of the places to explore. And South Dakota caters to all types of camping, including RV camping, tent camping, and van life. Most of the best campgrounds in the state are in state parks, national parks, national forests, or private facilities.

South Dakota Game, Fish & Parks operates all state parks, and campground reservations are open 90 days in advance of a visit. However, Custer State Park accepts reservations up to a year in advance due to its popular status.

Whatever adventure you're looking for, from the rolling prairies in the east to the mountainous west, find a great place to sleep after a full day's adventure with our list of the best campgrounds in South Dakota.

1. Sylvan Lake Campground, Custer State Park

Hiker at Sylvan Lake
Hiker at Sylvan Lake | Photo Copyright: Brad Lane

Custer State Park is one of the largest state parks in the country and one of the best state parks in South Dakota. It has a wide array of overnight options to choose from, and one of the most sought-after camping is on the north end of the park in the Sylvan Lake Campground.

The campground is located near the shores of Sylvan Lake, also known as the "Crown Jewel" of Custer State Park. Thirty-nine sites are available and are only suitable for tent camping or small recreation vehicles less than 27 feet. The campground operates between the middle of May and the end of September. All overnight visitors have access to flushing toilets and showers.

The campground is also close to the Sylvan Lake Lodge on the lake edge, which has a restaurant, cafeteria, and gift store. This is also one of the most popular areas of the park for hiking and exploring, and you can expect crowds throughout the summer.

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

2. Sage Creek Campground, Badlands National Park

Sage Creek Campground, Badlands National Park
Sage Creek Campground, Badlands National Park | Photo Copyright: Brad Lane

While there are plenty of great campgrounds in Badlands National Park to choose from, the best overnight experience is found at the Sage Creek Campground on the west side of the park's North Unit.

The Sage Creek Campground resembles a cul-de-sac, with a primitive camping island encircled by the road and parking area. This area is best suited for tent camping and small camper units, as the unpaved Sage Creek Rim Road is difficult for larger recreation vehicles to navigate.

Camping is free at Sage Creek. Very few amenities besides a small number of semi-covered picnic tables and vault toilets are at the campground. That means campers looking to spend the night at Sage Creek need to pack in everything they need, including water. That also means it's important for campers to pack out everything they bring, including garbage.

Sage Creek has 22 established sites, though it's not uncommon for visitors to pitch a tent or park anywhere within the large space available. Recent overcrowding over the past few years has put the space to the test, and new regulations may apply. The National Park Service oversees the campground.

Sage Creek is also a popular place for the park's resident bison to roam. These beautiful creatures add to the stark and eye-catching surroundings of the campground. No one should ever approach a bison, and it's highly advised to give these wild animals their space.

Address: Sage Creek Rim Road, Wall, South Dakota

3. Spearfish City Campground

Spearfish Canyon Scenic Byway
Spearfish Canyon Scenic Byway | Photo Copyright: Brad Lane

The city of Spearfish is just north of the Black Hills National Forest and home to Black Hills State University. This city is a laid-back, outdoor-oriented town full of adventurous people.

With a culturally aware community and abundant natural space surrounding the city, including the always impressive Spearfish Canyon Scenic Byway, the best way to experience all that Spearfish has to offer is to hunker down at the Spearfish City Campground.

The Spearfish City Campground is within walking distance of downtown Spearfish and lends access to Spearfish City Park and the bordering Spearfish Creek. This city waterway is noted to have some of the best trout fishing in the state.

The campground itself contains 61 electric sites that can be reserved ahead of time, and more than 100 primitive campsites on a first-come, first-served basis for tent camping. All overnight users share restroom and shower facilities and quick access to either the city or the great outdoors.

Address: 404 S Canyon Street, Spearfish, South Dakota

4. Pactola Campground

Pactola Lake
Pactola Lake

The U.S. Forest Service operates the Pactola Campground alongside the shores of the massive Pactola Lake within Black Hills National Forest. Pactola is the largest reservoir in the Black Hills, with 14 miles of shoreline to explore.

Water and land activities are abundant at the Pactola Campground and surrounding reservoir complex, with popular activities including boating, scuba diving, and hiking the two-mile Osprey Trail.

The campground also lends access to many nearby Black Hills attractions not far from the shores— it's within quick driving distance of iconic spots like Mount Rushmore, the Crazy Horse Memorial, and Custer State Park. This proximity to everything bolsters Pactola's status as one of the best campgrounds near Mount Rushmore.

With their prime location and many things to do nearby, the 80-plus non-electric sites of Pactola Campground tend to fill up quickly during the summer. The sites accommodate vehicles up to 35 feet in length.

