Most sightseers in South Dakota head straight to places like Mount Rushmore and Badlands, or even Custer State Park. While those big-name parks are certainly worth your time, there is so much more that our state has to offer. We all need a dose of the outdoors every once in a while, and sometimes you need to enjoy nature away from the crowds. If you’re looking for a little more solitude with your time outside, try these underrated parks and trails in the Mount Rushmore State.
Black Hills National Forest
Technically, yes – this vast swath of forest does encompass several of the aforementioned popular haunts like Mount Rushmore, Custer State Park, Wind Cave National Park, and the Crazy Horse Memorial. But the enormity of this 1.2 million acre stretch of land that even extends into Wyoming is what puts it on this list. You just have to do a little bit more digging to find the less-trafficked trails – and there are plenty. Head west of Green Star Camper Center’s hometown of Rapid City to Pactola Lake to find scenic hikes like Osprey Trail and McCurdy Gulch Loop. Or, explore the northern side of the forest as you head towards Spearfish to see Botany Canyon or climb Crow Peak.
Lookout Mountain Park in Spearfish
Spearfish is unsurprisingly known for Spearfish Falls, where you may encounter quite a few other visitors trying to see the sights. We can’t blame them for wanting to take in its beautiful cascading waters, but we love the sweeping views atop Lookout Mountain Park. It is close to the city, so it’s popular among locals, but it’s less of a tourist stop than other spots in our state. There is also an abundance of trails to try here, so you can forge your own route and get find a quiet corner.
Bear Butte State Park
This serene hike in Sturgis climbs a mountain that’s sacred to several Native American tribes in the area. The Lakotah tribe calls it “Mato Paha” or “Bear Mountain,” and it’s viewed as a place where the creator communicates with them. You’ll likely see colorful little flags and pouches tied to trees in the area that represent prayers offered on the mountain. If you’re looking for a slice of peace and tranquility, you’ll find it in the mountaintop views and spiritual aura of Bear Butte.
While you’re in Sturgis, head over to Sturgis Reservoir. Here, you’ll enjoy both waterside and mountaintop views on the 3.7 mile trail. These trails used to be closed to the public but in recent years have been opened for more people to enjoy them. You’ll still find a great place to get away from the hustle and bustle here though as you explore the Deadman Mountain and Vanocker Canyon area.
Homestake Trail in Lead
If you didn’t know this trail was there, you’d likely never find it! This 3 mile trail connects the towns of Lead and Deadwood and leads you on an old railroad path past an old gold mine. The Lead side of the trail begins in the back of a dog park, and it ends up in Deadwood, a short walk from the Mickelson Trail trailhead. Follow the white diamond markers to stay on the trail. You’ll find forest and hilltop views along the way, as well as a chance to see what’s left of the Homestake Gold Mine.
Underrated Places to Get Outside in South Dakota
Hopefully this guide has given you some ideas of new places to explore in our state of South Dakota. If you’re looking for a way to get there, we can help! Visit our South Dakota RV dealership at Green Star Camper Center in Rapid City. We carry new travel trailers and fifth wheels as well as used travel trailers and fifth wheels. Give us a call today at 605-343-6877 or visit us at 120 N. Cambell Street Rapid City, SD 57703.
Summer is right around the corner! Have you started planning your camping trips? There are so many places to visit in the beautiful state of South Dakota! As you begin to plan your destinations and itinerary, here are some of the top places your family will love!
Badlands National Park
Known as one of the most well-known camping areas in the state, there are several campgrounds to choose from. Sage Creek, Cedar Pass, and Sleepy Hollow are just a few. The Badlands are known for the amazing fossil finds from rhinos, horses and even saber-toothed cats! As you travel through the Badlands you will see amazing animals like bison, sheep, and more. There is so much to do around this area with the family. You can visit the Fossil Prep Lab, become a junior ranger, and stop at the visitor center for more information! This is a must-see park when camping in South Dakota.
