Camping in South Dakota

      Your insider guide to idyllic camping locations in South Dakota.

      Your Go-To South Dakota Camping Guide

      South Dakota unfurls a landscape like a Wild West movie come alive. From the rugged peaks of the Black Hills to the otherworldly spires of the Badlands National Park, it’s a camper’s dream. Picture yourself roasting marshmallows under a blanket of stars, listening to coyotes howl in the distance. 

      Trade in your hiking boots for a kayak paddle, or ditch the flashlight for a campfire. South Dakota lets you choose your own adventure, from exploring hidden caves to soaking up the sun on pristine lakes.

      Best Places To Camp In South Dakota

      Spearfish Canyon

      Lush forests, cascading waterfalls, and towering limestone cliffs create a picturesque landscape. Campgrounds within the canyon provide easy access to hiking trails like the informative Spearfish Canyon Nature Trail, leading visitors past waterfalls and historical sites.

      Spearfish Canyon South Dakota

      Wind Cave National Park

      Delve into the depths of the earth and explore Wind Cave National Park, home to the sixth-longest cave system in the world. Above ground, the rolling hills and grasslands offer scenic camping opportunities. Campgrounds within the park cater to various preferences, with options ranging from primitive sites to fully equipped RV parks with hookups. Hikers can enjoy trails like the informative Wind Cave National Park Trail, leading visitors past scenic overlooks and historical sites.

      Wind Cave National Park South Dakota

      Big Sioux Recreation Area

      Nestled along the Missouri River, the Big Sioux Recreation Area offers a peaceful escape into nature. The area boasts diverse landscapes, including rolling prairies, wooded hills, and wetlands, providing a habitat for various wildlife species. Campgrounds are conveniently located near the river, offering easy access to water-based activities like swimming, fishing, and boating. Hikers and bikers can explore the area’s trails, while birdwatchers can delight in the diverse birdlife.

      Big Sioux Recreation Area South Dakota

      Lake Herman State Park

      Escape to the serenity of Lake Herman State Park, known for its crystal-clear waters and abundant wildlife. The park offers various camping options, with campgrounds nestled amidst the trees and providing easy access to the lake. Visitors can enjoy activities like swimming, fishing, boating, and kayaking. Hikers and bikers can explore the park’s trails, while nature enthusiasts can observe a variety of birds, including bald eagles and pelicans.

      Lake Herman State Park South Dakota

      Bear Butte State Park

      Ascend the iconic Bear Butte, a solitary peak rising from the surrounding plains, and experience breathtaking panoramic views. The park offers a variety of camping options, including both developed and primitive campsites. Hikers can choose from challenging trails leading to the summit or explore the scenic trails around the base of the butte. Cultural significance surrounds Bear Butte, holding spiritual importance to many Native American tribes. Visitors are encouraged to be respectful of the cultural significance of the site.

      Bear Butte State Park South Dakota

      Things To Do In South Dakota

      Black Hills National Forest

      This iconic landscape offers diverse camping experiences, ranging from primitive campsites with breathtaking mountain views to developed campgrounds with amenities like showers and laundry facilities. Hikers can explore over 450 miles of trails, while mountain bikers and off-road enthusiasts have access to dedicated paths. 

      Spearfish Canyon State Park

      Towering limestone cliffs, cascading waterfalls, and lush forests characterize the park. Campers can choose from scenic campsites along Spearfish Creek or secluded sites nestled amidst the trees. Hiking trails lead to breathtaking overlooks and hidden waterfalls, while the historic town of Spearfish provides a charming base for exploring the area.

      Lewis & Clark State Recreation Area

      Situated on the shores of Lewis and Clark Lake, this recreation area offers a plethora of water-based activities for campers. Fishing, boating, and swimming are popular pursuits, while the park also features hiking and biking trails. Campgrounds cater to various preferences, with options ranging from primitive sites to fully equipped campgrounds with amenities like electricity and showers.

      Palisades State Park

       Located along the eastern shore of Sylvan Lake, Palisades State Park is known for its dramatic quartzite cliffs and stunning views. Campers can enjoy scenic vistas from their campsites or explore the park's network of hiking and biking trails. Rock climbing enthusiasts can tackle the challenging quartzite cliffs, while water sports enthusiasts can enjoy kayaking, canoeing, and paddleboarding on the lake. 

      Black Hills

      The Black Hills region, spanning southwestern South Dakota and extending into Wyoming, is a treasure trove of natural beauty, historical significance, and outdoor activities. Nestled within the hills are iconic landmarks like Mount Rushmore and Crazy Horse Memorial, alongside scenic drives, hiking trails, caves, and charming towns like Deadwood and Keystone. Visitors can explore the rich history of the Lakota people, indulge in recreational activities like camping, fishing, and rock climbing, or simply marvel at the awe-inspiring landscape.

      Badlands National Park

      Encompassing nearly 244,000 acres of eroded spires, buttes, and canyons, Badlands National Park offers a glimpse into a prehistoric world. The dramatic landscape, formed by millions of years of wind and water erosion, is painted in vibrant hues of red, yellow, and gray. Visitors can embark on scenic drives, hike through the otherworldly terrain, or embark on fossil-finding expeditions, uncovering remnants of ancient creatures that once roamed the area.

      Custer State Park

      Custer State Park, encompassing over 71,000 acres in the southern Black Hills, is a haven for outdoor enthusiasts and wildlife lovers. The park boasts scenic lakes, towering granite peaks, ponderosa pine forests, and rolling meadows. Visitors can observe a diverse range of wildlife roaming freely, including bison, elk, bighorn sheep, and prairie dogs.

