An RV trip to see the Mount Rushmore National Monument isn’t complete until you take in Custer State Park and the Black Hills of South Dakota.
Planning your RV excursion means you won’t miss out on any of the top attractions in this historical region of the US, and this guide will show you the way.
Inside this guide are the must-do’s at Mt. Rushmore and Custer State Park, as well as all the sites to explore and experience in the Black Hills.
Then, with a listing of the best nearby RV parks and campgrounds to stay in, you’ll be set to embark on an exciting adventure to the wild, wild, west!
What Are the Black Hills of South Dakota?
The Black Hills are a mountain range on the southwestern border of South Dakota.
The area encompasses over five million acres and sits among miles of low-rolling grasslands, so it makes quite an impression.
The majority of the land is part of the Black Hills National Forest, with Rapid City the area’s hub.
Other popular destination towns are the historic Deadwood, Custer, Keystone, Sturgis, and Hill City, where you can shop, dine, and learn more about the local culture and history.
Black Hills Monuments
Mount Rushmore and Crazy Horse are the two principal monuments in the Black Hills that you should not miss.
The Mount Rushmore Monument symbolizes America but has a history of controversy over its content and impact on the environment. Further down, there are more details on Mount Rushmore, including what to do at the memorial.
The Crazy Horse Memorial is an homage to a great Lakota warrior and is still in the process of being carved.
The monument is a way to teach guests about Native American culture and history. Learn even more by stopping at the Indian Museum of North America and Native American Educational and Cultural Center that expand on the topic more thoroughly.
The Laser Light Show at Dark is a seasonal event that is another cool item to add to your RV trip bucket list that kids especially enjoy.
High-season for visiting the Crazy Horse Memorial is May 27 through September 30, with the entrance prices below a few dollars less each for the rest of the year. There is no extra fee to park your RV or vehicle.
- $35.00 for 3 or more people in one vehicle
- $30.00 for 2 people in one vehicle
- $15.00 for 1 person in a vehicle
- $10.00 per person on motorcycles, bicycles, or walking
Free readmission passes are available at the Welcome Center, suitable for a one-time return within three days of your initial visit.
Top Things to See at Mount Rushmore National Memorial
This massive sculpture was an idea formed in 1923 to bring tourists to the little-traveled Black Hills region of South Dakota. Started in 1927 and completed in 1941, this National Monument sees three million visitors each year, helping the area’s small businesses thrive.
Entry is free to the National Monument, but parking for vehicles or RVs is $10 each, $5 for seniors 62+, or free for active-duty military.
Admire the Rock Sculpture
When you see the sculpted faces of George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt, and Abraham Lincoln in person, it will be a memorable experience that you’ll want to set aside time to take in.
Visit the Lincoln Borglum Visitor Center
The Lincoln Borglum Center is beneath the Grand View Terrace and houses exhibits and runs a short film about how and why this memorial was created.
Walk the Presidential Trail
The Presidential Trail is a 0.6-mile trail with 422 steps that takes you closer to the monument and lets you get a glimpse of local wildlife and flora.
Mount Rushmore The Presidential Trail (Video)
Visit the the Sculptor’s Studio
The Sculptor’s Studio offers a short ranger talk and exhibits that detail the workers who made the monument a reality.
Stop at Carvers’ Café
This cafe at the monument offers a variety of meals, ice cream, and a gift shop to pick up some souvenirs.
Top Things to See and Do in Custer State Park
Custer State Park features 71,000-acres acres of natural wonderland that includes five lakes and activities such as hiking, bird watching, biking, fishing, water sports, and swimming.
Bison and elk sightings, among other wildlife, are common. Leashed pets are allowed, as long as they are not taken to beach areas.
The entry fee is $20 per vehicle for a 7-day pass.
Hike to Black Elk Peak
Black Elk Peak is the highest point you’ll find between the Pyrenees Mountains in France and the Rocky Mountains in Colorado and is an impressive hike if you have the stamina for this 8-mile loop. At 7,200 feet in elevation at the summit, you’ll be able to see stunning vistas and even Mt. Rushmore!
Check Out the Custer State Park Visitor Center
Enjoy a 20-minute show on the park and natural habitat, chat with staff, enjoy exhibits, and browse the gift shop. You can sign up for various programs for families or kids throughout the year for a hands-on experience.
Take a Break at the Custer State Park Wildlife Station Visitor Center
Pop into the Wildlife Station Visitor Center to learn more from the updated displays on the natural habitat and wildlife in the park, enjoy amazing views, and ask rangers questions about the area.
