Where to camp in the Black Hills?

Discussion in 'South Dakota' started by tfischer, Jan 5, 2018.

  1. tfischer

    tfischer Well-Known Member

    Up until now we've only camped weekends and extended weekends, and taken a family vacation the more traditional way, staying in hotels.

    This summer we hope to change this, by towing our pup to the Black Hills. But... looking for advice on where to stay. Normally our camping style is pretty rustic (we only have electricity maybe 40% of the time) but since this is for a vacation and will serve as much as a hotel as a camping trip, we definitely want electricity and probably water (although we could use the water tank if it came to that, we often do when camping normally). The kids wouldn't mind having a pool but that's not essential either. Beyond that, really don't care, other than I really don't want to be in an RV parking lot like so many private campgrounds seem to be, and shady would be nice, especially if it ends up being hot.

    One options that jumped out at me would be staying within Custer State Park (but which campground?). As for private campgrounds, Big Pine Campground near Custer stuck out as a nice one that wasn't right on top of the highway and nicely treed, plus with excellent ratings.

  2. tdiller

    tdiller Active Member

    Aug 25, 2016
  3. tfischer

    tfischer Well-Known Member

    Yeah, Google.com too.

    I was kind of hoping for people's thoughts, recommendations, and personal experiences. But thanks for taking the time for the thoughtful reply.
    eoleson1 likes this.
  4. Sneezer

    Sneezer Active Member

    Aug 8, 2015
    DFW, TX
    We were surprised how many campgrounds there were in the Black hills. We drove all through the interior and there seemed to be one nestled into every nook and cranny. I think there is a KOA in there as well. Can't offer any advice as we didn't camp on that trip. Best of luck.
    tfischer likes this.
  5. BikeNFish

    BikeNFish Active Member

    Apr 24, 2017
    Maplewood, MN
    We haven't been there since 2002 and I cannot remember which campground we stayed at, but if I were to go back, I would start searching HERE.

    I do remember that we stayed less than a 15 minute drive from Mt. Rushmore. It may have been the KOA not too far from Mt. Rushmore because I remember that there was a water-slide and pool where we stayed and the kids had a blast. See the KOA HERE but I don't know if there is still a water-slide available. The KOA may be more like the RV park you are trying to avoid.

    While in the Black Hills, we did a lot of the "touristy" stuff like:

    Reptile Gardens
    Crazy Horse Memorial
    Mt. Rushmore

    More stuff HERE.

    We also stayed a night at Devils Tower on the way to the Black Hills from Yellowstone Park. It is a couple hours from the Black Hills just over the border in Wyoming and out in the middle of nowhere (secluded and quiet). The KOA at the base of Devils Tower also has a pool and an outdoor theater where they show "Close Encounter of the Third Kind" nightly. The kids loved it.

    I hope this gives you some ideas.
    tfischer likes this.
  6. tfischer

    tfischer Well-Known Member

    I should have mentioned that I'm pretty familiar with the Black Hills, just not for camping. We went there numerous times when I was a kid, and have gone twice since I've been married. We plan on doing many of the "touristy" things on this trip, but also having some unique camping experiences.

    As for the type of campground I'm trying to avoid, here's an extreme picture. This one's in Wall (we're going to do an overnight there, probably in a hotel).

    Screen Shot 2018-01-05 at 7.18.07 PM.png
  7. matwiyj

    matwiyj Member

    May 17, 2011
    Winnipeg, Canada
    tfischer likes this.
  8. tdiller

    tdiller Active Member

    Aug 25, 2016
    Sorry just after I posted I looked at the area on recreation.gov and there is not much there with the facilities you want. If private campgrounds or state parks are cost prohibitive try some county parks or county fairgrounds. Others may suggest how those are found because I'm not sure.

  9. theseus

    theseus Centerville, OH

    Feb 6, 2007
    Centerville, OH
    My family and I stayed at the Sylvan Lake campground in Custer State Park. At the time it was Electric only. No water. We had a blast.
  10. jbirdt2001@yahoo.com

    jbirdt2001@yahoo.com Member

    Aug 9, 2011
    North Dakota
    We also stayed at Sylvan Lake Campground in 2016 a great week with much to do and see in every direction. Our only goal plan was hiking to Harney Peak which we did. Rushmore Crazy Horse are two big attractions there and of course many Geocaches to seek. We will return to continue on the Custer SP adventure.
    tfischer likes this.
  11. tfischer

    tfischer Well-Known Member

    My wife and I (and our dog) hiked up Harney peak back in 2002 when we were newlyweds. Really enjoyed it, and much else we did in the Black Hills. Hope to repeat that hike this summer with our 10 and 13 year old boys.
  12. Byrd_Huntr

    Byrd_Huntr Well-Known Member

    Jan 27, 2013
    Is that Sleepy Hollow campground?
  13. tfischer

    tfischer Well-Known Member

    I had to go back and check, but yes it is :)
    Byrd_Huntr likes this.
  14. Byrd_Huntr

    Byrd_Huntr Well-Known Member

    Jan 27, 2013
    We stayed there for two nights in our Aliner, and it was not as bad as it looks. We were only there in the evenings, but the facilities were nice. There was a group of Native Americans who came by in costume and put on a free outdoor show for campers. You can walk a block to Wall Drug and main street shops and restaurants from there, and it is a great base for exploring the Badlands. Definately not a nature experience though.
  15. Byrd_Huntr

    Byrd_Huntr Well-Known Member

    Jan 27, 2013
    We left Wall and drove to Lake Shetek State Park in SW Minnesota on our way home. Very quiet and well groomed park, and the lower campground was shady with a modern and clean shower building.
  16. MNTCamper

    MNTCamper Active Member

    Jun 14, 2014
    Well, here are my recommendations from a fellow Minnesotan. We go out to the Black Hills every year - have been doing so since '09. We've stayed at a few places, but are kind of in a rut now and always stay at Stockade lake south in Custer. We actually stay at the same site now, which is 20E I believe (has electric). I don't believe that any of the Custer SP sites other than host sites have water, but that really isn't an issue there. We have also styed at Palmer Gulch KOA. It can be OK, lots to do for kids, but it is critical that you don't stay down on the main level based on your input. It is OK up on the hill in section C. If you are there during a busy time, the place is like a city unto itself and that isn't for us - we were there for a family reunion so it was OK.

    I highly recommend staying in Custer SP, and as I mentioned, we really like Stockade Lake South. It is a small campground, can have electricity, showers are nice and the things we really like is that it is very easy to get to places from there, both in Custer SP, and then outside of that as it is only about 3 miles from the town of Custer proper. You can swim at Stockade lake, but it would be a two minute drive from the campground, you can also swim at a few other lakes in Custer assuming that you are there in the summer. In general, we don't spend much time at our campsite there as there is so much to do in the area, but we will hang out there in the evening and have great campfires - you can collect plenty of wood there for free that is already down from the previous thinning activities and piles. We do a lot of hiking there and have done all of the sites and tourist trap activities also. We hike Harney peak every year and have a few other hikes we really like. For us, Stockade is small enough to be kind of rustic, but has elec and showers and close to town and easy to get to all of the major attractions, so it works out very well.

    We will be there for the three days leading up to Memorial day this May and then head home from there. It will be the end of a two week trip where we hike across the Grand Canyon and see a few other sites out that way. It is kind of a family tradition now to hit Custer any time we head out West to camp, either on the way out or back. I can give you a lot more info if you want.
    tfischer likes this.
  17. tfischer

    tfischer Well-Known Member

    Great info, thanks! How far ahead do you need to book campsites at Custer?

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