Mt Rushmore

Mt Rushmore Camping – The Complete Guide

Gazing at the elegance of these majestically carved faces is a highlight of many road trip adventures. But it’d be a shame to come all the way here, and spend the weekend in a hotel when you can have an unforgettable time in two of South Dakota’s most picturesque parks – Black Hills National Forest and Custer State Park. A well-planned camping adventure is the best way to experience Mt. Rushmore and its surrounding area. 

And while it’s true that there are no campsites next to the National Memorial, there are plenty of them in its vicinity. You’ll find everything from outstanding dispersed camping areas to charming car-camping campgrounds to full-service RV campsites. 

After a lot of research, I’ve put together a comprehensive list of campgrounds to help you pick an ideal spot to pitch your tent/park your vehicle near Mt. Rushmore. 

Overview

Surrounded by the breathtaking beauty of the Black Hills of South Dakota, Mt. Rushmore’s magnificent figures of Abraham Lincoln, Theodore Roosevelt, Thomas Jefferson, and George Washington tell the story of the United States of America.

The story of Mt. Rushmore National Memorial starts back in the 1920s. A century ago, Doane Robinson, a state historian of South Dakota, conceived the idea to create this colossal sculpture. 

Mr Robinson wanted to promote tourism in his state and persuaded Gutzon Borglum – one of America’s most famous sculptors – to see whether these carvings could be created anywhere in the Black Hills region. 

Gutzon Borglum chose Mount Rushmore – a majestic mountain whose southeastern side enjoys maximum exposure to sunlight. It took him 14 years to complete the project (from 1927 to 1941) with the help of federal funding.

Nowadays, this National Memorial attracts over two million visitors annually. As you can already guess, most people who come here do so during the summer. However, the shoulder seasons – spring and fall – can also be an excellent time to visit this important monument and its surrounding area. 

Keep reading to learn more about what you can do in this region and what you should pack for the trip. 

General Information

Mt Rushmore drone view

Open year-round, Mt. Rushmore is the biggest tourist attraction in the whole state of South Dakota. On the other hand, the Lincoln-Borglum Visitor Center is open 364 days a year, with the only exception being Christmas. 

To make the most of your Mt. Rushmore adventure, keep in mind the following information: 

  • Pets are permitted in the parking area. However, bringing them inside the National Memorial is not allowed.
  • The memorial’s visitor center is open almost every day of the year. There are shorter working hours during holidays, such as Independence Day or Thanksgiving Day.
  • Parking a vehicle inside the memorial’s parking area will cost you $10. On the other hand, entering the National Memorial is entirely free. 

What Should I Pack?

Camping map

Choosing a campground whose location and amenities match your needs is just one part of planning an Mt. Rushmore camping adventure. To ensure a safe and enjoyable trip, you’ll also have to pack the right gear for such an escapade. 

In additions to the basics, here’s a short list of other items you may want to consider packing for your Mt. Rushmore camping trip: 

  • Black Hills guidebook – This guidebook can help you plan a camping adventure in the Mt. Rushmore area. It provides all the crucial information on hikes, tours, mileage, elevation gains, fees, etc. 
  • Black Hills map – With one of these, getting around the region is much easier. Combine it with Google Maps to make the most of your Mt. Rushmore camping trip. 
  • Portable water containers – Bring a lot of clean water with you, and you’ll never have to worry whether a particular campsite has access to water or not. 
  • Portable camping stove – If you intend to camp deep in the wild, this piece of gear is a must. You’ll be able to keep everyone’s spirits high with mouth-watering breakfasts and dinners. 
  • Portable camping cooler – One thing that can quickly ruin a camping trip is having to drink lukewarm water, soda, beer, or any other drink on a hot summer day.

What Can I Do at Mt. Rushmore? 

Obviously, the most breathtaking – thing to see in this area is Mt. Rushmore National Memorial itself. The massive but intricately carved faces of the four United States presidents are not something you will forget anytime soon. 

In addition to visiting this colossal sculpture, there are many activities available in the close vicinity of Mt. Rushmore. Some of the area’s best options include: 

  • The Visitor Center – If you stop by the Lincoln-Borglum Visitor Center, you’ll time-travel to when this famous monument was sculpted. If you’re lucky, you’ll be able to participate in special events – the evening light ceremony, a ranger-led talk, and more. 
  • Self-Guided Audio Tour – If you’d like to know even more about Mt. Rushmore and its history, take a self-guided audio tour. 
  • Hiking – Those who love taking long walks in nature will appreciate the fact that there are a few picturesque hiking trails in this region. The hike to Horsethief Lake is probably the most popular one. I highly recommend checking out the Blackberry Trail as well – it connects the Black Hills National Forest with the Black Elk Wilderness Area.  

