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charlyhors

South Dakota campsites and state parks

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We're wanting to spend a month or more in SD this summer - July. Wanting to do Custer State Park, Crazy Horse, Badlands, etc. Do any of you have recommendations or things to avoid?

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Do any of you have recommendations or things to avoid?

 

Other than South Dakota in July? :P:lol: Black flies, buffalo gnats and mosquitoes galore.. I would shoot more for late Spring ('after' tornado season) or early Fall myself.

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Rafter J Bar in Hill City is, in my opinion, the best park in the area. Unless they've changed their rates, though, they don't offer monthly rates....which would make it an expensive stay.

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Avoid the Sturgis area the first part of August. We Miscalculated and ended up at Custer St Park during bike week. Talk about a nightmare!!!

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Check out the Mammoth Site in Hot Springs, SD <http://mammothsite.com>. It's a museum and an active paleontological dig site that gives a tour of the dig site. We really enjoyed it and it's a good rainy day activity since it's in a climate controlled building and it's not too far from all the other interesting stuff. Enjoy your trip!

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We spent the summer of 2014 not far from Hot Springs and wonder about some of the remarks. We were volunteers for Angostura State Park and we were campground hosts for Shep's Canyon Campground. I guess we must have been off duty the day they had the black fly plague, as we were not even aware that it exists! If you can get a site in Custer State Park it would be a good base to operate from but may be difficult to get as it fills early and it also has a two week stay limit. At Shep's canyon we had that same two week limit but it was a common practice for visitors to just move do a different site for two more weeks as we were on the west side of the lake and away from the main park. That put us much closer to the community of Hot Springs but on a gravel road and while we were full most weekends, we had many openings during the week and even week ends you could usually find a site but reservations were a good idea for longer stays.

 

We agree with the mammoth dig as a good spot to visit. Bot Wind Cave NP and Jewell Cave NM are well worth your time to see, and of course you must see Mt. Rushmore and most enjoy the Crazy Horse monument as well. Crazy Horse is a private foundation and you don't get discounts with the parks pass there. You can see most of it from the highway without paying to get in and opinions on the value of paid entry vary widely. There is a neat steam train you can ride located in Keystone and all kinds of tourist traps too. The entire area is very scenic and lots of interesting tourist things, but realize that Aug. 8 - 14 is the Sturgis motorcycle rally and for a week either side of that time the entire Black Hills is overrun by bikes and bikers. While they may be mostly nice people, you need to be on your guard as there are also plenty of them around who are real jerks or who have drunk too much. If possible I would just avoid the entire month of August. Most of the smaller towns block off the center of their main streets for motorcycle parking and it is solid from end to end of the more popular ones for two to three weeks. It also means that you won't do much without standing in a line during that time. The most scenic roads around the north part of the Black Hills tend to be risky because of the riders out trying to prove how fast they can drive through them and each year several of them die in the effort. Shep's Canyon had only a few of them because of the gravel road into the park, which as a plus for us. I like bikes, but I don't like drunks. ^_^

 

All in all, we loved our summer there and we didn't find it that hot, with temperatures never getting much above 90 and evenings very cool and nice. Rapid City is a pretty nice town and you need to walk around and see the statues of presidents, one on each street corner. I think that you are wise to plan a month there as there is far too much to see in a week unless you work very hard at it. If time allows, Ft. Robinson at Crawford, NE is also well worth spending a day to see. It is one of the few old forts that has never been completely abandoned and so many of the buildings still stand. They even have an RV park and rooms to rent out for a night as well as a restaurant. If you like museums, there is a really neat one in Hot Springs and also one in Custer that were great.

 

When at the Bad Lands, take time to run out the south gate to see the town of Interior. It only takes a few minutes to visit and is a fascinating place that few ever visit. Near Rapid City, Elsworth AFB has a great museum and I believe that it was free. Another free site is the Chapel of the Hills. If you enjoy wine tasting, Hill City has several very nice wineries that have tasting.

Edited by Kirk

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I guess we must have been off duty the day they had the black fly plague, as we were not even aware that it exists!

