The Best Free Camping Spots In South Dakota
Free camping in South Dakota is a great way to see this beautiful state. There, you’ll find plenty of places to camp in South Dakota’s rolling hills, beautiful mountains, vast canyons, and lush forests.
RVing in South Dakota provides an excellent way to explore the state’s numerous offerings thoroughly. And the abundance of free camping in South Dakota helps you truly immerse yourself in its wilderness while you’re there.
Let’s dig in!
About Free Camping in South Dakota, or Anywhere
What’s free camping? Free camping is any land you’re legally allowed to camp on with no payment for one or multiple nights. In fact, many free camping locations are within the boundaries of the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) land.
Free camping is commonly referred to as boondocking. Boondocking is camping without access to electricity, water, or sewer hookups. You must be self-sufficient and come prepared with essentials such as enough fresh water to last the duration of your trip. Often those who are boondocking supply their own power by using a generator or solar panels to power their RV.
It’s essential that those utilizing free camping respect the leave no trace practices. In other words, you leave all areas better than you found them. No one likes finally making their way to that perfect boondocking location only to find that the last people to use it left it a mess. If our public lands are not taken care of, they will not continue to be available for our use.
It’s the camper’s responsibility to verify that they were legally allowed to camp in that location. Some public lands border private property, which could lead to trespassing if you’re in the wrong location. Even if you are on official public land, you’ll need to verify the area is available for overnight stays.
Because free camping is rarely available with reservations, it’s almost always first come, first served. There’s no guarantee that a campsite will be available for you. Because of this, it’s important always to have a backup plan.
Important Tools For Boondocking
There are a few items that can make your boondocking experience a little more enjoyable. Here are a handful of tools we suggest.
Generator: A generator is a portable power source that uses a fuel source to run the motor that creates the energy. There are a wide variety of brands, sizes, and capabilities when it comes to generators. Generators can often be daisy-chained together to give additional amperage. Which electronics you’re planning to use will determine the generator size you’ll need.
Solar Panels: Solar panels allow you to gather energy from the sun to help charge your RV batteries. Solar panels are often mounted to an RV’s roof. Although, you can purchase portable units to place on the ground. The panels come in various wattages, so your power capacity is limited only by your budget and available space.
Cell Booster: Cell boosters allow you to boost the cellular signal reaching your location. It’s important to keep in mind that cell boosters do not create a signal where one isn’t already present. These are extremely helpful for those needing to work remotely or stay connected while camping in remote areas with limited cell signal.
First Aid Kit: A first aid kit is something that you should not go without regardless of your camping style. It’s even more important when you are camping in remote locations. Many free camping locations are in areas far from medical help. A first aid kit can help you to treat an injury until you have access to proper medical assistance.
The Best Free Camping In South Dakota
South Dakota’s incredible landscapes and rich history are unforgettable. Here are a handful of campsites in South Dakota that we think you’ll love not only for the sceneries but the price tags as well.
#1 – Hieb Memorial Park (Marion, SD)
GPS: 43.4259, -97.2653
About The Campsite: Hieb Memorial Park Campground is located within Marion, South Dakota, which is about 45 minutes outside of Sioux Falls. This campground is free with a seven-night limit. There are eight full hook-up sites available, as well as a dump station.
Hieb Memorial Park is in a small town with a handful of businesses. Inside the park, you’ll find baseball fields, a playground, a pool, and sand volleyball. In addition, there are restrooms located on-site. A feature of the park is a suspension bridge that allows visitors to cross the lake. This park provides free camping in South Dakota from May-September.
Reported Cell Service: Reviewers report 3 bars of service for ATT and Verizon and 4 bars for T-Mobile.
Midwest Boondocking Vibes: 8/10. This is a great free campground with hookups, surely a rare find. The only drawback, though, is that it’s not open year-round.
#2 – Bear Mountain Hill Top (Custer, SD)
GPS: 43.867203, -103.753686
About The Campsite: Bear Mountain Hill Top is located within the Black Hills National Forest. This area provides great dispersed camping in a quiet meadow setting. Campers report seeing various wildlife such as deer, elk, coyotes, foxes, and pronghorn.
There are no amenities in the area. Campers will need to be self-contained and will have no access to water or electricity. To access this dispersed camping area, campers will need to navigate 12 miles of gravel roads. There’s enough space for rigs of all sizes, but it may be difficult to navigate larger rigs up the gravel road.
