The Black Hills are renowned for their rugged beauty and abundance of activities for the whole family. From scenic drives to high-country hikes, there is plenty to see and do all year long. The many lakes and reservoirs dotting the Hills are a popular draw, offering recreational opportunities for every season. Whether you want to ply the waters in a speedboat, spend a lazy afternoon fishing for trout, take a cool dip on a hot day or merely skip stones across the surface, there’s a lake perfectly suited for you!
Grab your beach towel and swimsuit, pack a picnic basket, and don’t forget your fishing lures—it’s time to explore the lakes of the Black Hills.
Location: Fall River County (10 mi. SE of Hot Springs)
Overview: This 4,407-acre reservoir, created in 1949 following the construction of Angostura Dam, features 36 miles of shoreline and is renowned for its sandy beaches and abundant recreational opportunities. Four campgrounds are available for tents, RVs, and cabins. Fishing is very popular here; Angostura is stocked with walleye, smallmouth bass, crappie, northern pike, largemouth bass, perch, and bluegill. Canoes, kayaks, paddle boats, sailboats, motorboats, windsurfing, and water skiing are all allowed. Birdwatchers flock to this large body of water, which serves as an important stopover for migratory birds. The maximum water depth is 75 feet.
Amenities: Beaches, fishing docks, boat ramps, fish cleaning station, fishing pole checkout, canoe/kayak rentals, picnic shelters, playgrounds, visitor’s center.
Overview: Bear Butte Lake, located in the state park bearing its name, encompasses 215 acres. A 2.5-mile hiking trail circles the lake, with impressive views of Bear Butte. Anglers will find northern pike, crappie, smallmouth bass, perch, yellow bullhead, and bluegill. The average water depth is 7 feet, with a maximum of 13 feet.
Overview: Part of the Rocky Point Recreation Area, Belle Fourche Reservoir was created in 1911 when Orman Dam (listed on the National Register of Historic Places) was built to store water for agricultural use. The reservoir has 8,063 acres of water and 58 miles of shoreline, making it the largest lake in western South Dakota. The campground offers 62 sites, as well as cabins. It is stocked with walleye, channel catfish, smallmouth bass, white bass, perch, white crappie, and tiger muskie. Ice fishing and ice skating are popular during the winter months. The average water depth is 25 feet, but at full capacity it is as deep as 60 feet in spots.
Amenities: Beach, boat ramp, campground, dog park, fish cleaning station, picnic shelter, playground.
Overview: Located 5 miles from Custer, this 25-acre lake is small and secluded. Its no-wake boating restrictions make it ideal for fishing in solitude; species include rainbow and brown trout, smallmouth bass, northern pike, catfish, and sunfish. The adjacent campground has 23 tent-only sites, all non-electric. Abundant wildlife viewing opportunities exist; deer, elk, pronghorn antelope, and bighorn sheep are common. Birders may spot bald eagles, hawks, osprey, and peregrine falcons, along with hundreds of other species.
Overview: Canyon Lake and its namesake park are an oasis within city limits. Located on Rapid City’s west side, the 25-acre lake is a popular spot for locals and visitors, with several picnic areas and playgrounds, fishing docks, paddle boat rentals, and a paved walking/biking trail that runs alongside Rapid Creek. A resort on the west shore offers motel rooms, cabins, and a pair of lodges that can accommodate up to 38 guests, making it a popular spot for family reunions and other large gatherings. The lake is stocked with rainbow and brown trout.
Overview: Another little-known gem, Center Lake is located 9.4 miles from Custer, near the State Game Lodge. The 25-acre lake features a swimming beach, 71-site campground for tents and small RVs, fishing, and non-wake boating. Anglers will find rainbow, brown, and tiger trout (the latter are found nowhere else in the state); largemouth bass; bullhead; northern pike; catfish; sunfish; and bream/bluegill.
Amenities: Beach, boat ramp, campground, fish cleaning station, playground, horse trail/camp, fish cleaning station, picnic shelters, playground.
Location: Fall River County (1 mi. N of Hot Springs)
Overview: Located just north of Hot Springs, 32-acre Cold Brook Lake is renowned for its crystal clear waters, making it a popular option for swimmers and snorkelers. A small, primitive campground (no water or electricity) offers 12 sites, and a two-track path is perfect for a short hike or bike ride; it’s a great spot for viewing wildlife. Non-motorized boats are allowed; you’ll often see canoes, kayaks, and paddle boats plying the water. Anglers will find a wide variety of fish, including largemouth bass, rainbow trout, northern pike, catfish, and crappie.
