Category: Mt. Rushmore

Mt. Rushmore Camping | The Complete Guide

Mt. Rushmore National Memorial is a spectacular sight to behold. The granite carved faces of Presidents Washington, Jefferson, Roosevelt, and Lincoln gaze down upon South Dakota’s Black Hills, inspiring awe…

Mt. Rushmore National Memorial is a spectacular sight to behold. The granite carved faces of Presidents Washington, Jefferson, Roosevelt, and Lincoln gaze down upon South Dakota’s Black Hills, inspiring awe for those who visit. A trip here is a highlight for many summer road trips, providing visitors with a sense of history, stunning scenery, and one of the most unique memorials in the world.

A visit to Mt. Rushmore is also a great way to see some of the surrounding area which includes beautiful national parks, Custer State Park, and the Black Hills National Forest. Given all that the area has to offer, we think planning a Mt. Rushmore camping trip is the perfect way to experience this part of the country.

Although there are no campgrounds at Mt. Rushmore, the surrounding area is full of excellent camping options. You’ll find everything from full-service RV campgrounds, to lovely car-camping area, and even some great free dispersed camping in the Black Hills.

No matter your preference, you’re sure to find the perfect campsite near Mt. Rushmore National Memorial.

Keeping reading to get all the details on camping near Mt. Rushmore.

Mt. Rushmore through clouds

 

Mt. Rushmore Camping Guide

 

Mt. Rushmore National Memorial Overview

The idea for Mt. Rushmore National Memorial was born from a desire to generate more tourism in the region all the way back in the 1920s. It took over 20 years from that initial conception until the carving of the memorial was completed in 1941. The creation was overseen by the sculptor Gutzon Borglum, whos vision helped create the stunning memorial you see today.

On any visit to Mt. Rushmore it is also important to understand that the memorial is constructed on the historic lands of the Lakota Sioux. The Lakota were originally granted the lands that encompass much of the Black Hills, including Mt. Rushmore, in 1868. However, that was quickly abandoned by the US Government when gold was discovered in the region. Today, many Lakota Sioux find Mt. Rushmore to be a symbol of the injustices they’ve endured at the hands of white settlers and the US Government.

Read more about the history and impacts of Mt. Rushmore on Native Americans here.

Today, over 2 million people visit Mt. Rushmore each year. These visitors are heavily concentrated in the summer months, although the spring and fall can also be a nice time to visit.

Keep reading to learn more about planning you visit, what to bring, and camping near Mt. Rushmore.

Flags at Mt. Rushmore

 

Visiting Mt. Rushmore

Mt. Rushmore is open to visitors 365 days per year making a visit during any season possible. The visitor center is open every day with the exception of Christmas. Below you’ll find some tips and information to make the most of your visit to Mt. Rushmore:

What to do at Mt. Rushmore

 

What to Bring

Heading out on a Mt. Rushmore camping trip involves more than simply deciding on the best campground for your needs. You’ll also have the important job of making sure you have all the right gear you’ll need to ensure a great trip.

We’re sure you’ll already have the essentials like a great tentsleeping bags, and camp chairs, but below are some of our favorite items specifically for camping near Mt. Rushmore:

  • Coleman Camping Stove – This camping classic is perfect cooking up campsite dinners.
  • Portable water container – These portable water containers are a lifesaver.
  • Cooler – A good cooler makes any camping trip better. We can’t recommend Yeti enough!
  • Black Hills Map Pack – This excellent set of maps from National Geographic covers Mt. Rushmore and the surrounding Black Hills area. Perfect for a summer road trip.
  • Black Hills Guidebook – A good guidebook will provide insights and information to help you plan your perfect trip. We like this Moon Guide to Mount Rushmore, the Black Hills, and the Badlands.

