Best Camping in South Dakota

By Nathan Swartz

Camping in South Dakota

Home to a national park with an otherworldly landscape, a national forest packed with Wild West history and the most beautiful landscape in the Great Plains, not to mention a plethora of open range free camping, the Mount Rushmore State is one of the more diverse places to cross the United States' Heartland when it comes to both sheer scenic beauty and RV camping alike.

See a map of all camping in South Dakota.

South Dakota State Parks

For those interested in the balance between RV hookups and a little room between you and your neighbor, South Dakota's 62 state parks that also offer campgrounds are spread nicely across the state.

In the Black Hills, Custer State Park--camping reservations are accepted and encouraged--offers half a dozen or so camping options. Sylvan Lake is one of the more popular--with its cool, pristine waters reflecting massive boulder islands near popular attractions like Hill City, Mount Rushmore and Crazy Horse Memorial--but it's impossible to go wrong when it comes to campgrounds in Custer State Park. The entire place is a refuge for bison and burros, winding roads through emerald forests and mountain views galore, with small-town charm waiting just outside of the park's boundaries.

On the other side of the state, Sioux Falls' Vermillion Recreation Area and Palisades State Park afford campers the opportunity to explore the rivers and streams of a completely different landscape, but an interesting one nonetheless. Regardless of which side of the state you enter from, and all through its interior, a state park's worth of fishing, campfires and relaxation is never too far away.

Learn more about South Dakota State Parks.

South Dakota National Parks

While national monuments like Jewel Cave and Rushmore lead scores of visitors to the Dakota's southwestern corner every year, it's Badlands National Park that takes the cake for best place to drop your jaw in awe when it comes to national parks. Badlands camping comes in all varieties, from private campgrounds outside of the park boundaries to free camping on the edge of a plateau directly within the park itself.

Where the state park and forest service offerings in the Black Hills at times rival even Badlands National Park camping as far as beauty, they also offer access to Wind Cave National Park, which in and of itself doesn't actually hold a campground.

The best way to explore all of the actual national parks, monuments, and forests in this corner of South Dakota is to pick and choose between free camping, public campgrounds and private parks as they suit your tastes and where exactly you want to be. There is simply so much to see and do in this corner of the state, one starts to imagine the entire place as one big park.

South Dakota RV Parks

If you find comfort in hookups, don't mind a few camping fees and can't find a spot in the state parks, private campgrounds are spread across the state as well. From the Big Sioux River to Sturgis, campgrounds ripe for the 50amp, water and sewer experience are everywhere. Look to places with names like Dakota Sunsets, the Roost Resort and Rafter J for some of the best experiences the state has to offer.

Learn more about South Dakota RV Parks.

South Dakota's Free Camping

While once again the blue ribbon goes to Black Hills National Forest, free camping can be found across the state. National grasslands like Fort Pierre and Buffalo Gap, along with land managed by South Dakota Game Fish and Parks (SD GFP), offer the chance to camp along the shores of dozens of lakes, for both RV and tent camping. Looking for a few simple overnight sites as you cross the state? Roadside tent sites and city parks alike are scattered across South Dakota.

Learn more about free camping in South Dakota.

National Forests in South Dakota

As you may have mustered by now, Black Hills National Forest--and its partner, Custer National Forest--offers up the vast bulk of the best camping in the state. From Rapid City and its many amenities to small towns like Hot Springs, and every inch of forest between, campers are treated to all varieties of campground options and even at the busiest times of the year, a site will be waiting for you and your particular brand of camping activities.

Don't let that keep you from exploring the rest of the Dakotas, though, as finding a backroad and pointing your rig toward the unknown is always the best way to find your next big adventure!

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Recent South Dakota Campground Reviews

Jun 25, 2022

"Beautiful dry camping"

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No hookups, no cell service, but beautiful, quiet setting for a few days. The campground did have water and pit toilets…we did not use. There is not a dump station. The dirt site was a bit unlevel but spacious! The location was great to see what the Black Hills had to offer. We loved the area.

26 reviews
Interior, SD

Cedar Pass Campground

Jun 25, 2022

"Disappointed "

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The positives to this campground is the location… right in the Badlands and we had an electric site. We did have great cell service, enough to stream. The negatives was the site was basically a pull off on the gravel road (parallel park) with our door to the road side. There was another camper behind us that had to park their vehicle right up...
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25 reviews
Jun 24, 2022

"Love this olace"

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The view is amazing! There are a lot of spaces and in the evening, and it can get crowded. In the daytime most of the people left. I found that most stayed only one or two nights. People do need to pay attention to the rules before we lose this place. No parking on the grass past the signs/poles. No feeding the wildlife and take your garbage...
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Linda and John
56 reviews
Hot Springs, SD

Cold Brook Lake Campground

Jun 24, 2022

"The Moccasin Springs"

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Beautiful campground, small, and easier to get to than first imagined. Site 3 was ok but try getting sites on the outside as they back up to great views and a small creek. Site 3 is not meant for larger rigs than ours. Two vault toilet buildings, water available by spigot at the end of camp near the host, two dumpsters for trash, no...
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Nomad Reign RV
92 reviews
Hot Springs, SD

Fall River Ranch RV Resort

Jun 23, 2022

"New RV Park, good management, charming town"

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Work in progress with more to come. Level sites, good electric and water supply, great Wi-fi. Convenient to exploring Wind Cave, Custer State Park, Mount Rushmore, and Crazy Horse monuments (30-90 min drives). Tetherball, bean bag toss, and ladder ball were in place but more amenities are planned.

2 reviews