Best Places to Camp in Western South Dakota

Some of the best memories are created around a campfire making s’mores or sharing ghost stories. Pass around the flashlight or play games like ladder ball, tag, hide-and-seek, and spend quality time with the whole family while camping. 

The Black Hills and all of Western South Dakota are home to more than 30 campground sites. From tent camping to RVs with running water and electricity or even cabins, be sure to put camping on your list of things to do this summer. Whether you’re looking for small secluded campgrounds or modern camping sites, there are plenty of options to choose from; we’ve listed a few below!

Central Hills

Black Fox Campground

With only nine campsites, the Black Fox campground is located in the Central Hills and fills up fast on the weekends. For $16 a night, you are unable to make reservations. This campground has no hookups or water available, so be sure to pack all the essentials for your outdoor getaway. There are public restroom facilities available. 

Castle Peak Campground

Same as Black Fox, Castle Peak Campground has nine sites, public restroom facilities, no hookups or water, and is in a quiet, remote location along Caste Creek. The cost is also $16 per night. 

Deerfield Reservoir Complex

Composed of three campgrounds, the Deerfield Reservoir Complex has a variety of activities for the family from fishing and biking to hiking and picnicking. The three campgrounds, Dutchman LakeWhitetail, and Custer Trails, vary in price from $16-$40 per night. Both Dutchman Lake and Whitetail are reservable, but Custer Trails is first come, first serve. Each of the campgrounds offer both tent and RV camping for a total of 77 available campsites. 

Ditch Creek Campground

Just around the corner from the Deerfield Reservoir, Ditch Creek is a quiet campground with 13 non-reservable sites. For $20 a night, you have access to water but no hookups for RVs. The sites are accessible for RVs, but don’t plan on using your AC unit unless you brought a generator. 

Pactola Reservoir Complex

Only 15 miles out of Rapid City, the complex has two separate campsites, Pactola Campground and Bear Gulch Campground. Bear Gulch is great for group camping; gather a group of friends or extracurricular club like Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts or church groups to split the cost of $110 per night. Originally an eight-site single family campground, it was recently converted into a group campground. Hand pump drinking water is available, as well as a brand new accessible toilet. Reservations are required for Bear Gulch and are available for Pactola, as well. Pactola has laundry facilities, shower facilities, and more than 80 sites available for both tents and RVs. Pactola is $26 per night. 

Sheridan Lake Complex

Split into a northern and southern campground, the complex is considered the largest campground in the Black Hills National Forest with more than 130 sites combined between the two locations. The Sheridan Lake North Campground is another site for group camping that varies in price from $50-$160 per night with only five sites. The Sheridan Lake South Shore Campground has 129 sites for both tents and RVs, along five separate loops. Reservations are available and the cost is $26 per night. While you’re camping at Sheridan Lake, take a dip at the swim beach, go for a picnic, hike the Flume or Centennial Trails, or launch a boat to go fishing. 

Northern Hills

Bear Butte State Park

The Lakota name, Mato Paha or “Bear Mountain,” was given to this site. The formation of Bear Butte is one of several intrusions of igneous rock in the Black Hills that formed millions of years ago. All campsites are non-electrical and are $11 per night. The campground is located next to the lake and isn’t far from the Summit Trail or education center. 

Note: Pets are not allowed on the Summit Trail; it is too narrow to safely accommodate hikers and pets. You are also asked not to disturb or photograph prayer cloths and tobacco ties. 

Boxelder Forks Campground

With light traffic, Boxelder is for tents only and is rarely full; it is also a first come, first serve campground with no available reservations. Choose from any of the 14 sites at just $18 a night. Squeeze all of your supplies into one vehicle or bring an extra car for an additional $2 per night. Don’t worry about packing any bottled water; there’s one main site for water available to all campers. 

Dalton Lake Campground

Similar to Boxelder Forks, the Dalton Lake Campground is a secluded site with 11 tent sites available. There are no hookups available or reservations, and the cost is $18 per night for one vehicle or $20 for two. Nearby, campers can access the Centennial Trailhead, which is open for hiking, horseback riding, and bicycling. 

Hanna Campground

With walk-in tent sites open year-round, the campground’s traditional opening is the week before Memorial Day and closes a week after Labor Day. Thirteen sites are available for a daily fee of $18 and an extra $2 for additional vehicles. Adjacent to the spruce-lined Spearfish Creek, a wide meadow and views of the pine-covered mountains offers guests a scenic and peaceful place to camp. Drinking water and restroom facilities are available for campers. 

Rod & Gun Campground

Did you know parts of the movie “Dances with Wolves” were filmed here in the Black Hills? One of those sites lies near the Rod and Gun campground, which has seven non-reservable, non-electric sites. Each site is $18 per night with an additional $2 fee for extra vehicles. Both drinking water and public restroom facilities are available for campers. Drive through Spearfish Canyon and swing by Bridal Veil or Roughlock Falls on the way to your campsite! 