Sioux Falls consists of several different state parks where you and your family can experience the great outdoors. Campgrounds include: Yogi Bear Camp-resort, Sioux Empire Fair Campground, Tower Campground, and KOA Kampground of Sioux Falls. While staying in this area, there is so much to do! Enjoy walking around the Washington Pavilion, play some disc golf at Tuthill Park, and take a stroll around the amazing SculptureWalk. Camping here is an amazing vacation just waiting for you and your family!
The infamous Mount Rushmore! People come from all over the world to see this iconic monument. A great campground near the monument where you can stay is Buffalo Ridge Camp Resort. There are 125 sites on 30 acres and a quick drive to the monument. Here you can find shower facilities, laundry services and even mini golf! It is a gorgeous park with breathtaking views of the Black elk Peak.
Horse Thief Campground and Resort
Welcome to one of the most advanced yet historic camp sites in the area! This resort although celebrated and significant, has stepped up the camping game by adding a heated swimming pool, pavilion, a general store and more. This land was known as a huge mining territory back in the 1800’s and this family owned, and operated campground has done a fantastic job of keeping the history alive while incorporating today’s technology!
Okaton Ghost Town
Have you ever been to the ghost town of South Dakota? You will see overgrown railroad tracks, broken down homes, and old once used farms and barns. This little town began in 1906 and slowly died into a lifeless overgrown town. There are several places nearby to camp such as The American RV park and Kamp, Whistlers Gulch Campground and several others near the Badlands.
People come from all over to stay in Rapid City. It is in the convenient location near the Black Hills National forest, and Mt. Rushmore. It is rich in history and has several campgrounds, full of different amenities. If you are driving your RV through this area, be sure to check out Rapid City RV Park and campground. Enjoy the heated pool, laundry services, and convenient store right on site. You are just a few miles from all the main attractions and great restaurants as well. Let us know how much you love this park after your next stay
Custer State Park
Welcome to Custer State Park! Join in at one of the several popular camp sites in this area. Blue Bell campground, Legion Lake, Game Lodge, and Stockade North Campground are just a few of the top-rated campgrounds in the Park. Custer State Park is not only the first state park, but it is the largest. This massive park takes up over 71,000 acres in beautiful South Dakota, and is a goldmine for the best camping, hiking, and overall adventure that you and your family seek on this trip!
Spearfish City Campground
Ready to fish? Sleep next to this peaceful creek, burrowed in the Black Hills. This campground has all the amenities that you could possibly want at a camp site. Showers, ice machines, tables, hardware stores, and the downtown area is also near by. This city is full of outdoor adventure just waiting for you and your family. Visit the 76 Trail, take pictures near the Bridal Veil Falls, and watch the sunset near Crow Peak. There is so much beauty and so much to do in this city!
Come visit this popular campsite in Rapid City. It is open from late May-Early September. It is surrounded by the quiet beauty of South Dakota. Thousand of pine trees surround this site and lake views as well. You can enjoy the campfire rings, drinking water and the reservoir and beach access. This is the perfect area to camp with your family if you want to spend a day hiking, and the next day on the boat. This reservoir is the largest and deepest within the Black hills and is truly a site to see. Have you been to this amazing camp site before? If so, you have probably seen some of the incredible animals that inhabit this area! Look for elk, deer, and bald eagles flying above. There is nothing quite like it!
Gavin’s Point Campground
Come on down to the Lewis and Clark Recreation Area. This is by far one of the most popular resorts in the state. The resort facilities have really stepped it up to the next level with top of the line amenities for their guests. And, there is so much to do! Enjoy activities like archery, boating, hiking and biking! These camp sites fill up rather fast so if you and your family plan to head out to this area in the upcoming months, it would be wise to make a reservation! Check out their site for more information on what your trip would look like and how you can make it the best vacation ever!
Come see one of the most beautiful states in the country. People come from all over the world to see Mt. Rushmore, but we encourage you to stay a bit longer and experience the breathtaking views and nature that these camp sites have to offer. From the majestic animals to the sparkling lakes, you will fall in love with this new vacation spot!