Mount Rushmore in South Dakota

The Mount Rushmore Experience

Here is one family’s been-there-done-that experience RVing from Northern Indiana to Mount Rushmore. These great camp spots may help you have a wonderful experience on a memorable trip.

The Adventure Begins

Picture of an Indiana Welcome sign.

It was a sunny day in May when the journey began. Our family had sold almost all our belongings, the house was under contract, and we were headed west. My husband had recently accepted a position in a western state. Therefore we loaded our RV, the kids, the dogs and our SUV. Next, we hit the road. Here is how our trip went, where we stayed, and what we thought of each campground we stayed at.

Our Rig

Our RV is a Crossroads Volante 310BH. This unit is around 35′ in length, has two slide outs, and sleeps 10 people. We pull this with an F-350 extended cab pickup. We preferred leaving the truck and RV attached. Consequently, this required us to have at least 51′ sites. Here is a picture of our set up at the Sugar Bottom Campground in Iowa.

Sugar Bottom Campground

Our first overnight stop was in a beautiful state campground in Iowa. We chose to stay at the Sugar Bottom Campground on the shores of Coralville Lake. While we were at Sugar Bottom, we were the only RVers in the whole loop. Our site was #233. For $20, we had a beautiful camp spot near the playground, electric hookups, and super clean restrooms and showers, all to our selves. Cell service was perfect. The attendants at the check-in booth were laid back and friendly. The only concern we had was the drive in and out of the campground. It was filled with climbs and turns. Our vehicles had no issues, but being “flatlanders” this was stretching my comfort levels. Keep in mind, we traveled prior to the peak camping times, we would not expect this campground to be that empty during our next visit.

During our evening at Sugar Bottom Campground, we went for a walk to the lake. The views were beautiful. Sugar Bottom would be an excellent place for those looking for swimming, fishing, or kayaking recreational opportunities. It is also perfect for those just wanting to relax.

Lewis and Clark Recreation Area

Another site we stayed at was in Yankton, South Dakota at the Lewis and Clark Recreation Area. It was a simple process to call ahead and make reservations on the Go Outdoors call line by South Dakota’s Game, Fish, and Parks. We reserved site #315. Again, this was within visuals of the campground. It was a bit of a walk to use the showers or restrooms. Those facilities were very clean and the water nice and hot. Cell service was fine.

The Lewis and Clark Recreation Area is nestled along the north shores of the Missouri River. Many fisherman were also camping. Most of the RVers had boats, and many people parked in the grass. Our site had electricity and cost around $35 for the night. Water hookups were not available.

Custer State Park

Of course, there are many options to camp while RVing to Mount Rushmore. Our family stayed for multiple days at Custer State Park, and we still did not see all that we wanted to! We tried calling to make the reservation and that was not successful. We were able to reserve site # 18E at Stockade North using the online reservation system. Custer State Park has many campgrounds, and we would recommend Stockade North time and again. The roads were paved, the facilities clean and updated, and the showers were great. The camp hosts were on site and made nightly visits. At Stockade North, several various sized RV lots are available (with or without electricity). Furthermore, tent sites are available. This is certainly a great feature when traveling with multiple families and different rigs. Our electric site was around $35 per night.

Altogether, the sights were amazing at Custer State Park. We took the Wildlife Loop Scenic Byway in the morning hours (started driving around 7 a.m.). While on the loop, we were excited to see Elk and many bison. It was a wonderful experience.

Mount Rushmore

Seeing Mount Rushmore has been a dream of mine for years. I was looking forward to experiencing it with my family. To be honest, it was surprisingly not my favorite part of the trip. The park was crowded. There is a fee to get in and, even if you have a National Parks Pass, and there is a fee to park.

Mount Rushmore in South Dakota

While RVing to Mount Rushmore, do not expect to bring your dogs with you to the park. Consequently, we stayed long enough to get a couple of pictures and use the restroom. Then we returned to the vehicle. It was our hope to hike the Presidential Trail Loop, however we had the dogs with us and were not allowed further than the pavilion. My advice, check out this site to plan your adventure beforehand.

On the Fly

While RVing to Mount Rushmore, some of our most enjoyable moments during the trip occurred on the fly. We saw Bison relaxing on the prairie, we pulled off on the side of the road to climb big rocks, and we hiked random trails that we came across. Embrace the unexpected and make the most of the time together. For more advice on how to choose a great campsite, be sure to check out this post!

Hayley Hand


Hayley and her husband, Chase, lived full-time in their RV while Chase served in the military. They have a fifth-wheel bunkhouse and are excited to make more memories with their four kids, wherever the roads may lead.

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