 

SLACKER!! :P

 

I don't know if the little SW corner of SD is too representative of the geography of the majority of the state. Most of my experience in SD was East of the Missouri. Enough biters out there to shake a stick at.. but I wouldn't recommend it.. it ticks 'em off. ;) (get it?)

Edited by Yarome

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This is where we stay when we go to the Black Hills area. Fort Welikit Family Campground & RV Park http://www.blackhillsrv.com/ We love this area, and it's close to all the attractions. Highly recommend. It's about a mile to Custer State Park, and very close to Crazy Horse, Silvan Lake, and the Needles Hi-way. The new owner is a Veteran, and has been working hard the past 3 years updating the grounds. He and his wife are fantastic host. The last week of July through the 2nd weekend of August is very crowded with motorcycle traffic due to the Surgis Motorcycle Rally, and the chaos that comes with a half a million weekend motorcycle enthusiast riding on roads that are well beyond their riding abilities, playing "biker" for a week. (generally the rally is the 1st "full" week of August). Reserve a site early if you plan on going that time of year.

 

In any case, you will not be sorry for traveling to this part of our great Nation.

 

Safe travels. :)

Edited by Sniper

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If you are an Elk's member I'd recommend the Rapid City Elks Lodge for a week or so. Super lodge with camping next to the golf course (Partial hookups 30A) beautiful setting not far from town and great food (the Sunday Brunch is GREAT).

Mount Rushmore gets really crowded with cars lined up for about 1/4 mile waiting to get in, plus although entrance is free with a golden age pass, parking is $11.

We liked the Crazy Horse site better but there's a fee to get in (not a NP).

Spearfish is nice too.

Avoid Sturgis Bike Week like the plague and the 2 weeks before and after, the bikers aren't the problem it's just that the prices triple for 100 miles around Sturgis due to demand. Some parks are only open for that event, they make enough for the whole year.

BnB

Edited by scouserl41

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Custer Crazy Horse CG is 1 mile North of Custer, SD. It sit's atop a mountain, so temperatures are cooler. Spaces are tight unless you reserve a pull-through, but I got our 40' 5er in ours OK. It was in the 80's while we were in the area, but we got hail in the CG one evening and cool breeze's that Custer did not.

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I agree Rafter J Bar is the best in the area and central to all you want to see. It is expensive but check it out. Temps in Rapid City range from 75-90 on average for July--not too bad when you don't have a choice.

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Love the Black Hills, but also try to get over to the Badlands NP, it is excellent and so unique. Don't wait too long to decide on where you are staying wherever you are traveling/staying, reservations during that busy time of the year are needed. For Some parks like Custer, it may already be too late. Safe travels

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What is the weather likely to be first part of April?

We were there in May and had snow so you take your chances. It is worth being there early spring as the flowers start to bloom and the baby buffalo are cute...from a distance.

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I work as a volunteer at Custer State Park in the summer. July and Aug are our busiest time and I would recommend a reservation. Reservations can be made up to one year in advance. We do, however, get many cancelations so you may get lucky. Reservations can be made for other times as well. We do get some motorcycle traffic during the Sturgis Rally the first week of Aug but by evening it is all quiet. I never have seen any problem with bugs, I live in the park in the employee campground all summer. Our campsites have electric only, but each campground (we have 8) has a shower house with a hose bib to fill your fresh water tank. We also have a free dump station in the park. The cost is $25.00 per night for up to 14 nights. If you want to stay longer than 14 nights you just have to move to another site. Just pm me if you have any questions.

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the last few years we get to SD the first of April and it has not been bad at all some very cool mornings but not freezing but you never know what Mother Nature will give you right now it is 1 degree with a wind chill of -10

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Recreational Springs RV Resort outside of Lead! Not quite a resort, more a no-frills kind of campground, but away from the touristy busy-ness, smack in the middle of the beautiful pine-forests of the Black Hills. Wonderful owners and the best prime rib on-site in their bar/restaurant! We workamped/worked here for the summer and although the touristy spots might be a little further away than at other locations, it's the best and nicest home base you could wish for!

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We were there in May and had snow so you take your chances. It is worth being there early spring as the flowers start to bloom and the baby buffalo are cute...from a distance.

 

We were there in late June and had high winds and hail and lightening storms.

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