Roubaix Lake Campground

Offering both group and individual camping sites, Roubaix Lake Campground has 56 total units, thirteen of which are open year-round. Roubaix Lake offers a variety of sites. Each one contains a gravel spur, picnic table, and fire ring. No electric sites are available, but RVs are welcome to bring their own generators. Drinking water and accessible vault toilets are provided. In your free time, head to the lake to go swimming, canoeing, kayaking, or fishing. There are many trails available to horseback riders, bikers, off-roaders, and hikers. Each site is $24 per night with an additional $2 for pets and $2 for extra vehicles. 

Steamboat Rock Picnic & Tent Camping Area

With a main parking area, it is only a short walk to the nine picnic and tent sites. Restrooms are available, but there is no water. Tent sites are   $14 a night and you pay an additional $5 for parking. 

Strawberry Picnic & Tent Camping Area

Similar to Steamboat Rock, this campground has five picnic/tent sites available from a short distance to the main parking area. Restrooms are available, but there is no water. Tents sites are $14 a night and you pay an additional $5 for parking. 

Timon Campground

Adjacent to Little Spearfish Creek, there are only seven available sites that are available to both tents and RVs. The sites are non-reservable and non-electric. Both restrooms and drinking water are available. Each site is $18 per night for one vehicle or $20 for two.

Northwestern Hills

Bearlodge Campground

A convenient distance from Devils Tower, this campground has eight non-reservable, non-electric sites with public restrooms and no water. There is only one accessible site for RVs; the remaining seven units are for tents. Each site is $14 per night. 

Belle Fourche River Campground

With 46 total sites, the Belle Fourche River Campground has two loops, drinking water, restrooms, and picnic shelters. The majority of sites have room for RVs up to 35 feet, but all sites are non-electrical. The campground is first come, first serve. 

Cook Lake Recreation Area

In Wyoming, hike to Warren Peak Lookout Tower from the recreation area, fish for some trout, catfish, and sunfish, go for a swim, or enjoy a nice picnic. Reservations are available for a select group of the 32 available sites. Prices vary. There is an additional $2 pet fee. Sites are non-electric, and open fires are allowed if contained and attended to. Both water and restroom facilities are available. 

Reuter Campground

With 24 campsites, reservations are encouraged. Nearby, enjoy a beautiful panoramic view of South Dakota and Wyoming or access the trailheads that are available to hikers, horses, bicyclists, and cross-country skiing. Prices vary. There is an additional $2 pet fee. Sites are non-electric, and open fires are allowed if contained and attended to. Both water and restroom facilities are available. 

Rocky Point Recreation Area

Both electrical and non-electrical sites are available for reservation as well as one of the cabins. Enjoy the archery range, boating, camping, canoeing/kayaking, and fishing at this campground. Cabins are $55 per night, electrical hookup sites are $26, and non-electrical sites are $22. The Rocky Point Recreation is located on the 8,000-acre Belle Fourche Reservoir created in 1911.

Summit Ridge Cabin

The only cabin available for rent in the Black Hills National Forest is this former fire lookout cabin. Sleeping seven comfortably, the location also has room for a trailer or tent. Reservations are required and the fee is only $35 per night. Need to know: bedding and mattresses are not provided and guests must bring their own propane for the cooking stove and wood for the wood stove/outdoor fire ring. There is no drinking water available at this site. There are two RV sites available at an additional fee but cannot be reserved separately. 

Sundance Horse Camp

Designed specifically for horses, this ten-unit campground has corrals and accessible rider loading docks, as well as restrooms and water. Hay brought in must be certified weed-free, and out of state horses must have a Coggins test. Reservations are available.  Prices vary. Sites are non-electric and able to accommodate tents, trailers, and RVs. Open fires are allowed if contained and attended to. 

Southern Hills

Angostura Recreation Area 

Choose from Cascade Campground, Cheyenne Campground, or Hat Creek Campground and make reservations for your electric/non-electric site or cabin. Cabins are $55 a night, electric sites are $26, and non-electric are $22. 

Beaver Creek Campground

Located on the border of Wyoming and South Dakota near Hill City, the campground has a total of eight non-electric, non-reservable campsites with only one accessible to RVs and trailers. Fees are payable at the entrance; it is $16 per night. Water and restrooms are available. 

Bismarck Lake Campground

Five miles from Custer, Bismarck Lake has 23 campsites (5 accessible) and provides picnic areas, accessible fishing piers, and hiking trails with developed overlooks and lake access. Bismarck Lake has a “no-wake” restriction, but canoeing and fishing are allowed.  Amenities include toilets, tent camping, and drinking water. Reservations are available for select sites. All sites are non-electric and cost $26 nightly with an additional $2 fee for pets and $2 fee for extra vehicles. 

Comanche Park Campground

This campground is the closest in the Black Hills to Jewel Cave. In total there are 34 non-electric sites for $16 a night and an additional $2 fee for pets and $2 fee for extra vehicles. Sites are spacious and shaded by towering pine trees. Comanche Park Campground has sites able to accommodate tents, trailers, and RVs. The campground is equipped with picnic tables, campfire rings, vault toilets, and drinking water; however, electrical hook-ups are not available.

