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.
- 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.
The Best Camping In Black Hills National Forest
Granite cliffs hang like hard hats from the velvet green forests that pour over the mountains and lean in on the small towns that make up this southwestern most corner of South Dakota. From Mount Rushmore to Crazy Horse, biker gangs to buffalo, there is so much to explore in the Black Hills.
Many a westbound traveler has gone hands-off-the-wheel straight as they leave the populated Eastern United States to traverse our Great Plains and the relatively, flat, straight roads with far and few between, only to see signs for the Black Hills and curiosity piqued venture into what may be the nations most enjoyable national forest experience.
Were it not for the multitude of small communities and privately owned land that populates the interior of the forest itself, this entire region may well have earned national park status, but the mix of state land, main street and national forest go together like chili and a bowl and provide the buffet of options for the most minimalist tent campers to those of us who just want to plug in and chill out.
About Our Travels To The Black Hills National Forest
My first trip to the Black Hills was nearly a decade ago during a road trip with my brother Jim and some friends across America. We stopped into the region, like many folks do, for the sole purpose of seeing Mount Rushmore.
Rushmore was interesting but the real star of the show was the Black Hills National Forest. We were hooked. Since that trip weve returned many times, culminating in a to document the forest in partnership with the state and the US Forest Service.
We decided to feature the Black Hills during the fall season largely due to the breathtaking foliage displays that happen during this time of year.
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Bismarck Lake Black Hills National Forest Overview
Bismarck Lake Campground is on the edge of Bismarck Lake in the Black Hills National Forest and has 23 single-family campsites. Most sites are nice and wide with great views of the lake. Aspen and Ponderosa pine trees provide good shade to most sites. Campsite #1 is for the camp host, sites 2-21 are reservable and sites 22-23 are first-come, first-serve.
Campground amenities include drinking water and vault toilets. Each campsite also has a table, grill and fire ring. The campground does not have a dump station, but there is one on Wildlife Loop road . There is also another dump station at the Big D Texaco station at the west end of Mt. Rushmore Road in Custer .
Bismarck Lake Area Recreation
The Black Hills National Forest includes 1.25 million acres of rugged rock formations, canyons, grassland, streams, lakes and unique caves. There is also an abundance of wildlife including bighorn sheep, elk, deer, pronghorn, eagles and many other bird species. Recreation opportunities include fishing, canoeing, kayaking, hiking, biking, horseback riding, OHVs and wildlife viewing. Mt. Rushmore is also just a 30 minute drive from the campground and Jewel Cave National Monument is also nearby.
You may also be interested in Custer State Park .
The Most Magical Natural Wonder In All Of America Behold The Black Hills
Of all the magical natural places Ive traveled to in America , the Black Hills National Forest tops the list. Maybe its just the dazzling rock formations, beautiful pine forests, incredible wildlife, mesmerizing magic hour, and insane amount of recreation opportunities that exist here. Or maybe its more than just that
Theres something almost spiritual about this place . Sure the air is crisp, the forests are vibrant, and the land is serene, but theres something intangible about the Black Hills that you just have to experience for yourself.
You can feel the magic of this place.
So, to properly capture the essence of the Black Hills, we partnered with South Dakota to create a breathtaking film on the forest.
The results are, well, magical.
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Iron Creek Horse Camp
Theres a saying that, no heaven can heaven be, if my horse isnt there to welcome me. Black Hills camping is pretty close to heaven, but maybe youre one of those people who is going to need to bring your horse along for the full experience. Never fear, Black Hills National Forest has you covered on that, too. If youre planning to camp with your horse, Iron Creek Horse Camp is the perfect option.
A smaller campground, Iron Creek Horse Camp has nine sites available for $24 per night. The sites are in a remote area and there are horse paddocks onsite. Two trails leave from the campground, so you and your majestic friend can easily gallop through Black Hills beauty. There are toilets for you, and a manure disposal area for your friend. There is no potable water at this campground, but there is water for stock.
Be the first on The Dyrt to review this Black Hills camping site and share your experience to earn your Pioneer Badge!
State Park Camping In Black Hills National Forest
If hookups, bathrooms and things like picnic tables and big ol rocks to jump off of are more of your idea of camping, a handful of spectacular state parks and state recreation areas in and around the Black Hills are well-stocked with campgrounds of all shapes and sizes.