Camping Near Mt. Rushmore

Cave near Mt Rushmore

Unfortunately, there are no established campsites situated close to this monumental sculpture. However, the surrounding region has several such places.

Located in South Dakota’s Black Hills region, Mt. Rushmore is surrounded by genuinely gorgeous wilderness that every camper dreams of. Some of the area’s best park service campsites can be found at Wind Cave National Park, Devils Tower National Monument, Badlands National Park, and more. 

Moreover, Mt. Rushmore is only a short drive from Custer State Park, which provides its visitors with exceptional camping options. The Black Hills National Forest itself contains plenty of dispersed camping areas, car campgrounds, and RV campsites – there’s something for everyone. 

RV Campsites Near Mt. Rushmore 

Mt. Rushmore is a top-rated RV camping destination – there’s no doubt about that. 

That’s precisely why everyone who comes here by a van has numerous options to choose from, as there are plenty of RV campsites in the surrounding area. You’ll find even more of those if you’re willing to drive a bit. 

Rushmore KOA Campsite 

  • Capacity: None stated 
  • Fee: $75 – $125 per night 
  • Number of Sites: Not stated, but plenty 
  • Reservations: Recommended 
  • Hookups: Full hookups are available 
  • Pets: Permitted 

The first on my list of Mt. Rushmore RV campsites is the KOA Campsite, which can be found along State Highway 214 (to the west of the National Memorial). 

Besides being relatively close to Mt. Rushmore, the KOA Campsite provides its visitors with many facilities. Those who come here will undoubtedly get their money’s worth: there’s free Wi-Fi, cable TV, a pool, and even a tiny shop. 

Due to its superb location, the KOA Campsite isn’t only an excellent option for those looking to visit the National Memorial but also for everyone wishing to explore the scenic Black Hills surrounding it. 

However, the KOA Campsite isn’t such a good choice for folks seeking peace. Even though it offers all the amenities you can imagine, it can get quite crowded and, in that way, ruin the feeling of being “out there.” 

Rushmore View RV Park 

Custer State Park
  • Capacity: None stated 
  • Fee: Varies 
  • Number of Sites: Not stated, but plenty 
  • Reservations: Recommended 
  • Hookups: Full hookups are available 
  • Pets: Permitted 

Out of all the RV campsites on my list, this one is the closest to Mt. Rushmore – it is situated just north of the National Memorial. It’s a perfect choice if you’re planning to visit Custer State Park. 

A few camping spots at Rushmore View RV park easily accommodate larger RVs. However, most are generally better for smaller vehicles of this type. 

If you want your Rushmore campsite to have a good location, this particular place is probably your best option. It’s close to the small town of Keystone, where you’ll have access to laundry facilities, a convenience store, a gas station, and more. 

Spokane Creek Campsite

Bison in Custer State Park
  • Fee: $25 – $45 per night 
  • Number of Sites: Not stated 
  • Reservations: Recommended 
  • Hookups: Full hookups are available 
  • Pets: Permitted 

Situated just south of Mt. Rushmore, the Spokane Creek Campsite is a quiet place surrounded by South Dakota’s majestic nature. If you’re planning to explore more than just Mt. Rushmore during your adventure, you’ll appreciate that this place is only a short drive from Custer State Park. 

The RV sites are grassy and level; they all come with partial or full RV hookups. There are also cabins and shady tent sites here, as well as amenities such as free Wi-Fi, a laundry facility, a community fire ring, a dishwashing station, an RV dump station, a shower house, and more. 

Those who come here will also be able to engage in many exciting activities available at the campsite. These include volleyball, basketball, mini-golf, and swimming (there’s an outdoor pool). 

Holy Smoke Resort

Keystone South Dakota
  • Fee: $45 per night 
  • Number of Sites: 21 
  • Reservations: Recommended 
  • Hookups: Full hookups are available 
  • Pets: Permitted 

Behind this peculiar name hides a campsite located just north of the town of Keystone mentioned above. The Holy Smoke Resort can be found on State Highway 16A, where it provides its visitors with easy access to Mt. Rushmore. 