What to do at Mt. Rushmore

A visit to Mt. Rushmore will of course include a good amount of awe-struck viewing of the Memorial itself. The beautifully carved faces are truly a sight to behold. However, in addition to viewing the Memorial there are plenty of additional activities to round out your visit to Mt. Rushmore. Check out some of your best options below:

  • Hiking: There are several short hiking trails in the Mt. Rushmore area. This includes the Blackberry Trail which connects visitors with the Black Elk Wilderness area and Black Hills National Forest. The hike to Horsethief Lake also comes highly recommended.
  • Self-guided audio tour: For those looking to gain a deeper appreciation of Mt. Rushmore, we highly recommend taking the self-guided audio or multimedia tour.
  • Explore the visitor center: A stop by the visitor center will connect you with details on any special events that may be happening during your visit. This can include a ranger led talk, the evening light ceremony, and more.

Check out the full list of things to do at Mt. Rushmore on the NPS website here.

 

Hiking trail near Mt. Rushmore

Taking a hike to the nearby Black Hills is a great activity when visiting Mt. Rushmore.

 

Mt. Rushmore Camping

There are no campgrounds located at Mt. Rushmore National Memorial, however there are more than enough to suit your needs in the surrounding area.

Mt. Rushmore is located in the Black Hills of South Dakota, an incredible part of the country that is a camper’s dream with official park service campgrounds available at Badlands National Park, Devils Tower National Monument, Wind Cave National Park and more.

In addition, Custer State Park offers excellent camping just a short drive from Mt. Rushmore. You’ll also find plenty of RV campgrounds, car camping sites, and dispersed camping in the Black Hills National Forest.

The map below gives you a general sense of your campground options near Mt. Rushmore.

Campgrounds with a a blue camper trailer icon represents RV campgrounds near the Mount Rushmore while the red tent icon represents car camping options.

For those looking to explore some of the other highlights of South Dakota and the Black Hills, check out our other camping guides below:

RV campgrounds near Mt. Rushmore

RV camping trips to Mt. Rushmore are very popular and you’ll have tons of excellent options to choose from in the surrounding area. There are several RV campgrounds near Mt Rushmore and even more options if you’re willing to drive a bit. Either way, you’re sure to find the perfect campground for your needs.

Keep reading to learn more.

RV Campgrounds near Mt. Rushmore

 

Rushmore View RV Park

Number of sites: Plenty!
Fee: Varies
Capacity: None stated.
RVs: Yes, full hookups available.
Reservations: Recommended. Click here to reserve.
Pets: Allowed
More Information

The Rushmore View RV Park is located just north of Mt. Rushmore and is the closest RV campground to the Memorial. This is a great campground for those interested in also exploring Custer State Park.  The campsites at Rushmore View are generally better for smaller RVs, although they do have a few sites that can accommodate larger rigs.

Amenities include easy access to a variety of services in the town of Keystone, including gas stations, a convenience store, laundry facilities and more. Rushmore View RV Park is your best bet if you value location more than anything else.

 

Mount Rushmore KOA Campground

Number of sites: Plenty!
Fee: $75 – $125/night
Capacity: None stated.
RVs: Yes, full hookups available.
Reservations: Recommended. Click here to reserve.
Pets: Allowed
More Information

Located due west from Mt. Rushmore along State Highway 214, the Mount Rushmore KOA offers tons of amenities in close proximity to the Memorial. You can expect the full slate of KOA style amenities here, including a pool, cable tv, WiFi, and small shop. This is an excellent location for exploring not only Mt. Rushmore, but also everything the Black Hills have to offer.

We don’t recommend KOAs for those in search of quiet, but you certainly can’t beat all the amenities if that is what you’re after!

 

Holy Smoke Resort

Number of sites: 21 sites
Fee: $45/night for 2 people. Additional people $2.50/night.
Capacity: None stated.
RVs: Yes, full hookups available.
Reservations: Recommended. Click here to reserve.
Pets: Allowed
More Information

The Holy Smoke Resort Campground is located on State Highway 16A, just north of Mt. Rushmore and the town of Keystone. The campground is part of a larger resort complex that includes vacation homes, cabins, and more. At Holy Smoke you’ll find 21 tightly spaced campsites that feature picnic tables, WiFi, and plenty of big shade trees.