      Mount Rushmore National Memorial

      One of the most recognizable landmarks in the United States, Mount Rushmore National Memorial features the colossal sculptures of four U.S. presidents - George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt, and Abraham Lincoln - carved into the granite face of Mount Rushmore. Visitors can walk along the Presidential Trail for a closer look at the sculptures, learn about their significance through informative exhibits, and witness the awe-inspiring sight of the presidents illuminated against the night sky.

      Crazy Horse Memorial

      An ongoing monumental sculpture under construction in the Black Hills, Crazy Horse Memorial pays homage to the Lakota warrior and leader, Crazy Horse. The colossal sculpture, which will eventually depict Crazy Horse riding a horse, is a testament to the Lakota people's cultural heritage and their fight for survival. Visitors can witness the ongoing construction process, learn about the history and significance of the memorial through informative exhibits, and appreciate the dedication and artistry behind this colossal undertaking.

      Sioux Falls

      The largest city in South Dakota, Sioux Falls is a vibrant hub offering a blend of natural beauty, historical significance, and cultural attractions. The city is named after the cascading waterfalls along the Big Sioux River, which can be admired from scenic overlooks and trails. Visitors can explore museums, art galleries, and cultural centers, or delve into the city's rich history at sites like the Old Courthouse Museum and the USS South Dakota Battleship Memorial.

      Featured South Dakota Parks

      Inspiration From Our Nearby States

      Book an RV in South Dakota

      Discover South Dakota's majestic beauty and diverse landscapes at your own pace with an RV rental. Cruise through the Badlands National Park, explore the iconic Mount Rushmore or embark on a scenic Black Hills adventure – all from the comfort of your home on wheels. Book your RV today and create unforgettable memories on your South Dakota expedition!

      Frequently Asked Questions

      Yes, dispersed camping is allowed in designated areas within national forests and grasslands like the Black Hills National Forest and Buffalo Gap National Grassland. These sites are usually primitive, lacking amenities like restrooms and showers, so be prepared to practice Leave No Trace principles and pack out all your waste.

      The summer months, June to August, offer warm weather and long daylight hours, ideal for outdoor activities. However, these months also see peak crowds and higher accommodation costs. The spring and fall offer comfortable temperatures and fewer crowds, while winter camping provides a unique and serene experience for those properly equipped.

      Reservations are highly recommended, especially during peak season, for campgrounds within state parks and national parks. You can usually make reservations online or by phone through the respective park websites. 

      Dispersed camping typically doesn't require reservations, but check with the local agency managing the specific area for any regulations.

      The essentials depend on your chosen location and camping style. However, some general recommendations include a tent, sleeping bag and pad, camping stove and fuel, cooking utensils, food and water, first-aid kit, flashlight, insect repellent, and sunscreen. For colder months, additional warm clothing and appropriate gear like a sleeping bag rated for the expected temperatures are crucial.

      Black bears can be found in the Black Hills, but encounters are rare. It's essential to practice proper food storage techniques and be familiar with bear safety guidelines. Additionally, keep an eye out for other wildlife like prairie rattlesnakes and be cautious around them.

      Many campgrounds in state and national parks offer shower and laundry facilities for a fee. However, availability and fees may vary, so check with the specific campground you plan to stay at beforehand. Dispersed camping sites typically lack these amenities, so plan accordingly.

      No, you cannot camp just anywhere in South Dakota. Camping is only allowed in designated areas like:

      • State parks and recreation areas: Over 50 state parks offer designated campsites with varying amenities.
      • National parks and forests: Dispersed camping is permitted in specific areas within the Black Hills National Forest and Buffalo Gap National Grassland, but regulations apply.
      • Private campgrounds: These offer various amenities and often cater to different budgets and preferences.

      Camping fees at South Dakota state parks vary depending on the park, campsite type (basic, electric, etc.), and length of stay. Generally, fees range from $10 to $30 per night.

      Custer State Park offers various campsites with different amenities and fees. Basic campsites typically start around $20 per night, while sites with electric hookups or other amenities may cost more.

      Walk-in camping is not officially designated in South Dakota. Dispersed camping, which allows setting up camp outside of designated campgrounds, is permitted in specific areas within national forests. 

      However, these areas are typically accessible only by foot or non-motorized means, and specific regulations regarding location, duration, and fire restrictions apply. Always check with the managing agency for the specific area you are considering to ensure you understand the regulations and limitations.

      Several private companies offer guided camping tours in South Dakota, catering to different interests and skill levels. These tours can be a great way to experience the best of the state's natural beauty and learn about the local history and culture with an experienced guide.

      Mosquitoes can be bothersome, especially near water sources, so pack insect repellent. Ticks are also present in some areas, so long pants and proper tick checks are recommended. Be mindful of flying insects like wasps and bees, especially around food and drinks.

      Cell phone reception can be unreliable, especially in remote areas and within national parks. It's best to download maps and directions beforehand and be prepared to be off the grid for some time. Consider investing in a portable satellite communicator for emergencies if venturing far from civilization.

      Most campgrounds allow pets on a leash, but specific regulations regarding breed restrictions and waste management can vary. Always check the park's website or contact them directly for their pet policy.

      Practice Leave No Trace principles by packing out all trash, including food scraps and hygiene products. Use designated campsites and fire rings, and avoid disturbing natural vegetation or wildlife. Be mindful of water usage and dispose of wastewater responsibly.

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