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Camping in Black Hills, SD. Need some info.


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I'm planning a trip to South Dakota this August to see Mt. Rushmore and Crazy Horse. The plan is to go primitive, just what I can carry on my back. Does anyone know where I can pitch my tent without having to pay $25 to $35 and make reservations?

 

We tent camped in Custer State Park in Sept 2005. We were in the Grace Coolidge campground, the tent only loop, and didn't have reservations (though Sept and August differ in popularity, I'm sure). It appears to be about $16/night. That loop had toilets, but you had to walk across the road and down into the other loop for showers, which was fine.

 

We enjoyed the spot. There was a nearby creek and some raptors enjoyed perching on the nearby trees and rocks. It was fairly central to the things we wanted to do. Don't miss the Needles highway, but drive it when it's not foggy. :P

 

Wind Cave is also not too far. We were traveling with our dog, so we skipped that. And if you'll be out there for awhile, the Badlands aren't that far, either.

 

There may be backcountry camping available in the area, but since we were car camping with a dog and I was pregnant, we didn't explore those options.

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I'm planning a trip to South Dakota this August to see Mt. Rushmore and Crazy Horse. The plan is to go primitive, just what I can carry on my back. Does anyone know where I can pitch my tent without having to pay $25 to $35 and make reservations?

 

The Centennial trail would be a great primitive hike. It is about 110 miles up through the black hills and you can camp at most of the TH's without paying anything. We packed starting at Pactola Reservoir and went north to Bear Butte with the scouts. That was about half the trail, I have always wanted to do the other half here someday.

 

You could call the Black Hills National Forest to find out info on back country camping and trails at 1-605-673-2251. They would probably send you some info also.

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Camping at Wind Cave NP is $10 per night. This park is a gem...and is much underutilized. We were there a couple summers ago on our way to Yellowstone (mid-July, weekday) and we had the campground nearly to ourselves. Besides the cave, there is lots of wildlife (pronghorn antelope, bison, elk) and nice terrain for walking. I believe the park is at the south end of the Centennial Trail. Take advantage of the naturalist programs...you often will end up on a one-on-one tour of the park with a park service guide. The cave is really different, and worth a tour.

 

Campgrounds at Badlands NP are usually pushing capacity, since it is a natural overnight stop for folks heading west to Yellowstone. If just using as a place to catch some ZZZ's, it is just fine, but the weather is very harsh and there is little to shelter you. Get up early in the morning and do the Door/Window/Notch Trails just east of the visitor center.

 

Do enjoy your trip -- the Black Hills is a great destination.

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Are you car camping, or backpack camping?

 

Wind Cave is a very cool area, the south part of Centennial starts here. Camping is available as described here (go down to 'backcountry camping')~

 

http://www.wind.cave.national-park.com/camping.htm

 

Wind Cave is a ways from Mt. Rushmore, or Crazy Horse. Black Elk Wilderness is closer, and accessable by Centennial from different trailheads. Camping is described here~

 

http://www.fs.fed.us/r2/blackhills/maps/recguide5x.shtml

 

A great site with lots of info~

 

http://blackhillshiking.multiply.com/

 

Doing any geocaching?

 

http://www.blackhillsareageocaching.com/

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I will be backpack camping, though I'd like to find someplace I can park my car and have at least a reasonable expectation that no one will smash my windows and steal my stereo. Wind Cave sounds like a great place to start, with Black Elk as my reserve site. The plan is to spend three days in the wild, a fourth seeing the monuments and museums, then head back on the fifth morning. (Though like all plans, they can change as the situation develops) And yes, I am planning on doing some geocaching. Thanks again for all the helpful links and info. I'm really looking forward to this trip, especially being presently in the grip of an Ohio winter. It gives me something to focus on and feel warm while I'm chiseling my windshield every morning. :))

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The backcountry site in the Badlands is free and first come first serve. It was pretty packed when we were there (August) but PolskiKrol and I did manage to find a spot just before sunset. It's not quite where you're headed but it's pretty close and well worth the side trip, in my opinion. Some very cool terrain.

 

The first sight of the badlands was striking.... driving across I-90, glancing out the window you notice the gently rolling hill with ranches and homes, all of a sudden fall off into dusty striped red badlands. Definitely one of the neatest places I've been.

 

On the way to the campsite, a herd of bison crossed the roadway one at a time. We stopped and watched and took a bazillion photos as they walked across the rough terrain single file up to and across the road and gathered waiting for each other on a patch of grass on the opposite side of the road ;)

 

Have an awesome trip!

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