Custer State Park

Discover your perfect spot in one of eleven total campgrounds throughout Custer State Park. 

Bluebell Campground

Modern, non-electrical sites are $15 and electrical are double that. 31 campsites in total and 23 cabins for $55 a night. 

Center Lake Campground

71 non-electric sites available for $19 a night. 

French Creek Natural Area

Primitive, back-country sites for $7 a night. 

French Creek Horse Camp

Modern sites for $40 a night or rent one of three cabins for $55 a night. 

Game Lodge Campground

Modern, non-electrical sites are $26 per night versus $30 per night with electric hookups. 59 campsites total and 11 cabins for $55 a night. 

Grace Coolidge Campground

Choose from six tent-only sites or one with electric hookup. Cost is $15 per tent site and $30 for an electric site. Total of 20 sites. 

Legion Lake Campground

Total of 26 modern campsites. $15 per night for a tent site, and $30 per night for sites with electric hookup. 

Stockade North Campground

Choose from 42 modern sites at $26 per night in a non-electrical site versus $30 per night with electric hookups. 

Stockade South Campground

Modern, non-electric sites are $15 and electrical are double that. 23 campsites in total and13 cabins for $55 a night.

Sylvan Lake Campground

Modern, non-electric sites are $15 and electrical are double that.

Group/Youth Areas

Group camping at $7 per person per night with a $140 minimum. Non-profit youth camping areas are 50 cents per person or $6 per night (whichever is greater). 

Grizzly Bear Campground

A tent-only campground, there are 20 sites to choose from. Because of the tight, sharp turns, towing vehicles are prohibited from the campground and overflow parking area. All sites are non-electrical, but drinking water and restroom facilities are available. A pavilion built by the Civilian Conservation Corps still stands and is available for use by campers. Reservations are available; cost is $20 nightly with an additional $2 fee for pets and $2 fee for extra vehicles. 

Horsethief Lake Campground

Reservations are highly encouraged and recommended; all sites are non-electric and cost $26 nightly with an additional $2 fee for pets and $2 fee for extra vehicles. There are a limited number of accessible sites available and 36 sites total. Several sites are tent-only. The lakeside campground is very popular as it is the closest campground to Mount Rushmore National Monument. 

Iron Creek Horse Camp

Another campground that’s great for horse-owners is Iron Creek. With nine non-electric sites, each site has a corral that holds two to three horses each. The campground is remote and has access to two trails. Each site runs $24 per night.

Oreville Campground

All sites are non-electric, and there’s an additional $2 for pets. The 26 available campsites are reservable, and the campground is located between Custer and Hill City. The spacious sites are nestled on a hillside among aspen groves and offer campers a sense of privacy. The campground has picnic tables, campfire rings, vault toilets, and drinking water. The cost per night is $20. Water is available for horses only, so bring your own drinking water. 

Redbank Spring Campground

Small and isolated, this elevated campground only has four non-reservable sites that are accessible by both tent and RV campers. Campers must pay a fee of $16 per night. The campground has access to two restroom facilities but no water. 

Sheps Canyon Recreation Area

Stay at the lodge for an indoor weekend getaway at $280 per night or reserve an electric site at $26 per night or non-electric site at $22 per night. 

Willow Creek Horse Camp

This popular site is located close to the Mount Rushmore National Monument and has access to trails and stock paddocks. Reservations are available and must be made at least four days in advance. With only eight accessible sites for RVs and tents, each site is $24 per night. Each site has a picnic area and campfire pit. 

Did you know you can set your own campsite up away from developed fee areas? General Rules: 

  • Camp 100 feet away from any road, stream, or trail and at least half a mile away from developed sites.
  • You cannot set up around developed reservoirs and campgrounds. 
  • You can only camp for a maximum of 14 days in any 60-day period. 
  • No open campfires are allowed in South Dakota portions of the national forest.
  • Open campfires are permitted in Wyoming portions of the national forest, unless a special order prohibiting such is in effect. 

Check with the closest Forest Service office for more specific information about dispersed camping.

Outside of the Hills

Badlands Camping

Camp under the stars in the Badlands at Sage Creek Campground or Cedar Pass Campground. Campers are also able to do dispersed camping anywhere that is at least half a mile away from any road or trail and is not visible from park roads. Both RV sites and tent sites are available in addition to group camping. 

Llewellyn Johns Recreation

All sites are electrical and run $15 per night. This small, get-away park offers ten quiet campsites near the Shadehill Recreation Area. 

Fun fact: many historic figures have crossed through this area including Hugh Glass and Custer’s 1874 expedition. 

Shadehill Recreation Area

Nestled on the shores of Shadehill Reservoir, the recreation area offers opportunities to enjoy land and water based activities. Did you know that the reservoir is one of Western South Dakota’s few large lakes? Stay at the lodge for $280 per night or reserve a cabin for $55 per night. All camping sights are electrical and cost $26 per night. 

Never been camping with the kiddos before? Check out this article for an introduction to camping.

compiled by Sarah Richards
2020 communications intern for Evergreen Media