Experience the Custer State Park Buffalo Roundup and Arts Festival
If you can plan to be in the park the few days in September when they have the annual Buffalo Roundup and Arts Festival you’ll be in for a treat.
Watch as cowboys and cowgirls round up over 1,000 heads of buffalo as part of the wildlife management program. So bring your camp chairs, binoculars, and sunscreen, and enjoy the show.
Top Things to See and Do in the Black Hills
The best time to visit Black Hills is April through September, as snowfall will often close the roads between mid-October and March.
Take note that the annual Sturgis Motorcycle Rally is in early August.
This 10-day event crushes the entire region with riders and vendors who reach close to 500,000 in number. As a result, getting campground reservations during the rally will be a challenge unless you book well in advance.
The Black Hills Region is full of both popular and off-the-beaten-path activities and sights to behold all year round.
While you probably won’t be able to see it all on your first RV trip, here are the top things to do when you’re visiting the Black Hills of South Dakota:
Drive the Black Hills Scenic Loops and Byways
There are three main driving loops through the Black Hills that allow you to take in breathtaking views, traverse bridges, spot wildlife, and make stops at off-road attractions.
Within Custer State Park is the 18-mile Wildlife Loop Road, where you can see herds of bison and beautiful landscapes. This road is RV accessible.
THE BLACK HILLS LOOP
The Black Hills Loop (US Highway 385) is another wonderful road trip that is only accessible with a car, as most RVs will not fit through the one-lane tunnels with low clearance or handle the hairpin turns. The loop goes through several towns and past lakes and spires worth seeing.
THE SPEARFISH CANYON SCENIC BYWAY
The 20-mile drive takes you down US 14A through the narrow, ancient Spearfish Canyon that features 1,000-foot limestone palisades, waterfalls, fantastic foliage, and mountain views. The road is passable with most recreational vehicles.
THE NEEDLES HIGHWAY
The Needles Highway is a 14-mile drive that features some of the most stunning scenery in the Black Hills. Unfortunately, the road isn’t RV-friendly so try to arrange other transport to experience this highway.
Stop at Wall Drug
Wall Drug has billboards for miles around, beckoning you to visit this campy, touristy, yet fun and iconic hodge-podge of shops, art galleries, restaurants, and yes, an actual drug store that covers 76,000-square-feet.
Open since 1931; you can wander around and stretch your legs, take pictures, get a bite to eat, and grab snacks for the road, especially their donuts!
Visit the Museum of Geology
The Museum of Geology in Rapid City features paleontology exhibits with original fossils found in South Dakota, along with all types of displays of minerals found elsewhere in the US and world.
Museum of Geology (Video)
Tour the Minuteman Missile National Historic Site
The Minuteman Missile National Historic Site has three “exhibits” down a 15-mile stretch of Interstate 90. The site highlights the mission of the Cold War and the missile silos hidden beneath the grasses of the Great Plains.
The visitor center and Delta-09 missile silo are open and don’t require reservations. The Delta-01 Launch Control Facility has tours daily but needs reservations.
Visit Historic Deadwood
Step back in time when you visit Deadwood, this small town surrounded by the Black Hills National Forest. The downtown looks straight out of a western movie set yet is open for business with restaurants, shops, gambling halls, and hotels.
Legendary characters from the wild west spent time here, so take your time and enjoy the unique vibe only found in Deadwood.
Visit Wind Cave National Park and Jewel Cave National Monument
The caves offer guided tours, and tickets sell out fast on a strict first-come, first-served structure, so be there early to snag a spot.
Some specialty cave hikes allow reservations, so visit their websites to learn more.
Visit the Journey Museum and Learning Center
The Journey Museum and Learning Center in Rapid City houses a significant collection of prehistoric artifacts that explain the history of the western Great Plains region.
Top RV Parks In the Black Hills Region
I put together the top RV campgrounds for visiting Mount Rushmore, Custer State Park, and the Black Hills of South Dakota. These RV parks have a convenient location to explore the region and are a great spot to relax between adventures.
Rafter J Bar Ranch,
Located in Hill City, SD, the Rafter J Bar Ranch is a pristine campground, with all the amenities you can ask for. The park offers six different camping zones, most with full hookup RV campsites.
With the George Mickelson Hiking and Biking Trail adjacent to the property, you can quickly take a stroll or ride and take in the scenery.
