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Black Hills National Forest occupies more than one million acres and protects lush ponderosa pine woodlands, windswept grasslands, and rolling plains. Mount Rushmore National Memorial is the signature attraction, though dig a little deeper and you'll find scenic hiking trails, tumbling waterfalls, hidden caves, and cobalt blue lakes. The forest straddles the border of South Dakota and Wyoming, with hiking, camping, rock climbing, mountain biking, horseback riding, and wildlife viewing just some of the outdoor activities on offer.
A network of scenic byways and forest roads also makes it easy to explore the park on two wheels. Planning an escape in the great outdoors of the Midwest? Book an RV in South Dakota and you can discover Black Hills National Forest at your own pace. Whether you're planning a whirlwind weekend getaway or an extended road trip, you'll find RV rentals for every occasion.
Known as the "Island in the Plains", Black Hills National Forest is one of the most rewarding outdoor recreation areas in the Midwest. More than 450 miles of hiking trails wind through the park, with options for every age and fitness level. If you don't want to work up a sweat, scenic byways meander through the park and are a fantastic way to enjoy the landscape. Peter Norbeck Scenic Byway is one of the most popular driving routes, with fantastic views of Mount Rushmore and a good chance of spotting elk. Spearfish Canyon Scenic Byway is another favorite, taking you past sheer limestone walls and cascading waterfalls.
Custer State Park occupies the southern end of Black Hills National Forest and is home to one of the largest herds of free-roaming bison in North America. Cruise along the 18-mile Wildlife Loop Road and you could spot the famous residents, as well as elk, bighorn sheep, pronghorns, coyotes, and prairie dogs. Iron Mountain Road is another iconic drive, taking you over wooden bridges, through narrow rock tunnels, and up hair-raising switchbacks. Custer also offers spectacular hiking, with the Cathedral Spires, Sylvan Lake Shore, and Sunday Gulch trails all highly recommended.
Black Hills National Forest offers a unique chance to discover the caves of South Dakota. Wind Cave National Park conceals one of the longest cave systems in the world, with guided tours getting you up close with frostwork, popcorn, and other whimsical subterranean rock formations. Near Custer, Jewel Cave National Monument is filled with sparkling calcite crystals. For a truly unique experience, take to the skies in a hot air balloon ride over Black Hills National Forest.
Black Hills National Forest maintains more than 680 individual sites set across 30 campgrounds and four Ranger Districts. Depending on where you stay, you could camp among towering ponderosa pine, by the banks of a rumbling river, or on the shores of a cobalt blue lake. There are no electricity, sewer, or water hookups within Black Hills National Forest, making it a good choice for off-the-grid motorhome camping getaways. You will have access to either flush or vault toilets at most campgrounds, as well as potable water in peak season.
In the Northern Hills Ranger District, Roubaix Lake Campground offers more than 50 campsites with picnic tables and fire rings. You're just steps from a fantastic swimming beach and boat launch area and have easy access to popular sights and attractions within the park. In the southeast corner, Bismarck Lake Campground offers spacious, shady sites under a canopy of mature aspens. Other popular RV campgrounds include Comanche Park near Custer, Sheridan Lake near Rapid City, and Pactola.
Black Hills National Forest is enormous, though campgrounds fill up fast in the busy summer months, especially from Memorial Day through Labor Day. It's best to make reservations if you're camping in an RV on a holiday weekend. Otherwise, you can try your luck at one of the first-come, first-served campgrounds like Dalton Lake in the northeast section of the forest.
Want to see more of the Midwest? A one-hour drive from Keystone, Badlands National Park is known for towering rock spires and rugged canyons. Stay after dark for the incredible stargazing opportunities. Virtually zero light pollution means you'll enjoy mesmerizing views of the Milky Way, as well as distant planets and shooting stars.
As you explore the Black Hills region, be sure to stop at fruit stands selling plums, rhubarb, chokecherry, and other local produce. With a rental motorhome, you can also sip your way through the Black Hills Wine Trail, which features five boutique vineyards strung along Highway 385. Beer aficionados will love the craft breweries that dot the Black Hills region.
Rapid City is the closest major metropolis, set on the eastern border of Black Hills National Forest. It's a good place to pick up gas, groceries, and other RV camping essentials before you venture into the park. Rapid City also offers a great range of camper rentals near Black Hills National Forest.