Sylvan Lake SD Custer State Park

South Dakota Camping offers some of the finest camping in the US!

The top 5 Campgrounds

How do you eat just 5 M&M's, or just 5 potato chips? Or pick just 5 South Dakota camping areas? It's ALMOST impossible I tell you!

When winters are long, the days are short, and it is COLD....we start dreaming about camping! Ahhh, we love to camp! Such great family time, peaceful and serene too. What's not to love about that?

We have camped just about every camping area in the hills over the last 20 years. We really have loved them all for the memories we were able to make in the time that we spent there. But some just stick out more than others.

That's how I came up with the top 5.

What's so special about SD Camping?

Buffalo in CSP SD

I know, I know, we're biased you're thinking, right? Wrong! Ok, well kinda right =). But seriously, how can I say that South Dakota camping is some of the finest found in the Country?

Because I have heard it over and over again from the many tourists who come here every year. THEY say it. They rave about the camping, the area, the scenery, the people, the sights....and then finish with the last gush of air that they can't WAIT to come back!

Oh yeah, we got it going on!

Tenting it? Then you need to see our review
on our FAVORITE 60 second set up Tent!

And did I forget to mention??

We- do- NOT- have- bear- or- wolves- here.

That I think is one of the BEST parts about camping here! Not that I don't like bear or wolves, mind you.

I do however enjoy being in the forest camping, hiking etc. not having to worry about being bear lunch. Or having to secure my food in a locker or a tree at night. Or worry that I left a breath mint in my pocket as I sleep in my tent, rolled up in my sleeping bag like a human hot dog. Maybe that's just me.

We DO have rattlesnakes, Mt. Lions and buffalo tho and it is worthy to get them a quick mention.

Let me preface this by saying you probably have a better chance of seeing a Mt Lion in town, then you do in the hills. Seriously. I have YET to see one while hiking or camping, even in the remotest of areas. Several are spotted each year in towns around the area tho. Still a pretty rare occurrence.

For more on our Wildlife see our local Wildlife pages here and here.

Our very Top 5 Campgrounds ARE:

Sylvan Lake Campground

Bluebell Campground

Palmer Gulch KOA

Game Lodge Campground

Deerfield Lake Campground

WARNING!! If you are coming the month of August, you MUST know THIS!

Deerfield Lake Campground

Where is Deerfield Lake campground? Why, high up in the Hills is where you will find this little treasure!

Deerfield Lake is located about 20 miles outside of Hill City on the beautiful scenic Deerfield road (aka HWY 17 West). Deerfield Lake itself is about 6,000 Ft above sea level, so pack your long john's, cause it gets cold up here at night!

Deerfield Lake campground is always a favorite for us because it is a rustic campground. No electric hook ups here. They do have water and recently updated vault toilets tho. What more could one ask for?

This is a pretty large campground too, which is another reason we like it. Easier chance of getting in on a last minute planned camping trip.

The lake itself offers up some awesome trout fishing, and it is a no wake lake. For such a large lake that is pretty rare for our area, and nice for tooling around on the john boat.

This pretty and pristine lake offers gorgeous scenery, 3 campground areas, 2 boat launches and 2 picnic areas. Want to hear a a big secret? There is a breeding pair of  Bald Eagles that have a nest here on the lake that they return to every year. That is actually a pretty rare thing to see around here.

We love the serenity found here, and at night we have even been lucky enough to see the Aurora Borealis. You might get lucky and see that too, or the elusive lightening bug, or get to fall asleep to the sounds of coyotes howling in the distance.

If you live in a big city, you will marvel at the night sky, and the stars that can be seen here. Maybe it's because you are just that much closer to heaven.

These are all things we have not experienced at any of the other campgrounds we like to stay at. Maybe because it is a little ways of the conventional beaten path.

$15 to $17 per night  (additional $2 pet fee if you bring fido)

Palmer Gulch KOA

Our Daughter thinks this place rocks! And really, what is there NOT to love about this place? The prices are way more expensive then the other area campgrounds BUT you get some serious entertainment that you don't get at the other campgrounds either.

They have:

  • HUGE bouncing pillow (this will seriously wear those kids out. Average adult time on this thing? 2 minutes!)
  • Little lake
  • Awesome shower/bathroom facilities
  • Rock climbing wall (new in 2013)
  • 2 swimming pools (heated, nice and sparkly clean)
  • 2 hot tubs
  • Waterslide (this water is NOT heated...brrr)
  • All you can eat pancakes
  • 2 stores for snacks and trinkets
  • A strip mall with a pizza parlor, fudge shop, coffee shop, ice cream parlor, internet cafe
  • Full service Restaurant and bar
  • Horse riding stable (in our opinion the best trail riding place around)
  • Live entertainment on the weekends
  • Several playgrounds
  • Bike/trike rentals
  • walking/biking paths
  • ATV Rentals and plenty of Natl Forest areas to ride them connected right to this KOA! Have your own ATV's? Bring them, and get the ATV map at the office that will show you where all the trails are. This is a BLAST!!