Reported Cell Service: A nearby Verizon tower provides great service. ATT and T-mobile have limited service.
Midwest Boondocking Vibes: 6/10. This location is rather remote, and there are reports that the gravel road can be a bit rough. Smaller rigs will likely appreciate this area more than larger setups.
#3 – Sage Creek Campground (Wall, SD)
GPS: 43.895, -102.4134
About The Campsite: Sage Creek Campground is located within Badlands National Park. There are a total of 22 first-come, first-served campsites. RVs must be 18 feet or less in length. To access the campground, you’ll need to take an unpaved road that can sometimes close during inclement weather.
Pit toilets and picnic tables are available at Sage Creek. There’s no access to water. However, you can obtain water at the Ben Reifel Visitor Center. Generators are not allowed, so those needing power will need ample battery bank and solar to charge the batteries. Campfires are also not allowed, but you may use charcoal grills.
Reported Cell Service: Limited cell service is reported as ATT and Sprint with 1 bar and Verizon with 2 bars.
Midwest Boondocking Vibes: 7/10. This is a great free campground for those looking to experience Badlands National Park. However, only small rigs can take advantage of this campground. As a result, many people will not be able to access this campground.
#4 – Badlands Overlook (Wall, SD)
GPS: 43.890031, -102.226789
About The Campsite: Badlands Overlook is a popular boondocking location. This site is often referred to as “Nomad’s View” and is near the Badlands National Park entrance. There are a variety of wildlife viewing opportunities, including pronghorns and numerous bird species. The area overlooks a beautiful landscape from the top of a cliff. As a result, it’s often very windy at this location.
Badlands Overlook has no facilities, including water or electricity. Although, generators are allowed. In addition, RVs of all sizes can access this free camping area. However, campers should keep in mind that this area is located just off of a well-paved road. Therefore, RVs will need to navigate about a mile of dirt road to access the camping area.
Reported Cell Service: Campers report excellent cell service for all carriers.
Midwest Boondocking Vibes: 10/10. This is a great boondocking spot for both new and veteran boondockers. It feels remote but is close to nearby services. Due to the popularity of this location, it can be difficult to find a spot.
#5 – Dude Ranch Lakeside Area (Chamberlain, SD)
GPS: 43.7813, -99.4253
About The Campsite: Dude Ranch Lakeside Area is located approximately seven miles southwest of I-90. This makes it very accessible as I-90 is a major interstate going through the middle of South Dakota. You’ll need to travel a gravel road to access the campground. However, the area is on a lake with a beach and boat access. Be careful with your awnings because campers have reported high winds at times.
The campsites have fire rings and picnic tables. There are vault toilets for campers who wish to use them, but there’s no dump station available. This campground is primitive. Thus, there are no electric or water hookups. Trash containers are available, however. And, many of the sites are pull-through, making them easy to access. A popular destination nearby is the Dignity statue.
Reported Cell Service: Campers report excellent service on all carriers.
Midwest Boondocking Vibes: 7/10. This is a great spot to overnight or spend a few quiet days. Though, there are not a lot of activities nearby.
#6 – Keyrapmore Dispersed Camping
GPS: 43.93898, -103.44763
About The Campsite: This South Dakota free camping spot gets you close to the action without feeling crowded. Keyrapmore dispersed camping is conveniently located close to Custer State Park and Mount Rushmore. The site is at 5100 feet in elevation. Keyrapmore dispersed camping is located approximately 30 minutes from Rapid City.
There are no facilities available in this area and no access to electricity or water. You should also plan to pack in and pack out. Cattle are often found roaming around the camping areas. Getting to the camping area will require navigating a rough dirt road. As a matter of fact, the location is best for smaller RVs.
Reported Cell Service: There’s a usable but weak signal for all providers at this spot.
Midwest Boondocking Vibes: 7/10. This is a great spot for those wanting to boondock close to Mount Rushmore. Although, some campers might have a tough time navigating the rutted roads.
Explore the Outdoors While Free Camping in South Dakota
South Dakota is perfect for adventurers who love the outdoors. There’s a variety of recreational activities for all personalities. And, finding a free camping spot will only make it better. Have you found a great free camping spot in South Dakota?
Discover the Best Free Camping Across the USA
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