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.
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.
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.
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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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!
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.