All overnight users and day visitors have access to vault toilets and potable water, as well as a full-service marina, where you can rent boats, grab a bite to eat, or simply enjoy the water set against the Black Hills.

Location: Custer Gulch Road, Rapid City, South Dakota

5. Gavin's Point Campground, Lewis and Clark Recreation Area

Aerial view of Lewis and Clark Recreation Area
Aerial view of Lewis and Clark Recreation Area

The impoundment of the Missouri River, known as Lewis and Clark Lake, separates the states of South Dakota and Nebraska and is a popular spot for people all over the Midwest to enjoy. And the Lewis and Clark Recreation Area is also a popular place to spend the night, comprising three different campground areas and more than 400 sites.

While there are no bad camping spots at this recreation area, the Gavin's Point section on the area's west end is worth noting. It has nearly 90 RV sites and 10 cabins and features running-water restroom facilities, playgrounds, and a bike path that spans the scenic area.

The biggest draw is the Gavin's Point Dam, which holds back the entire Missouri River to create this massive reservoir and recreation area. The campground is open year-round, though water facilities like restrooms and showers may be limited between October and April.

Address: 43349 SD-52, Yankton, South Dakota

6. Horse Thief Campground and RV Resort

razy Horse Memorial, near Horse Thief Campground and RV Resort
Crazy Horse Memorial, near Horse Thief Campground and RV Resort | Photo Copyright: Brad Lane

Nestled between Mount Rushmore and the Crazy Horse Memorial, the Horse Thief Campground and RV Resort provides plenty of overnight options to enjoy camping in the Black Hills.

Ranging from non-electric tent sites to fully furnished cottages, including a plethora of RV sites, this privately-owned campground also delivers a prime location with proximity to other Black Hills attractions. This proximity includes Custer State Park and Jewel Cave National Monument, making Horse Thief Lake Campground a perfect home base for exploring.

A tiled bathhouse is available for anyone staying at the Horse Thief Campground. Campers also have access to wireless internet and a small store that sells snacks, firewood, and ice. The campground is a popular family camping destination and is family-owned. The sleeping cabins at Horse Thief Campground sleep three, five, or eight people.

Address: 24391 SD-87, Hill City, South Dakota

7. Lake Vermillion Recreation Area Campgrounds

Lake Vermillion Recreation Area Campgrounds
Lake Vermillion Recreation Area Campgrounds | Photo Copyright: Brad Lane

Lake Vermillion comprises more than 500 acres of water in eastern South Dakota and is popular for fishing, boating, and swimming in the summer. With 94 electric campsites spread between three different campgrounds, Lake Vermillion Recreation Area is also a popular place to spend the night.

Visitors to Lake Vermillion are encouraged to bring their own vessel and use the boat ramp to access the water. Those without watercraft can rent canoes, kayaks, and paddleboards from a concessionaire.

All campsites at Lake Vermillion can accommodate any camping unit, with electrical hookups available. Each campground contains a restroom and shower facility. For perhaps the best outlook, the camping cabins in the West Campground offer waterfront views from their front porches.

The only designated hiking trail in the recreation area, the Otter Stream Trail, is a scenic 1.25-mile hike that's easy for the whole family to enjoy.

Address: 26140 451st Avenue, Canistota, South Dakota

8. Elk Mountain Campground, Wind Cave National Park

Bison in Wind Cave National Park
Bison in Wind Cave National Park

Wind Cave National Park is less than an hour's drive south of Mount Rushmore and is well worth the drive. The park presents a sharp contrast of landscapes, including access to one of the largest cave complexes in the world. And the best way to experience both worlds is by staying at the National Park's Elk Mountain Campground.

This campground is unique in the area in that it operates year-round. It has 62 sites available, with more than half able to accommodate RVs. No electrical hookups are available.

Drinking water and flushing toilets are available between late May through September, and reservations are also available for this time of year. Sites are first-come, first-served throughout the rest of the year and offered at half-rate. Vault toilets are available in the winter season, but the water is turned off.

Caving is certainly the most popular activity at the park. A guided tour is the only way to access the cave, and these are also offered throughout the year, except for Christmas. But, spend some time exploring the rolling prairie grassland comprising the aboveground environment, and keep an eye out for roaming bison.

Address: 26611 Hwy 385, Hot Springs, South Dakota

9. Blue Bell Campground, Custer State Park

Buffalo on the Wilderness Loop Road near the Blue Bell Campground
Buffalo on the Wilderness Loop Road near the Blue Bell Campground | Photo Copyright: Brad Lane

Custer State Park encompasses 71,000 acres with nine different campgrounds. This much space makes it hard to decide where to stay if you only have a few nights. While all the campgrounds in Custer could top the list, the key is not choosing where to stay, but what you want to do with your visit.

