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Framed by ponderosa and aspen trees, the Whispering Pines Campground is a picturesque base for exploring South Dakota’s Black Hills. It’s within easy access of Custer State Park and Mount Rushmore, as well as being just 30 minutes’ drive from the heart of Rapid City.
RV camping at the Whispering Pines Campground includes access to both partial and full hookup RV sites, with fire rings and picnic tables provided at each. Cabins and tent-only sites are also available, as is a pop-up trailer with electricity (but no water). Wireless internet is provided throughout the campground, although television service is not.
The on-site general store is stocked with camping essentials, such as ice, drinks, worms, and ice cream, and there are a nearby playground and billiard table that guests are welcome to use. You can cool off in the outdoor swimming pool during the warmer months or take advantage of the Deer Creek Trailhead to access the Centennial Trail that’s located just around the corner.
Directly south of the campsites at Whispering Pines Campground is Pactola Lake, which was created by the construction of the Pactola Dam in the 1950s and is the largest reservoir in the Black Hills. It’s a popular boating and fishing destination, with a marina, a swimming beach, and a walk-in fly fishing area accessible to the public. If you’re visiting during the winter months, you can try your luck at ice fishing or enjoy cross-country skiing and ice skating. The surrounding Black Hills National Forest will appeal to trekkers as home to the tallest mountain in the state, Black Elk Peak, and the stunning Black Elk Wilderness, as well as the multi-tiered Roughlock Falls.
A campsite at Whispering Pines Campground can also be used as a base for exploring Custer State Park, which was the first state park to be established in South Dakota. It encompasses more than 71,000 acres of wildlife-filled landscapes and historic sites that include the former home of South Dakota’s first poet laureate, Charles Badger Clark. Begin your visit at the heritage-listed Peter Norbeck Center to browse its informative exhibits and pick up maps, then head out to explore the park’s scenic driving routes. A network of hiking trails offers sightings of the park’s 1,500 free-roaming bison, as well as white-tailed deer, mountain goats, and bighorn sheep.
Just across the border in Wyoming is the Thunder Basin National Grassland, which is a popular destination for hiking, hunting, and birdwatching. More than 100 species of birds have been recorded in the protected area, together with pronghorn deer, black-tailed prairie dogs, badgers, and coyotes. Alternatively, you can drive in the other direction to the Badlands National Park, where you can see dramatic canyons, sprawling grasslands, and abundant wildlife along the popular Badlands Loop Road.
The Whispering Pines Campground is a 30-minute drive from the center of Rapid City, where you’ll find supermarkets for stocking up on supplies. There are also gas stations here if you need to fill up your RV rental, together with a wide variety of fast-food restaurants, cafes, and eateries where you can dine out.
Rapid City is home to several cultural and artistic institutions that include the Apex Gallery and the Dahl Arts Center, where works by local and regional artists are displayed. Admire the colorful street art in the aptly-named Art Alley, then witness the incredible architecture of Chapel in the Hills. This replica of Norway’s Borgan Stavkirke features an on-site museum detailing what life was like for early Scandinavian immigrants in the region. If you’re traveling with kids, don’t miss a visit to the Reptile Gardens, which has been listed in the Guinness Book of World Records as the largest reptile zoo in the world. Coincide your visit with one of the alligator shows and get up close to their resident Komodo dragons, then soak up the peaceful ambiance within the Tortuga Falls meditative garden.
While Whispering Pines Campground camping, you'll be a 40-minute drive from the Mount Rushmore National Memorial, with this iconic sculpture depicting four U.S. presidents (George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt, and Abraham Lincoln). It was sculpted by Gutzon Borglum and his son Lincoln, whose original studio is now open to the public. Witness the 1/12th-scale model of Mount Rushmore on display in the studio, then follow one of the walking trails to admire the 60-foot-high granite faces in person. The on-site museum features a range of interactive exhibits and short films that detail the construction of the memorial and the legacy of the presidents.
Whether you want to witness the presidential sculptures of Mount Rushmore or explore the wildlife-filled grasslands of South Dakota, book an RV in Pennington County and start planning your trip.