Location: Lawrence County (6.4 mi. N of Spearfish)
Overview: This small lake (sometimes shortened to Cox Lake) near the Wyoming border is virtually unknown to all but hard-core anglers. At just 4 acres, it’s easy to overlook. Cox Lake is fed by thermal springs, making it the only lake in western South Dakota that does not freeze in the winter. It’s primarily used by fishermen, who have luck with brown and rainbow trout.
Amenities: Fishing pier.
Recreational Activities: Fishing.
Location: Lawrence County (6 mi. NE of Nemo)
Overview: Dalton Lake doesn’t receive a lot of attention, probably given its size (2.8 acres) and remote location on Little Elk Creek six miles outside of Nemo. It’s perfect for those seeking solitude; there’s an 11-site primitive campground (no water or electric hookups) and a trailhead for the popular Centennial Trail. Dalton Lake is occasionally stocked with rainbow and brook trout, but you’re advised to check with South Dakota Game, Fish, and Parks first. Non-motorized boating is allowed.
Location: Pennington County (20 mi. W of Hill City)
Overview: This sprawling 435-acre lake gets its water from Castle Creek, dammed in 1947 to store irrigation water for Pennington County. The complex includes three campgrounds, two boat launches (no-wake restrictions limit boats to 5 mph), two picnic areas, and a hiking trail that circles the lake. Easy shore access make canoeing, kayaking, and paddle boarding popular here. There are 77 camping sites available between the Custer Trail, Dutchman, and Whitetail Campgrounds. Deerfield is stocked with brook, splake, and rainbow trout; largemouth and rock bass, yellow perch, white sucker, golden shiner, and lake chub may also be found. Fly-fishing is popular on Castle Creek, where it flows into and out of the reservoir. Deerfield attracts outdoor enthusiasts during the winter months for ice fishing, ice skating, snowshoeing, and snowmobiling. Average water depth is 30 feet, though it can reach 90 feet in the vicinity of the dam.
Location: Pennington County (2 mi. NE of Mount Rushmore)
Overview: This 16-acre lake is just a stone’s throw from Mount Rushmore National Memorial, making it a popular day-use spot for anglers, swimmers, canoes, kayaks, and paddle boards. A cliff near the parking lot adjacent to the highway is popular with rock jumpers. There’s a 36-site campground for tents, trailers, and RVs, but electrical hookups are not available. A 2.8-mile out-and-back hiking trail offers scenic views of the surrounding Black Hills. Rainbow trout are most common; other species include smallmouth bass, bream/bluegill, catfish, crappie, perch, and sunfish.
Overview: This 24-acre lake is accessible via a gravel road that’s about a 20-minute drive from Spearfish. Quiet and off the beaten path, Iron Creek Lake is a great getaway for families. Tent and RV camping is available, as well as 12 rustic cabins. A limited number of electric hookups are available for an additional charge The Iron Creek Lake Store sells a variety of supplies, as well as canoe and kayak rentals. A one-mile trail circles the lake, with additional hiking options nearby. The lake is open to non-motorized boating. Anglers will mostly find rainbow trout.
Pets: Yes, with restrictions. Dogs must be leashed and are not allowed on the beach or in the swimming area.
Lakota (Biltmore) Lake
Location: Custer County (6 mi. S of Keystone)
Overview: This smaller 11-acre reservoir (also known as Biltmore Lake) is less popular than many other lakes in the Black Hills, which makes it a peaceful and secluded getaway. Non-motorized boating is allowed, but the lake is primarily used for fishing and ice fishing. Rainbow and brook trout are the dominant species, but northern pike and perch can also be found.
Overview: With a prime location on the Peter Norbeck Scenic Byway and modern amenities including a lodge, restaurant, and general store, Legion Lake is one of the most popular spots in the Black Hills. At 9 acres it isn’t the largest lake in the area, but it’s certainly one of the most scenic, and a prime spot for photographers. Camping options range from tent and RV sites to historic cabins and lodges, some large enough to accommodate entire families or wedding parties. Anglers have luck with rainbow trout, largemouth bass, and northern pike. The lake’s average depth is 9 feet (22 feet at its deepest).
Amenities: Lodge, campground, cabins, general store, swimming beach, canoe/kayak/paddle boat rentals, bike rentals, hiking trails, playground.
Overview: These twin lakes aren’t very well-known to many, making them an excellent choice if you’re looking for a serene escape. This is probably due to their remote location just a few miles from the Wyoming border. The Upper and Lower Lakes total 9 acres and primarily attract anglers, who can fish from a number of piers. They are most likely to find stocked rainbow trout lurking within the waters.
Amenities: Fishing piers.
Recreational Activities: Fishing.
