If you are looking for an unforgettable RV adventure into one of the world’s top ten wildlife destinations, Custer State Park has be on your bucket list. Located in the majestic Black Hills of South Dakota, encompassing over 71,000 acres of rustic wilderness, this state park is home to herds of wild buffalo, mesmerizing cliffs, and glistening lakes. You’ll be captivated by rolling plains and rocky granite peaks that spill across these magical lands. Settled in the early 1900s, this park features a wide range of diverse wildlife from pronghorn and elk to bighorn sheep and coyotes. Not far from Rapid City and Mount Rushmore, Custer State Park is a perfect place to explore on your next motorhome road trip.
You can start your RV journey to Custer State Park by learning all about the native wildlife and natural history of the area at the Visitor Center or Peter Norbeck Outdoor Education Center. The peak season during the summer features temperature in the 70s and 80s, providing a pleasant atmosphere for hiking, boating, and biking. During the off-season temperatures can be in the 30s, 40s, and 50s, offering a prime opportunity for snowshoeing and cross-country skiing. If you’re in the area in September you can experience a taste of the Old West at the Buffalo Roundup Arts Festival and the Buffalo Roundup, where you can watch cowgirls and cowboys round up thousands of buffalo.
You can explore historical sites like the Mount Coolidge Fire Tower or the Badger Hole cabin. You can hike through the magical setting of the French Creek area and set your sights on the incredible French Creek gorge, which offers an idyllic backdrop of calming waters and beautiful wildflower grassy knolls. You don’t want to miss a chance to see the Needles, which is a unique geological wonder of towering granite spire and pillars. Sylvan Lake and Stockade Lake are must-sees where you can take pictures or picnic next to majestic clear waters under the backdrop of towering rocky cliffs. You can even catch a glimpse of the spectacular Mount Rushmore in some areas of the park. No matter what time of year you take your RV excursion to Custer State Park you’ll be in for a unforgettable adventure in a tranquil environment unlike anywhere else in the country.
RV Rentals in Custer State Park
Transportation in Custer State Park
Custer State Park is located off Highways 36 and 87, making it easily accessible from nearby towns including Rapid City and Custer. While navigating within the park is easy, you’ll want to take caution driving on some roads within the park such as Needles Highway, which has narrow and windy turns. There are some tunnels on this route that only allow a maximum height of 11 feet and a width of ten, so know your vehicle's dimensions before you go.
Some areas of the park are not accessible by large RVs and trailers due to narrow roads and tunnels. Check out the park map before driving within the park to assess the best route for your motorhome or travel trailer.
Parking lots are dotted around the park such as the Visitor Center and major attractions like Sylvan Lake and Stockade Lake. Some of the campgrounds offer overnight parking for RVs as well. If you are in a large RV or traveling with a large trailer you’ll want to assess the best route to access parking due to narrow or windy road conditions. The park is easy to get around on foot or by bike.
Campgrounds and parking in Custer State Park
Campsites in Custer State Park
Blue Bell Campground
If you want to get a taste of a ranch-like feel of the Old West, Blue Bell Campground is a great option with 35 campsites available for large RVs. Open from April to October, this campground is nestled in a pine forest near the idyllic French Creek. Amenities includes restrooms, showers, and drinking water. You’ll have easy access to great fishing spots and a nearby restaurant. This is a modern campground since some sites offer electric hookups.
Game Lodge Campground
This campground features 59 sites that are available for RVs. You can relax by the Grace Coolidge Creek, swim at the swimming beach, and have fun at the playground. Game Lodge Campground is open year-round but only provides full facilities from March to November. Electric service is available at some campsites.
Grace Coolidge Campground
You can relax or go fishing at the Grace Coolidge Creek from this majestic campground. 20 campsites are available for RVs, while 6 are tent-only sites. Open from April to October, this campground features restrooms, showers, and electrical hookups at some sites. You’ll have easy access to the Coolidge General Store as well as a restaurant and laundromat.
Legion Lake Campground
Near the tranquil waters of Legion Lake, this campground offers a prime spot for fishing, swimming, boating, and hiking. 26 campsites are available for RVs, some of which have electric hookups. Restrooms and showers are located in the campground. You’ll also be close to the Legion Lodge, which offers a restaurant and convenience store.
Stockade South Campground
This campground is open from May to September, located on the Western edge of the park. 23 campsites are open to RVs, some of which offer electric hookups. You’ll have access to restrooms and showers at the campsite.
Sylvan Lake Campground
If you want to stay near the majestic views of the glistening waters and towering rocky faces of Sylvan Lake, this is the campground for you. Open from May to September, 39 campsites are available, some of which offer electricity. Showers, restrooms, and drinking water are available at the campground. You’ll also be close to jaw-dropping view of Black Elk Peak.
Center Lake Campground
Open from May to October, Center Lake Campground is close to an enchanting lake underneath the shade of ponderosa pine. 71 sites are available for same-day reservations, some of which are suitable for smaller RVs. Restrooms and showers are located in the campground. You’ll have convenient access to a boat dock, swimming, and fishing opportunities at this beautiful campground.