The best thing about this place is that it’s only a part of a larger complex that includes log cabins and vacation homes. Regarding RV camping, it offers 21 sites equipped with full 30/50 AMP pull-thru hookups. 

Don’t expect too many amenities, though – only picnic tables and free Wi-Fi. There are no shower or bathroom facilities at the RV campsite of the Holy Smoke Resort. 

Buffalo Ridge Camp Resort

Black Hills region
  • Fee: Varies 
  • Number of Sites: Not stated  
  • Reservations: Recommended
  • Hookups: Full hookups are available 
  • Pets: Permitted 

Suppose you’re looking for an RV campsite in the Black Hills region with tons of amenities and activities to participate in. In that case, the Buffalo Ridge Camp Resort is one of your best options. 

There’s only one not-so-great thing about this place – it isn’t exactly close to Mt. Rushmore. It is, however, one of the most well-equipped campsites on my list, as it features shower and laundry facilities, family and adult-only pools, free Wi-Fi, a bar, a kid’s playground, and even a small general store. 

From here, you’ll be able to visit the Custer State Park, Jewel Cave National Monument, Crazy Horse Memorial, and, of course, Mt. Rushmore.

Black Elk Resort 

Black Elk
Photo by Skye Marthaler via Wikimedia Commons (CC BY-SA 4.0)
  • Fee: $49 – $55 per night 
  • Number of Sites: 8 
  • Reservations: Recommended
  • Hookups: Full hookups are available 
  • Pets: Permitted 

Next is a small RV campsite called Black Elk Resort, which features only 8 RV camping spots. However, these spots are well-equipped – each has water access, a picnic table, a park-style grill, and electric & sewer hookups. 

Rv site 8 is an exception. This is the largest of all eight spots and the only one with a firewood pit. However, it can accommodate only four people at one time, just like the rest of the spots. 

The campsite’s grounds are immaculately maintained, the staff is friendly, and the overall atmosphere is cozy. It’s the perfect destination for those seeking a smaller and quieter RV campsite near Mt. Rushmore. 

Big Pine Campsite

Custer
  • Fee: $44 – $50 per night 
  • Number of Sites: Not stated, but plenty 
  • Reservations: Recommended 
  • Hookups: Full hookups are available 
  • Pets: Permitted 

The Big Pine Campsite is the last Mt. Rushmore RV campsite on my list. It is situated the furthest from the National Memorial of all places described in this roundup – not the best choice if you’d like to stay close to Mt. Rushmore. 

It is, however, a great place to stay. Not only is this campsite close to the small town of Custer – where you’ll be able to get provisions – but it also features camping spots that are quiet, well-spaced, and nicely shaded. 

The campsite’s excellent amenities deserve special praise. Here, you can expect water access, free Wi-Fi, laundry services, fire pits, picnic tables, bathhouses with hot showers, a dump station, a game room, a volleyball playground, a kid’s playground, and roomy tent sites. There are also biking and hiking trails. 

Car Campgrounds Near Mt. Rushmore 

Those who prefer camping trips by car instead of an RV will find many excellent options near Mt. Rushmore. Here’s everything you need to know about the best car campgrounds close to this famous National Memorial:

Kemp’s Kamp

Wind Cave National Park
  • Fee: $30 – $50 per night 
  • Number of Sites: 20 
  • Reservations: Recommended 
  • Hookups: Full hookups are available 
  • Pets: Permitted 

Located along Old Hill City Road, just north of Mt. Rushmore, Kemp’s Kamp is one of the largest car campgrounds on the list. Besides cars, this place also accommodates RVs – it’s an excellent option if you find all the RV campsites described above full. 

Kemp’s Kamp is a sprawling campground where comfort meets convenience. You’ll find everything from log cabins to fully-equipped vehicle sites with hookups and water access here. The campground’s amenities include fire pits, shower and laundry facilities, and a heated pool. 

From here, you can easily access Wind Cave National Park, Badlands National Park, Reptile Gardens, Bear Country, Custer State Park, Crazy Horse Memorial, Rush Mountain Adventure Park, and, of course, Mt. Rushmore Memorial. Kemp Kamp’s location is undoubtedly its greatest asset. 