Keep in mind that there are no bathroom or shower facilities at the campground!

 

Spokane Creek Campground

Number of sites: 46 sites
Fee: $25 – $45/night
Capacity: None stated.
RVs: Yes, electric available.
Reservations: Recommended. Click here to reserve.
Pets: Allowed
More Information

The Spokane Creek Campground is well located just south of Mt. Rushmore. Situated just a short drive from Custer State Park, this is a good place to stay for those hoping to explore more than just Mt. Rushmore on their trip. This is a quiet campground set in a beautiful location.

Amenities at Spokane Creek include an outdoor pool, basketball court, mini-golf, and a small coffee shop.

 

Black Elk Resort

Number of sites: 8 sites
Fee: $49 – $55/night
Capacity: Max of 6 people per campsite.
RVs: Yes, full hookups available.
Reservations: Recommended. Click here to reserve.
Pets: Allowed
More Information

The Black Elk Resort is a small RV campground with just eight campsites available. Located north of Mt. Rushmore, Black Elk is popular for its cozy feel and friendly staff. Amenities here include the Palmer Creek Tap Room, a playground, nightly campfires, showers, and laundry facilities.

Those staying at Black Elk are also sure to enjoy the immaculately maintained grounds!

 

Buffalo Ridge Camp Resort

Number of sites: Plenty!
Fee: Varies
Capacity: None stated.
RVs: Yes, full hookups available.
Reservations: Recommended. Click here to reserve.
Pets: Allowed
More Information

The Buffalo Ridge Camp Resort is perfect for those looking to stay somewhere with tons of amenities and things to do. Located near the town of Custer, SD this isn’t the closest campground to Mt. Rushmore, but it more than makes up for it with so much to do. Amenities include multiple pools, a small general store selling essentials, kids playground, shower facilities, and more.

 

Big Pine Campground

Number of sites: Plenty!
Fee: $44 – $50/night
Capacity: Prices based on 4 people per campsite. Max of 6 per site.
RVs: Yes, full hookups available.
Reservations: Recommended. Call (605) 673-4054 to reserve.
Pets: Allowed
More Information

The Big Pine Campground is located the furthest from Mt. Rushmore of all the options included in this guide. However, it still makes a great place to camp, especially when other campgrounds are full. The campsites at Big Pine are nicely shaded and the location provides convenient access to the town of Custer, SD.

You’ll find excellent amenities at Big Pine, including a game room, hot showers, free WiFi, and more.

 

Car camping sites near Mt. Rushmore

If you’re looking for car camping sites near Mt. Rushmore, you’ll have many great options to choose from. We have included your best bets below and you’ll also have good luck at any of the campgrounds included in the RV section above.

Keep reading to learn more.

 

Car camping near Mt. Rushmore

 

Horsethief Lake Campground

Number of sites: 36 campsites
Fee: $26/night
RVs: Yes, but no hookups. Smaller rigs are recommended.
Reservations: Recommended. Visit Recreation.gov to reserve
Pets: Allowed

The Horsethief Lake campground is located just two miles from Mt. Rushmore and sits adjacent to the beautiful Horsethief Lake. This Forest Service campground has 36 individual campsites with easy access to drinking water and restrooms. The sites are set among towering pine trees and there is a camp host on-site during the busy summer months.

This is the most convenient car camping site near Mt. Rushmore so be sure to secure your reservation as far in advance as possible!

 

Kemp’s Kamp

Number of sites: 20 campsites
Fee: $30 – $50/night depending on the site.
RVs: Yes, full hookups available
Reservations: Recommended. Call (605) 666-4654 to make a reservation.
Pets: Allowed

Kemp’s Kamp is large campground located north of Mt. Rushmore along Old Hill City Road. This sprawling campground can accommodate RVs with full hookups, basic tent campers, and everything in between. You’ll be only five minutes from Mt. Rushmore here, making this a great option.