If you don't have a tent or an RV you can still stay here in one of their many cabins. We haven't stayed in their rooms or cabins, but have heard that they are in need of some upgrading.

The only problem you might have staying here? Getting the kids out of the park to go sightseeing!

Prices vary. Just grab your wallet with both hands. The kids will thank you for it.

Sylvan Lake Campground

Sylvan Lake

Hands down, without a doubt, this is our favorite campground. We just really like it here.

Almost hate to tell everybody that, but I promise to always tell the unbiased truth here, even to our own detriment! This is a small little campground and it is hard to get in to camp here. So hate spreading the word, but, it is our very favorite, so we will share it with you. =)

I mean, just take a look at this beautiful, tranquil lake. Everytime I do, I fall in love all over again.

Sylvan Lake Campground is down and across the street from the lake itself, but there is a lovely little path right off camp spot #1 that will take you right over there.

You can do so many things while here, without ever even having to drive your car. That's kinda nice.

We love the easy (mostly) hike around the lake. We love to stop and watch the mountain climbers on the rocks off the backside of the dam.Just back there you will find the drop dead gorgeous Sunday Gulch trail. We think the best part of that whole trail is the first part where you just go down, down and down. But it is ooo sooo pretty! Turn around and come back up and save yourself about 2 1/2 hours instead of taking the whole hike.

We love to climb Harney Peak, and love the hike to Little Devils Tower even more.

Not far from here is the needles eye, the big crazy tunnel, and our very favorite...the chipmunk feeding spot. Forget the marshmallows? No problemo! Just take the easy walking path to the lake and you will hit the general store, where you can get drinks, snack food, fishing equipment, firewood and souvenirs.
Hands down, our favorite Custer State Park Campground.

Prices are $20 for non electric sites and $24 for electric sites. Must buy a park pass separately

Game Lodge

Buffalo Custer State Park

We really like staying at the Game Lodge Campground.

It is the largest campground in the park and if we decide to take a fast weekend camping trip, this is usually the campground that will have an opening. If we are lucky.

All of the Park campgrounds fill up fast, and early on in the year. This is prime Real Estate, think Boardwalk and Park place. If you happen to find a place to camp at the last minute, it is usually lucky timing, and you picked up someones cancellation.

The Game Lodge campground is on a big meadow, surrounded by the hills. The buffalo frequently roam this area, but this place is totally fenced, so the buffalo stay safely on the other side. The Mtn. behind the campground has the Lovers Leap Trail on it.

A creek runs on the backside of the campground and runs into a little watering hole. Seriously. We see people and their kids wading and swimming in this every year. EWWW! The buffalo wade in it too, and, well, you know...and LOTS of it. EWWW! down at this end of the campground is a great big super fun playground for the kids.

The Tatanka Theatre is at the other end of the campground, and in the summer they have a nightly program put on by one of the rangers. Right next to the Tatanka Theatre is our favorite path in the park for bike riding. This path goes all the way over past the Coolidge General store over to the next campground up, about 2 miles up the Rd. it's a gradual climb all the way, but a load of fun coming back down, you can coast almost the whole way!

The whole campground is great for bike riding, and it is an easy flat ride to the Mt. Coolidge General store, where you can find food, drinks, trinkets and clothes for sale. We always stop here for an ice cream cone.

The Peter Norbeck center is close by. Game Lodge Campground sits right next to the Wildlife Loop Rd.

Super cute little basic cabins are here for a really reasonable price too, if you are not tenting or RV'ing it.

Prices are $20 for non electric sites and $24 for electric sites. Must buy a park pass separately

Blue Bell Campground

This is another pretty little South Dakota Camping spot, nestled deep in the pine trees high up in Custer State Park.

We like the spacious settings (elbow room), the full, clean and modern bathrooms, the general store that's close by, or the kids favorite, the Blue Bell Riding Stables.

Big hills around here to climb and explore. Lots of cabins for rent. Chuckwagon supper and hayride is here too, as well as a full service restaurant in the Blue Bell Lodge.

Blue Bell sits at the opposite end of the Wildlife Loop Rd. from the Game Lodge Campground.

The Ranger does a nightly presentation at their little outdoor theater after dark every night. Nice way to end the day.

Really nice place to stay up off the beaten path in Custer State Park.

Prices are $20 for non electric sites and $24 for electric sites. Must buy a park pass separately

Badlands National ParkDeadwoodFinding GoldTop of South Dakota Camping


Hi, I am Jo. Welcome!
I have lived and played in the Black Hills all my life. I grew up camping, fishing, hiking, kickin it up at the Motorcycle Rallies and touring our area attractions. I want to show you the locals Black Hills, our secret  places to play, visit and eat! Please stay and browse around, and come back often too, I am always adding new reviews. Thanks for stopping by.

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