Your Guide to Exploring the Black Hills of South Dakota with Project Trek

Last updated on May 12th, 2022 at 10:34 pm. Originally published on July 27th, 2021

We’ve been to South Dakota before, but that experience was less than ideal. We were newbies, just learning the ropes, and we didn’t get to see and do all we had hoped. So, we decided to give it another go as more seasoned travelers, and this time it was an absolute blast!

If you’re looking at visiting South Dakota in an RV—or even without an RV, really—we highly recommend the Black Hills area. Here are our top tips for planning your RV trip to Black Hills, South Dakota. 

Couple takes a selfie at Badlands National Park

Where to Start

During this trip to South Dakota, we decided to try something we’ve never tried before: We used a tour company to help us plan our sightseeing. This turned out to be one of the best decisions we’ve ever made, and one we think everyone should consider, especially if they’re only in a given area for a short period of time. 

Children and hiking guide pose on the trail

Black Hills Adventure Tours

The tour company we chose was Black Hills Adventure Tours. Carrie was our guide, and she was absolutely fantastic. She took us hiking on a trail we never would have found on our own, showed us an amazing natural water slide, introduced us to an incredible local vegan ice cream place, and showed us a super cool fish hatchery. We also went on a stunning sunrise kayaking adventure and a bike ride that beats any bike ride we could ever imagine. 

Carries even provided us with a long list of things to see and do after our time with her was done. There was enough on that list to fill our entire month in the Black Hills. 

All in all, we’d say this was an excellent choice. We appreciate the time we saved by using a guide and would use Carrie again in a heartbeat.

Two siblings pose in Black Hills SD

More Destinations to Explore in Black Hills

If you choose to book Black Hills Adventure Tours, you absolutely want to take the advice of your guide and check out the things they suggest. That said, there are some other things you’ll definitely want to add to the to-do list if your guide doesn’t take you there. 

These include the following:

Mom and child pose in front of sign for Wall Drug

Wall Drug 

Wall Drug is a must-visit spot for anyone passing through South Dakota. This is a quirky place that is a mix of restaurant, gift shop, and almost a museum of sorts, full of fun and interesting things. 

The donuts here are fantastic and perfect paired with 5-cent coffee—yes, you read that right—and the assortment of souvenirs is incredible. All that said, the real reason to come here is to climb on the back of a jackalope, see a dinosaur come to life, and have your fortune told by a quarter machine. It really is a one-of-a-kind attraction that’s hard to describe in words. 

Family poses in front of Mount Rushmore National Memorial sign

Badlands National Park 

Obviously, you also have to check out Badlands National Park while you’re there. This place is absolutely incredible, with some of the most amazing scenery you’ll ever lay eyes on. 

Be sure to visit the prairie dog settlement while you’re there and listen for the squeaking of the adorable little critters. You’ll also want to make sure to check out some bison in the park and grab a Junior Ranger book so your kids can earn their badges. 

Couple kisses at Mount Rushmore

Mount Rushmore 

Perhaps the most iconic sight in all of South Dakota is Mount Rushmore. Therefore, it only stands to reason that you would want to see this place while in the state. 

Standing in front of this amazing work of art is truly incredible, and the perfect photo op. The museum part of the monument is equally fun to see and provides tons of information on the making of Mount Rushmore, as well as how it’s maintained to this day. 

The Junior Ranger program at this NPS site is a good one, so be sure to ask for a book for your kids. 

Children pose in front of ride at Mount Rushmore
Children smile before going on obstacle course

Rush Mountain Adventure Park

Another super fun stop for families, Rush Mountain Adventure Park is an excellent stop to take during your Black Hills adventures. The Rushmore Cave alone is worth the visit to the park, but the zip line, mountain coaster, rope course, and “7D” interactive ride all add even more to your trip. 

We recommend splurging on the ride wristband to get the full experience. 

Child smiles will on slack line
Child smiles while on obstacle course

Hippie Hole 

The views are among the very best things about visiting the Black Hills. Therefore, it just makes sense to spend as much time as possible in nature. In our opinion, one of the best ways to do this is through hiking, and one of the best hikes in the area is the trek to Hippie Hole.

A secluded and little-known swimming hole, Hippie Hole boasts some seriously cold water, making it a great place to cool down on a super hot day. The waterfall here is also amazing, and of course, the trail to get in is challenging enough to be interesting and fun. 

Two children pose in Black Hills SD

Reptile Gardens

Finally, we must mention Reptile Gardens. This is an animal park with a focus on reptiles that the whole family is sure to love. Wander the botanical gardens, get up close and personal with prairie dogs, have fun with birds, and check out crocodiles, turtles, and lizards. You’ll want to be sure to catch a snake show and leave time for playground fun as well! 

Mom and two children pose in front of Reptile Gardens

Where to Stay in Black Hills

Obviously, you will need someplace to stay during your Black Hills adventures. Fortunately, there are tons of options in the area. Whether you’re in an RV or plan to stay in a hotel, you’re sure to find someplace comfortable and clean. 

Child hangs off back ladder of an RV in Badlands NP

Hart Ranch

While in the Black Hills, we did a bit of boondocking at Nomad’s View. This place was beautiful (if a bit scary when a storm blows through), but dry camping isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, and honestly, if you’ll be around a while, a campsite with hookups is a much better idea. In this case, we highly recommend Hart Ranch. 

Hart Ranch is a gorgeous five-star camping resort. It offers full hookups, a pool, playgrounds, hot tubs, sports courts, and much more. They also have a membership program for those who plan to visit often, and the helpful staff are happy to answer any questions you may have about membership or anything else. 

There you have it, folks: our top recommendations for Black Hills, South Dakota. Hope you got some great inspiration. Now get out there and have some adventures of your own!

For a wide variety of campgrounds, check out Camp in South Dakota. In Camp in South Dakota you will find all the detailed information and directory of a wide variety of campgrounds waiting for you and your next adventure!

About the Author

We are the Axness family; Nate, Christian, Ella, and Andersen. Five years ago, we sold everything, quit our nine-to-fives, started working for ourselves, and began traveling full-time in our RV. Our goal in sharing our story with you is to encourage you in your pursuit of long-term family travel.

We have been so positively impacted by nomadic life and believe that travel has not only brought us closer together as a family but also made us better citizens in our ever-changing community. We look forward to speaking life into your dreams of travel, helping you navigate the difficulties that travel can inevitably bring, and inspire you to embrace the RV lifestyle. Follow along with our adventures on Instagram @ProjectTrek.

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