Rates: Daily from $65
- Pool and Hot Tub
- Wi-Fi and Satellite TV Hookups
- Camp Store
- Playground, Basketball, and Volleyball
- Gas and Propane
- Snack Bar
Rafter J Bar Ranch Campground (Video)
Mount Rushmore Resort and Lodge KOA
The Mount Rushmore Resort and Lodge KOA in Palmer Gulch offers plenty of full-hookup campsites for guests RVing the Black Hills of South Dakota. This campground delivers a rustic feel with immersion in the natural landscape for a peaceful yet entertaining vacation.
Rates: Daily $64
- Campsite picnic table and fire ring
- Camping kitchen for guest use
- Two Camp Stores
- Dump Station
- Pools and Hot Tubs
- 3 Laundry Centers
- 5 Comfort Stations/Bath Houses
RV Camping at Mount Rushmore KOA at Palmer Gulch Resort (Video)
Rushmore Shadows Resort
Rushmore Shadows Resort in Rapid City is a short 20-minute drive to the entrance of Mount Rushmore. The campground has 193 full hookup RV sites and plenty of activities and amenities to keep adults and kids happy.
The park also offers bus tours to Mount Rushmore if you want to let someone else do the driving.
Rates: Daily $30
- Mini Golf
- Dump Station
- Camp Store
- Bus tour
- Pool and Hot Tub
Rushmore Shadows Resort Review (Video)
Grizzly Creek Campground
Grizzly Creek Campground in Hill City is another option convenient for exploring the Black Hills region. Part of the National Forest, the campground has 20 campsites that will fit smaller RVs but don’t offer hookups or showers, so prepare to boondock.
Rates: Daily $20
- Closest campground to Mt. Rushmore
- Potable water (during peak season only)
- Vault toilets
- Sites have picnic table and fire ring
Grizzly Creek Campground (Video)
American Buffalo Resort
American Buffalo Resort in Rapid City has 137 full-hookup RV sites, and is big rig friendly. You can enjoy proximity to all the top attractions in the area and come back to pine-shaded campsites and walking trails in this clean and friendly campground.
Rates: Daily from $50-$100 FHU/$40-$50 Water/Elec Only
- Showers and Restrooms
- Heated Pool and Hot Tub
- Mini Golf
- Stage and Outdoor Amphitheater
American Buffalo Resort (Video)
Kemp’s Kamp in Keystone offers 30 RV sites and tons of amazing views, friendly staff, and updated amenities that make this RV park a hidden gem. This family-friendly park is super close to all the local attractions and can fit all sizes of motorhomes, fifth wheels, and travel trailers.
Rates: Daily average $41
- Heated Pool
- Camp Store
- Wi-Fi (but spotty service)
- Elevated Fire Pits
- Satellite-friendly campsites
- Big rigs are welcome
Elk Haven Horse Camp
Elk Haven Horse Camp offers one of the most unique RVing experiences you can have when you stay at one of their 22 campsites with full hookups. Instead of driving to Mt. Rushmore, you can take a guided four-hour horseback ride to tour the monument, giving you a new perspective of the natural landscape.
Rates: Daily $40
- Horse Trails
- Camp Store with Gifts
- Covered Deck with Rocking Chairs
Elk Haven Horse Campground (Video)
Lake Park Campground
Lake Park Campground in Rapid City has 38 campsites with full hookups within a 30-minute drive to the main area attractions. This cozy campground does not allow campfires but does offer a wonderful backdrop for making vacation memories.
Rates: Daily starts at $58 FHU/$43 Water and electric only
- Camp Store
- Dog Walk
- Hiking and Biking Trails
- Playground and Horseshoes
- Boat Rentals
Lake Park Campground and Cottages (Video)
Deadwood/Black Hills KOA
The Deadwood/Black Hills KOA in Deadwood is another perfect landing spot within the attractions of the Black Hills region. The park sits within tall pine forests in the hills of historic Deadwood, where Wild Bill Hickok and Calamity Jane are buried.
Rates: Daily rates start at $46
- Camp Store
- Cable and Wi-Fi
- Tour Shuttle and Deadwood Trolley
- Hot Tub
- Mining Trough
- Kamp K9
Deadwood KOA Lead South Dakota SD (Video)
Join 712+ Passionate RVers
South Dakota should be on every RVers bucket list, with so many natural wonders and fun adventures to experience, including Mount Rushmore, Custer State Park, and the Black Hills region.
I hope you put this helpful guide to good use planning a trip, so you know what to expect and can book the best RV parks, campgrounds, and attractions to visit.
With a great plan in place, you can relax and enjoy this amazing region of the US on your next RV trip!
"Man cannot discover new oceans unless he has the courage to lose sight of the shore."
-- Andre Gide