If wildlife spotting is high on your list, the Blue Bell Campground is a great choice. This popular campground lends quick access to the 18-mile Wildlife Loop Road at the southern end of the park.

The campground has 31 campsites for tents or RVs, as well as 23 camping cabins situated among a tranquil pinewood setting. The campground comes complete with shared restroom facilities that include warm showers.

All overnight options at Blue Bell Campground make it easy to get an early morning start on the Wilderness Loop Road, which is the best time to see the native bison, bighorn sheep, and prairie dogs.

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

10. Roubaix Lake Campground

Roubaix Lake Campground
Roubaix Lake Campground | Photo Copyright: Brad Lane

Roubaix Lake Campground is in the heart of the Black Hills National Forest, approximately 13 miles south of the Wild West city of Deadwood. The U.S. Forest Service operates this reservable campground. The four loops of the campground tend to fill up quickly during the summer.

This campground features one of the best swimming and fishing holes found in the Black Hills. Other popular activities at Roubaix Lake include non-motorized boating, hiking, and exploring the vast Black Hills National Forest that surrounds the campgrounds.

Fresh drinking water is available at Roubaix Lake, and all campers and visitors share communal vault toilets. All sites at the campground are nonelectric and range in capacity from tent-only to RV-capable. Reservations for campsites can be made six months ahead of time.

The Roubaix Lake Campground is at an elevation of 5,500 feet, which means summer temperatures rarely reach uncomfortably warm. The campground operates between mid-May and early September.

Location: Forest Road 255, Deadwood, South Dakota

11. Palisades State Park Campground

A hiker near the Palisades State Park Campground
A hiker near the Palisades State Park Campground | Photo Copyright: Brad Lane

Palisades State Park provides a unique environment to explore in eastern South Dakota, defined by the towering pink Sioux Quartzite jutting along the shores of Split Rock Creek. Visitors to Palisades State Park enjoy hiking the creekside trails that expose the rocky environment, and for those with the right gear and experience, participating in some of the best rock climbing in the state.

For those looking to spend the night, Palisades offers 37 campsites split between non-electric and electric and ranging from tent-only to RV-accessible.

All campsites, as well as the six cabins available to rent, have communal access to flushing toilets and running water. The real appeal of the campground is its proximity to the state park's many natural attractions. Campers at Palisades State Park reach the creek with a short walk and can spend the whole day exploring not far from their tent or RV.

Address: 25495 485th Avenue, Garretson, South Dakota

12. Lake Park Campground & Cottages

The Lake Park Campground is four miles southwest of Rapid City and serves as a gateway into the Black Hills National Forest. Its campground and cottages offer every level of camping experience you could ask for, including tent sites and places to park an RV.

Lake Park also features fantastic cottages ranging from studios to deluxe two bedrooms. Every overnight space at the campground features access to fresh drinking water and full-service restroom facilities.

Wherever you stay at Lake Park, overnight users are encouraged to partake in one of the campground's many on-location activities. These include exploring the seven-mile bike path, fishing in Rapid Creek, or renting a non-motorized boat to enjoy the adjoining Canyon Lake.

The campground is four miles from downtown Rapid City, where several restaurants and grocery stores are available to restock camping supplies.

Address: 2850 Chapel Lane, Rapid City, South Dakota

13. Big Sioux Recreation Area Campground

Big Sioux Recreation Area Campground
Big Sioux Recreation Area Campground | Photo Copyright: Brad Lane

The Big Sioux Recreation Area gives residents of South Dakota's biggest city a quick outlet for adventure, located 10 miles east of Sioux Falls on the banks of the Big Sioux River.

The recreation area features an 18-hole disc golf course, five miles of woodland trails, and an environment unique to southeastern South Dakota. Big Sioux Recreation Area also lends easy access to the Big Sioux River, including the Jay Heath Canoe & Kayak Trail.

The majority of the 50 campsites in the Big Sioux Campground accommodate RVs, with 50-amp service, while a few campsites are designated as non-electric and tent-only. All campsites have access to potable-water spigots and share a comfort station complete with flushing toilets and warm showers.

Individual campsites are closed from October to May, though the camper cabins at the campground are open throughout the winter.

Address: 410 W Park Street, Brandon, South Dakota

Map of Campgrounds in South Dakota

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More Places to Visit in South Dakota: Where you want to stay in South Dakota really depends on what you want to do. For a look at the culture of South Dakota, the state's largest city, Sioux Falls, offers a charming downtown neighborhood and a namesake water feature. In the enchanting Black Hills of South Dakota, the city of Custer makes a great home base for adventure. Likewise, the Wild West town of Deadwood offers an authentic Black Hills experience.