Should you find your meander tends to mosey more through the northern end of the Black Hills, where Deadwood plays time machine to a cowboy casino fantasy world and Sturgis hosts motorcycle enthusiasts by the hundreds of thousands every year, Bear Butte State Park is affordable, has cell service, andthough no hookupsoffers a vault toilet and a few other little amenities that can make all the difference when dodging crowds but not necessarily wanting to get lost in the wilderness.
Near Hot Springs, SD, places like Sheps Canyon Recreation Area provide a possible alternative from the crowds that summer naturally draws to the area, or stick close to the springs and still score a reservoir-front site at Angostura Recreation Area.
Above all else though, Custer State Park reigns supreme as far as sheer number of campgrounds and options. Sylvan Lake boasts large rock formations that form a playground of an island in the middle of a pristine piece of water with a coming of age story where Crazy Horsethe famed Native American whos own likeness is being resurrected Mt. Rushmore-style in the Black Hills at this very momentaccompanies his father on a vision quest.
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Black Hills National Forest Guide
Entrance Fees: There are no entrance fees to get into the Black Hills National Forest. This is pretty typical for national forests. Some areas are designated fee areas but by and large no fees are required here. If youd like to be on the safe side you can purchase the America the Beautiful Pass . This pass gets you into all National Parks, Forests, Monuments, and more including 2,000 sites for free after a one time $79 fee .
Sunscreen: For many of us visiting national forests in the summer means lots of sun. Seriously, some of these parks can zap you if you dont wear sunscreen. We happen to like this one because it works AND its not full of a bunch of chemicals.
Leave No Trace: Were big fans of Leave No Trace, here at MTJP. Want to learn more? Read about the seven principals of Leave No Trace here.
Insect Repellent: You hope not to need it, but you want to have it. We typically bring an Eco-Friendly Insect Repellent with us just in case.
Dogs are allowed on national forests including the Black Hills.
Custer State Park Donation Wall
The memorial bench program at Custer State has been discontinued. In its place, CSP is offering the opportunity to make gifts in honor or in memory of loved ones to help fund park improvements.
The new Tribute Wall is dedicated at the Visitor Center. The Tribute Wall program provides an opportunity to memorialize and honor loved ones, as well as provide support for park projects that will continually enhance our visitors experience.
You may make an honor or memorial gift to this program by completing the Tribute Wall Gift Form and returning it by mail, along with a check made out to Custer State Park, or by calling the park and providing credit card information.
Thank you for your support.
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Sylvan Lake Campground Custer State Park
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
Best Things To Do On The Black Hills National Forest
1. Saddle Up & Go Horseback Riding
One of the most popular and iconic activities in the Black Hills is horseback riding. Nothing feels quite so right for the setting or the western landscapes as soaking in the beauty via horseback.
Our favorite horseback riding vendor is Elk Haven which youll see featured here and in our Black Hills film.
2. Hike To the Highest Point In South Dakota, Black Elk Peak
Black Elk Peak is the highest point in all of South Dakota at 7,244 feet elevation. Hiking to the top is a wonderful way to see the best views in the Black Hills.
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Camping Tips For The Black Hills
Whether you plan to rough it at a primitive campsite or stay in a cozy cabin, these tips will help you prepare for your trip!
Check out our Family Camping Packing List to make sure you pack everything youll need.
Camping Near Black Hills National Forest Find A Free Campsite
Whether you just need to know where to camp nearby or you want to plan a free camping road trip, we’ve got you covered. You can simply use your smart phone’s GPS to find camping near you or even use our trip planner to plan your route from coast to coast.
Our community provides the best free camping information available. Free campgrounds can be hard to find. Freecampsites.net makes it easy. We give you a simple, map based search engine to find free and cheap camping areas. Community reviews and ratings provide you with up to date information and help you select the best camp site for your next camping trip.
This is a platform for sharing campgrounds and camp sites you have discovered. We are community driven, and while we will be adding many free camping spots, we hope that you will add some of your favorite camping places as well. By sharing camping information freely, we can all spend less time researching campgrounds, spend less money, and more time camping. If everyone contributes a few campsites, we’ll all have more places to go camping.
Please come back and let us know what you find!
We are not actively seeking Wal-Marts, truckstops or other parking lots and will not be adding very many of these. There are enough Wal-Mart and truck stop directories out there already. However, if a member of the community finds one of these locations to be useful for overnight RV parking and creates an entry, we may approve the listing.