Horsethief Lake Campground 

Horsethief Lake
  • Fee: $26 per night 
  • Number of Sites: 36 
  • Reservations: Recommended 
  • Hookups: No
  • Pets: Permitted 

Located just two miles from Mt. Rushmore, this campground was named after the adjacent Horsethief Lake. Here, you’ll be able to fish trout from the lake or hike on the nearby Horsethief Lake Trail. 

Managed by the US Forest Service, the campground has 36 camping spots and is very busy during the summer months (it’s highly recommended to make a reservation). The atmosphere is majestic – all camping spots are situated among towering pine trees. 

Another great thing about this conveniently-located Mt. Rushmore campground is that it features restrooms and easy access to drinking water. For everything else, you’ll be left to your own devices. 

Grizzly Creek Primitive Campground

  • Fee: $20 per night 
  • Number of Sites: 20 
  • Reservations: Recommended 
  • Hookups: No
  • Pets: Permitted 

Situated between Custer State Park and Mt. Rushmore National Memorial, the Grizzly Creek Primitive Campground is another excellent option for people planning to visit this region by car. 

However, as its name suggests, this place isn’t so well-equipped regarding amenities. It is, for example, unsuitable for RV campers, as it features no RV hookups. 

The campsite is laid out in a sizable loop, with both ends of this loop having a restroom. There is also access to drinkable water here, but only during the summer. You may also want to check out our guide to the best Olympic National Forest campgrounds and our guide to camping near Great Sand Dunes National Park.

Custer State Park Camping

Custer State Park Camping
  • Fee: $15 – $30 per night 
  • Number of Sites: 9 established campsites 
  • Reservations: Recommended 
  • Hookups: Available at most campsites 
  • Pets: Permitted 

Spanning over 70,000 acres just south of Mt. Rushmore, Custer State Park is one of South Dakota’s most treasured jewels. This vast wilderness area is well-known for its unique rock formations, charming lakes, and magnificent herds of bison. 

If you’re planning to head to Mt. Rushmore, use the opportunity and visit this beautiful park. There are nine established campsites inside Custer State Park, with the most convenient ones being these three: 

  • Game Lodge Campsite – Featuring 59 camping spots, Game Lodge Campsite is a very tranquil place and an excellent destination for outdoor enthusiasts seeking peace and quiet in the wild. You’ll find a dump station, showers, and flush toilets here. 
  • Center Lake Campsite – Situated in the northern part of Custer State Park, Center Lake Campsite provides its visitors with boating, fishing, and swimming opportunities. The amenities here are pretty basic – there is only potable water and some vault toilets. 
  • Sylvan Lake Campsite – Open seasonally from May to September, Sylvan Lake Camp has 39 camping spots that accommodate RVs (hookups available) and tents. It features potable water, showers, and flush toilets. 

Dispersed Camping Near Mt. Rushmore 

If you’re not interested in staying at a developed campsite, you can also go dispersed camping in the Mt. Rushmore region. Head west to Black Hills National Forest, where you’ll find numerous wild camping areas managed by the US Forest Service. 

For more info on camping in these areas, contact any of the Ranger District Offices responsible for the Black Hills National Forest.

Dispersed Camping in Black Hills National Forest 

Dispersed camping is permitted in Black Hills National Forest – which surrounds Mt. Rushmore and whose most extensive section is to the west of the National Memorial. 

The best of the region’s wild camping spots are situated north of Mt. Rushmore. You can, however, pitch your tent in most parts of this massive (1.25 million acres) woodland. 

The four best wild camping areas are: 

  • Centennial Trailhead Samulies – While not the most idyllic option, this dispersed camping area is easy to access. 
  • Keyrapmore – A picturesque, centrally-located dispersed camping area with easy access to Rapid City, Keystone, and Mt. Rushmore. 
  • Wrinkled Rock – Situated among soaring pine trees, this wild camping zone is reasonably flat and features a fire ring. 
  • Spring Creek – This primitive dispersed camping area is open year-round and features five camping spots along Spring Creek Road.

To find more spots, use some of these dispersed camping apps.

The Takeaway 

Visiting Mt. Rushmore provides outdoor enthusiasts with an excellent opportunity to see the breathtaking surrounding areas. Fortunately, the Black Hills region, where Mt. Rushmore is situated, is dotted with RV campsites, car campgrounds, and wild camping areas – there’s something for everyone. 

Hopefully, the information I provided above will help you prepare for your Mt. Rushmore camping adventure and find an ideal campsite for it. Stay safe, and have a great time!