Amenities at Kemp’s Kamp include a heated pool, laundry and shower facilities, and fire pits. This is a good option for families seeking a few more amenities than what you’ll find at a Forest Service campground.

 

Grizzly Creek Primitive Campground

Number of sites: 20 campsites
Fee: $20/night + $7/night for extra vehicles
RVs: Not recommended.
Reservations: Recommended. Visit Recreation.gov to reserve
Pets: Allowed

Located between Mt. Rushmore and Custer State Park, the Grizzly Creek Primitive Campground is a great option for car camping. Grizzly Creek is a primitive site and isn’t recommended for those traveling in an RV. The campground is laid out in a large loop with restrooms on each end. Water is also available at the campground, but only during peak camping season.

Some of the campsites at Grizzly Creek are reservable in advance via Recreation.gov.

 

Custer State Park Camping

Number of Sites: Nine developed campgrounds
Fee: $15 – $30/night
RVs: Yes, electric hookups available at most campgrounds.
Reservations: Highly recommended. Visit CampSD.com to reserve.
Pets: Allowed.
More Information

Custer State Park occupies over 71,000 acres just south of Mt. Rushmore National Memorial. The park is famous for its herds of bison, beautiful lakes, and unique rock formations. For those visiting Mt. Rushmore, we highly recommend a visit to Custer State Park as well.

For camping, Custer State Park features nine developed campgrounds located throughout the park. For those who plan to visit Mt. Rushmore, you’ll find the following the most convenient:

  • Sylvan Lake Campground: Sylvan Lake Campground features 39 campsites located in the far northeast portion of Custer State Park. You’ll be just a short drive from Mt. Rushmore here and enjoy one of the most beautiful lakes in the region.
  • Center Lake Campground: Center Lake Campground is situated the closest to Mt. Rushmore and features 71 excellent campsites. This is your best bet in Custer State Park.
  • Game Lodge Campground: The Game Lodge Campground is located just off Highway 16A, making it an easy drive up to Mt. Rushmore. Here you’ll find 59 campsites situated along a lovely creek.

Of course, any of the nine campgrounds in Custer State Park make a great place to camp prior to visiting Mt. Rushmore. Be sure to check out our Complete Guide to Camping in Custer State Park to get all the details you’ll need. 

 

Free dispersed camping near Mt. Rushmore

Your final option for camping near Mount Rushmore is to find a free, dispersed campsite on adjacent US Forest Service land in the Black Hills National Forest. Located to the west of Mt. Rushmore,  this land is overseen by the USFS which manages hundreds of thousands of acres of public land throughout the country and generally allows for free ‘dispersed camping’ on it.

 

Free dispersed camping near Mt. Rushmore

 

If you have any questions about the dispersed camping options outlined below be sure to reach out to the USFS offices that oversee the specific areas, shown below:

Black Hills National Forest Dispersed Camping

Free, dispersed camping is permitted in the Black Hills National Forest near Mt. Rushmore. The best sites are generally located to the north of the Memorial. You’ll find hundreds of thousands of acres of National Forest here and plenty of camping possibilities.

Check out some of your best bets below:

  • Spring Creek: Located due west of Mt. Rushmore, just off Highway 16.
  • Wrinkled Rock: Just a short drive up the highway from Mt. Rushmore. The closest option.
  • Keyrapmore: Located north of Mt. Rushmore just off Highway 16.
  • Centennial Trailhead Samulies: This is a small parking lot just off the highway at the Centennial trailhead. Not the most idyllic, but a good option in a pinch. Located northwest of Mt. Rushmore.

 

Have a great trip!

That’s it!

We hope you’ve found all of the information on Mt. Rushmore camping in this post helpful and we know you’ll find the perfect campsite for your upcoming adventure! Be sure to let us know in the comments below if you have any questions or had a great time out camping!

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