French Creek Natural Area
If you are looking for a backcountry camping experience during your stay at Custer State Park, this is the perfect spot. This 12-mile backcountry hiking trail offers a year-round opportunity to camp near the majestic French Creek. So if you want to park your RV and camp in the wild you can stay amidst the untouched beauty of wildflower plains, the towering Black Hills, and tall canyon walls.
French Creek Horse Camp
If you are an avid equestrian and want to camp with your horses during your RV trip you can at the French Creek Horse Camp. Each campsite features a corral with access to showers and restrooms. This campsite is open year-round, but only provides electricity from May to October.
If you want to park your RV and enjoy the comfort of a lodge, there are four located within the park: Blue Bell Lodge, Legion Lake Lodge, State Game Lodge, and Sylvan Lake Lodge. These lodges offer convenient amenities like restaurants, gift shops, and convenience stores.
If you want to enjoy a rustic experience at Custer State Park you can park your motorhome and stay at one of the cabins located on several of the park campgrounds. These log cabins offer an atmosphere of the Old West with the modern convenience of electricity, heating, and air conditioning. You can stay cozy and warm in your cabin while enjoying the beautiful hills and forest all around you. While there is no indoor plumbing in the cabins, they are furnished with tables, benches, and beds.
If you would prefer to stay outside of the park you can take your RV to one of the many private campgrounds and RV parks nearby. They are dotted around the park and may feature a range of modern amenities like wireless internet, Cable TV, swimming pools, laundry facilities, and rec rooms.
Seasonal activities in Custer State Park
Hiking and Biking
Custer State Park offers 71,000 acres of vast open land that you can explore on foot or on your bike. If you want to hike or cycle on an easy trail, Lover’s Leap is a perfect three-mile trek where you’ll enjoy breathtaking views of Mount Coolidge, Black Elk Peak, and the Cathedral Spires. If you want to bike or hike on a more strenuous root the Prairie Trail is a great option that offers a chance to spot free-roaming bison and pronghorn, as well as panoramic views of the Black Hills. If you prefer to learn more about the natural and cultural history of the area, you can take a guided adventure hike during the summer season.
Swimming and Boating
There are five wondrous lakes dotted around Custer State Park. During your RV trip to this beautiful state park you can swim in the glistening waters of any of these lakes. You also rent canoes, kayaks, and paddleboards to coast along these tranquil waters while being surrounded by rugged rock faces and serene forests. Stockade Lake is the only one that allows all boats.
If you’re up for a rock climbing challenge during your motorhome excursion to Custer State Park, you’re in luck. The Needles is an amazing geological formation of mystical granite towers and spires that offers a one-of-a-kind adventure for rock climbers. You won’t want to miss this chance to climb some of the most amazing rock faces in the country.
If you want to do some horseback riding on your RV trip to Custer State Park, you can ride along beautiful nature trails while soaking in the incredible views of the Black Hills and majestic lakes all around you. There are four marked trails that you can ride on whether you want to venture out on your own or take a private guided horseback riding tour.
Exploring Historical Sites
Custer State Park is home to some amazing historical sites that you can explore during your motorhome adventure through South Dakota. You can see Badger Hole, which is a historic cabin that honors the state’s first poet laureate, decorated with furnishings of the old west. Mount Coolidge Fire Tower is a castle-like structure at the highest point in the park, where you can spot the Badlands 60 miles away on a clear day.
Cross-Country Skiing, Snowshoeing, and Snowmobiling
You can experience how Custer State Park transforms into a magical winter wonderland during your winter RV trip to South Dakota. You can cross-country ski and snowshoe across the trails into the untouched beauty of the Black Hills. Snowmobiling is a thrilling way to travel across the park and is permitted at the lakes. Some trail entrances feature warming stations with wood burning stoves during the winter.
Fishing and Ice Fishing
The beautiful lakes of Custer State Park offer a perfect chance for anglers to catch rainbow trout, brook trout, and brown trout. You can also go fly fishing from the shores of the Grace Coolidge and French creeks. Ice fishing is a popular winter pastime when the waters freeze over.
Bird Watching and Wildlife Viewing
The off-season is a great time to see the incredible wildlife that call the state park home since it's less crowded. You can see herds of free-roaming buffalo, elk, and pronghorn all around the park. Birding enthusiasts will love the chance to catch a glimpse of prairie falcons, mountain bluebirds, and western tanagers. Make sure you pack your binoculars in your travel trailer when you head to Custer State Park.
If you want to stay cozy in your car or RV while still taking in the picturesque views and amazing wildlife that roam in the park, you can take a scenic driving tour. The Custer State Park Wildlife Loop is an 18-mile route that takes you through lush forests and grassy knolls where you can spot bison, deer, and prairie dogs. The Needles Highway is a 14-mile road that greets you with the towering and awesome spires of the Needles. This is a narrow, windy route that might not be suitable for large RVs or trailers.
Buffalo Jeep Tours
One of the main attractions of Custer State Park are the free-roaming buffalo that you can spot all around the park. You can get up close and personal with these majestic creatures by taking a private buffalo safari jeep tour. You can ride in the open air to get a panoramic views of buffalo, elk, and pronghorns.