Please come back and let us know what you find!
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Wrinkled Rock Campground & Climbing Area
If your main reason for looking for some Black Hills camping is to spend as much time climbing as possible, Wrinkled Rock Campground & Climbing Area is the spot for you. This campground is located just 1.7 miles from Mount Rushmore National Memorial. While climbing on the Mount Rushmore sculpture is prohibited, there are many climbing opportunities within the public lands surrounding the national memorial. Climbers can pick up information on routes at the Lincoln Borglum Museum or the Mount Rushmore Information Center.
As for the camping, this site is pretty bare bones perfect for embracing your inner dirtbag, but not suitable for large vehicles or RVs. There are toilets available, but no other amenities, so plan to bring your own water and pack out everything you pack in. The campground is considered dispersed camping by the Forest Service, which allows for a maximum stay of 14 days in any 60-day period and is fee-free.
This little gem is only a mile away from Mount Rushmore. Its nothing more than a gravel parking lot with a few tent pads and a vault toilet, but it was very quiet and perfect for hammocks. The Dyrt camper Gerri B.
Rod And Gun Campground
Rod and Gun Campground is located in the stunning northern Black Hills. It is an ideal spot to use as a basecamp when day hiking in Spearfish Canyon, located just a nine-minute drive from the iconic Roughlock Falls Trail and 22 minutes away from the Bridal Veil Falls lookout point along Spearfish Canyon Highway/U.S. Highway 14 Alternate.
After touring the scenic byway through the canyon heading north, make sure to stop at Dough Trader in Spearfish for some pizza. The sourdough crust at this locals favorite is made from an over 100-year-old starter. If you keep heading north to Belle Fourche, you can also stand in the geographic center of the United States .
Rod and Gun Campground is a smaller campground, offering only seven sites. It is adjacent to Spearfish Creek. Potable water is available during the peak season, and there are restrooms onsite. The fee is $18 per night for a site plus an additional $2 per night for an extra vehicle. Sites cannot be reserved in advance. To top it off, the campground is nearby one of the Dances with Wolves film sites for any movie buffs.
Spent almost two weeks here in the off-season. Was busy, but the sites are far enough apart for privacy/quiet. Not too far from town or the climbing areas . Would definitely recommend this place and stay here again. The Dyrt camper Linette G.
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Black Hills National Forest
Usda Forest Service, South Dakota.
Access for the Ages
With several national icons nestled among the pines of the Black Hills National Forest, this Island in the Plains serves as the backdrop for these symbols of America. Specialized campgrounds, roaded recreation opportunities and a system of trails connecting communities, showcase this Forest that provides user friendly access to year round family activities. Together the attractive features of the Black Hills National Forest, Custer State Park, and area National Parks, Memorials, and Monuments are the foundation for the local recreation economies.
Amid the splendid scenery of the Black Hills National Forest are 11 reservoirs, 30 campgrounds, 26 picnic areas, 2 scenic byways, 1,300 miles of streams, 13,000 acres of wilderness, 353 miles of trails, and much more.
Use the sidebar menu on the leftor right: find an area/find an activity to learn about all the different ways you can enjoy the outdoors in the Black Hills National Forest.
Reviews For Black Hills National Forest Recreation Map 2017
Anonymous August 5, 2017
I have quite a few of these maps. If the government does anything well, its providing a GREAT map for its national forests and parks.
Bravo to the team that keeps these updated.
Tom Mitchell April 15, 2017
This map is so large that it makes it almost unusable. The Black Hills NF is about 7.5% larger than the Bighorn NF in terms of acres, yet this map is almost twice as large. It is going to be quite a chore for my navigator to guide us around the forest. Otherwise it will be an acceptable tool to help plan our visit.
Paul Kaiser May 23, 2016
Being retired FS, the map is what I expected and it allows me to see where roads go and where private land is located. Friends and I are planning on a 10 day trip to Nemo in June to camp and ride our ATVs. Look forward to a great time.
Anonymous May 4, 2016
I purchased the map hoping to puzzle out where the Mickelson trail lay, and see how far it was from campgrounds along the way. The trail was nicely printed, along with the trailheads. Campgrounds were clearly marked. I like the sale.
JEFF CHRISTENSEN December 7, 2015
The map will be a great help to us as plan our trip South Dakota. Love the detail and the fishing spot info is an added bonus. Thank you for the prompt delivery.
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