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Where to camp/stay/visit in the Badlands and south Black Hills in June?


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I’m planning a trip with the kids and me to go the Badlands in June.  I’m thinking we will have 1 day in the Badlands, and then go on to the southern Black Hills for 3-4 days.  I am planning on having us tent camp, as we’re generally experienced.  We’d be driving in from the east side of SD, heading west for reference.

So, for those who have visited/camped out there.  Are there any favorite campsites in either location you would recommend?  I like the more primitive camps, less glamorous, and can handle pit toilets but running water is always a nice bonus 🙂. I think I read somewhere about “free camping” or something like that - where we can just pitch a tent anywhere in a national park as long as XYZ parameters are met - should I consider this out there? 

How about favorite places to visit?  Again, less Wall Drug and more historical sites.  Custer National Park and Crazy Horse are obvious.  

Any other information from those who live in the area or are familiar with it would be greatly appreciated!  Oh yes, kids are 13, 11, 9.  

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We stayed (with an RV, but there were plenty of tent campers around) inside the park at the Badlands (Cedar Pass) and at Game Lodge Campground in Custer State Park. Both were great, although the bathhouses at Cedar Pass are not the best. There are several campgrounds in Custer...people like Bluebell a lot, I know--some of the others that are less big RV friendly might be better with a tent. 

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Badlands is our collective favorite place we've ever visited as a family--drive the loop road and do some hikes--Notch Trail is great and some of the short trails; you're allowed to climb all over the place and go off the trails in the Badlands--it's a giant playground for kids. In the Black Hills, we loved Wind Cave National Park--if you take the Wildlife Loop from Custer State Park, it drops you off right near there, IIRC (bring carrots to feed the semi-wild burros!) All the scenic drives in the park are great. We hiked Black Elk Peak, which was challenging but worth it. (I have a bunch of blog posts about the Black Hills and the Badlands in my blog that's linked in my signature if you're interested in excruciating detail 🙂 ). 

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36 minutes ago, kokotg said:

Badlands is our collective favorite place we've ever visited as a family--drive the loop road and do some hikes--Notch Trail is great and some of the short trails; you're allowed to climb all over the place and go off the trails in the Badlands--it's a giant playground for kids. In the Black Hills, we loved Wind Cave National Park--if you take the Wildlife Loop from Custer State Park, it drops you off right near there, IIRC (bring carrots to feed the semi-wild burros!) All the scenic drives in the park are great. We hiked Black Elk Peak, which was challenging but worth it. (I have a bunch of blog posts about the Black Hills and the Badlands in my blog that's linked in my signature if you're interested in excruciating detail 🙂 ). 

LOL, I just totally checked out your blog between your two posts!!!! So helpful, thanks!

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1 hour ago, kokotg said:

Badlands is our collective favorite place we've ever visited as a family--drive the loop road and do some hikes--Notch Trail is great and some of the short trails; you're allowed to climb all over the place and go off the trails in the Badlands--it's a giant playground for kids. In the Black Hills, we loved Wind Cave National Park--if you take the Wildlife Loop from Custer State Park, it drops you off right near there, IIRC (bring carrots to feed the semi-wild burros!) All the scenic drives in the park are great. We hiked Black Elk Peak, which was challenging but worth it. (I have a bunch of blog posts about the Black Hills and the Badlands in my blog that's linked in my signature if you're interested in excruciating detail 🙂 ). 

Oh wow your blogs are so great!  All the travel that you do is really cool!   Your house is beautiful!!  You have such an eye for design. 

Edited by mommyoffive
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There is a National Forest campground near the Mount Rushmore KOA. It has designated sites, but no utilities at each site so the few times I visited it was never full. 


For free “Dispersed Camping” I would guess that you would have to be far away from popular tourist area like the Black Hills/Mount Rushmore, but You might find something by googling. However, dispersed camping does not usually have any kid of services at all meaning you would need to bring your own toilet facilities (or dig holes).

Kind of near the Badlands is the Minuteman Missile National Historic Site. I went not long after it opened. There is a visitor center at one location. Tickets must be obtained to go to the site where tourists are taken into the launch facilities, and there is a third location with a cell phone audio tour of a missile storage silo. We were not able to get tickets to go down into the launch facilities, but my DS found the cell phone tour interesting.

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3 hours ago, kokotg said:

Badlands is our collective favorite place we've ever visited as a family--drive the loop road and do some hikes--Notch Trail is great and some of the short trails; you're allowed to climb all over the place and go off the trails in the Badlands--it's a giant playground for kids. In the Black Hills, we loved Wind Cave National Park--if you take the Wildlife Loop from Custer State Park, it drops you off right near there, IIRC (bring carrots to feed the semi-wild burros!) All the scenic drives in the park are great. We hiked Black Elk Peak, which was challenging but worth it. (I have a bunch of blog posts about the Black Hills and the Badlands in my blog that's linked in my signature if you're interested in excruciating detail 🙂 ). 

Just took a peek at your blog...and I love it! Your photos make me want to travel everywhere!  I did notice you haven’t hit Utah yet and I’m thinking you would really love Goblin Valley State Park if your family loved Badlands. Just wanted to mention it, as it is lesser known and another of nature’s playground. 🤪

Edited by cougarmom4
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Badlands and surrounding area was also a great favorite of ours but I must say, my absolute personal favorite is Yellowstone- love, love love it.
The badlands area is really great and there is so much to see and do like PP’s have posted.

we went when one of ours was in 4th grade and we got the free park to national parks for 4th graders thing. It was awesome. We did badlands, Jewel cave- awesome, wind cave etc. it was a lot. I don’t think Crazy Horse was a part of the National park but it was still great to see. The drive around was just great. Pictures don’t do them justice.
The biggest thing for me was seeing all the bison all over the place/ just spectacular. It was an awesome trip I am blessed to have taken.
sorry I don’t have recommendations regarding camping- we are not camping people lol. My youngest complaint about the whole trip was that we had to stay at a cabin in Cooke city, Montana and it wasn’t so comfortable. Lol 😂 

Have fun- 

 

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20 hours ago, mommyoffive said:

Oh wow your blogs are so great!  All the travel that you do is really cool!   Your house is beautiful!!  You have such an eye for design. 

Thanks so much! 🙂

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18 hours ago, cougarmom4 said:

Just took a peek at your blog...and I love it! Your photos make me want to travel everywhere!  I did notice you haven’t hit Utah yet and I’m thinking you would really love Goblin Valley State Park if your family loved Badlands. Just wanted to mention it, as it is lesser known and another of nature’s playground. 🤪

We haven't made it to Utah! My husband is really itching to go; it's tricky because he's a teacher so we can only travel in summer, and I'm nervous about it being super hot.

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