Location: Pennington County (12 mi. W of Rapid City)
Overview: Pactola Lake is the largest and deepest reservoir in the Black Hills, a 785-acre complex with 14 miles of shorline and water depths reaching 150 feet. Once the site of a mining town called Pactola (and later, Camp Crook), the area was flooded in 1952 following construction of the Pactola Dam, built to provide water for Rapid City and surrounding communities. The lake is popular with locals and visitors alike, thanks to the many recreational activities available. A full-service marina offers daily, monthly, and seasonal boat slips, as well as groceries, food, gas, and laundry facilities. The lake is a mecca for boaters, accommodating craft of all types; pontoon and fishing boat rentals are available, as well as canoes and kayaks. Fishing is extremely popular; record brown trout are hauled in every year, and the spillway beneath the dam is renowned for fly-fishing. Other species include rainbow and lake trout, crappie, largemouth mass, northern pike, and kokanee salmon (only one of three locations in the entire Midwest where you can find these fish). An 88-site campground can accommodate tents, RVs, and trailers, though electrical hookups are not available. A beach provides easy access for swimming.
Overview: Roubaix (pronounced “row-bay”) Lake is only 5 acres, but its 5,500-foot elevation makes it a great escape on especially warm days. A sandy swimming beach (one of the few designated swim beaches in the Black Hills National Forest) is a draw for families with small children, and because the lake is limited to non-motorized boating, it’s usually peaceful and quiet. A multi-use trail attracts hikers, mountain bikers, and horseback riders. The adjacent campground offers 56 sites for tents, RVs, and trailers, spread across four loops. Roubaix is stocked with rainbow and brook trout.
Amenities: Swimming beach, campground, picnic areas, multi-use trail.
Location: Pennington County (15 mi. W of Rapid City)
Overview: This large, scenic lake spans 383 acres and is located just a short drive from Rapid City. Its picturesque setting, tucked between 7.5 miles of forested shoreline, makes it a favorite getaway for outdoor enthusiasts who enjoy fishing, hiking, and boating. A full-service marina offers boat rentals, bait and tackle, groceries, and outdoor equipment. The campground, situated on the south shore complex, is the largest in the Black Hills National Forest, with 129 sites spread out over multiple loops to accommodate tents, trailers, and RVs, while the north shore complex has a group campground. Swimming beaches are available on both shores, and the warm water often draws large crowds. A boat launch on the north shore serves both motorized and non-motorized boaters. Anglers may find brown and rainbow trout, largemouth bass, northern pike, white crappie, and yellow perch. Fly-fishing is popular in Spring Creek below the dam, and the lake is a hotspot for ice fishing during the winter. Sheridan Lake’s average depth is 30 feet, with a maximum of 96 feet.
Overview: At 130 acres, Stockade is the largest of the five lakes in Custer State Park. It’s also the only lake in the park that welcomes motorized boats. There are campgrounds on both the north and south shores, with a total of 65 sites for tents, RVs, and trailers, as well as 13 cabins. Electrical hookups are available for an extra fee. A swimming beach, picnic areas, and playground make the lake a popular day trip for families. The large variety of fish include largemouth and smallmouth bass, yellow perch, northern pike, black crappie, rainbow trout, bullhead, bluegill, golden shiner, and white sucker. Water depth at Stockade Lake averages 15 feet, but can reach 45 feet at its deepest.
Overview: Sylvan Lake is often called the crown jewel of Custer State Park, and it’s easy to see why. Though fairly small, the 19-acre lake—created in 1881 when a dam was built across Sunday Gulch Creek—is surrounded by magnificent rock formations and Ponderosa pine forests, making it a favorite spot for photographers and artists. Its picturesque backdrop makes it a very popular spot for weddings, as well. Non-motorized boating is allowed; canoeing, kayaking, and paddle boating (rentals are available) are big draws. A sandy swimming beach attracts families on warm summer days, and people of all ages jump from the rocks into the water. A campground offers 39 sites for tents, RVs, and trailers, with optional electric hook-ups. For a more pampered experience, the historic Sylvan Lake Lodge features 35 guest rooms, an additional 32 cabins, a full-service restaurant, convenience store, gift shop, and spectacular views of nearby Black Elk Peak, the highest point east of the Rocky Mountains. The lake provides access to several popular hiking trails, including Black Elk Peak; Sunday Gulch; Little Devils Tower; and Cathedral Spires. For a shorter stroll, take the 1.1-mile loop around the lake and you’ll be rewarded with breathtaking views. Anglers are most likely to catch rainbow or brook trout; the lake freezes over quickly, making it a go-to destination for ice fishing. Sylvan Lake’s average depth is 12 feet, but can reach a maximum of 30 feet.