Big Pine Campground (Custer, SD)
From The Badlands to The Black Hills, we saw our fair share of southwestern South Dakota. Other than our drive through The Badlands after leaving Pierre, most of our visit to South Dakota was spent in Big Pine Campground in Custer, SD.
We’ll go ahead and say that this is probably the nicest campground we’ve stayed in, at least thus far. And we’ve stayed in a lot of campgrounds.
Jellystone Park Campground near Mammoth Cave was the site of our first big storm with wind that destroyed our canopy and left our tent soaked. Big Pine was the site of our first camping hailstorm. It was also the site of our second hailstorm. Apparently storms pop up and hit The Black Hills with regularity because we saw our fair share of rain and clouds. Luckily, all of our gear escaped unscathed.
Location is very important when it comes to accommodations. Who wants to save a few bucks on lodging only to spend hours driving everywhere? The good news is that if exploring the Black Hills of South Dakota is your goal, staying in any campground or hotel in or around Custer, SD is the place to be.
From here, you’re no more than 30 minutes from Mount Rushmore, Crazy Horse Monument, Sylvan Lake (and the Harney Peak hike), Custer State Park, Wind Cave National Park, and Jewel Cave National Monument. You’re only about 45 minutes from the eastern border of Wyoming. And if you need “the big city” for some reason, Rapid City is only about 45 minutes to the northeast. While we obviously can’t speak for the condition or amenities of any of the other campgrounds around here, we can say that they’ll all have this same amazing location near tons of recreational opportunities.
Big Pine Campground won us over the moment we walked in the door when they gave us a little mesh bag with two dog treats, a doggie doo bag, the name of a nearby veterinarian that they recommended, and a great doggy daycare place (that we used the day we explored the caves).
On top of that, they actually escort you directly to your campsite so you don’t have to search the park for it. Excellent service!
Big Pine gives you three options: full RV hookups, water/electric sites, and primitive tent sites. We went with the water/electric sites, per the usual. There’s not a whole lot to say about the hookups other than that they work well and the water is super cold and plenty drinkable.
The campground has wi-fi that was super fast. Granted, we were lucky enough to be right near one of the routers, so we don’t know about the performance of the network elsewhere amongst the big trees, but having wi-fi that actually works is a big plus for full-time travelers like us.
Big Pine also has laundry facilities, but we didn’t end up needing them this time.
While males can go nearly anywhere, clean bathrooms are very important for females. Big Pine delivers. The bathrooms are centrally located with several large showers and plenty of stalls. The water gets hot enough to scorch your face off…Edie didn’t even have to turn it up all the way to get it hot enough. And, get this, unlike a lot of campgrounds, they actually have the full suite of hand-washing essentials. You know, things like soap and hand towels that too many places we’ve stayed lacked.
They even have small single seat outhouses scattered throughout the park. These aren’t your typical smelly pit toilets though like many forest outhouses. They’re flush toilets with hand sanitizer. It might be odd to be so glowing about bathrooms, but really, when you camp as often as we do, you find yourself really happy with a clean, warm bathroom that you can wash your hands in. It’s the simple things, folks!
The campground is in the middle of a pine forest, so you’re surrounded by…wait for it…big pines. The sites themselves aren’t really “private” in that you’re surrounded on two or three sides by vegetation like at some campgrounds, but the sites are bigger than at most campgrounds, so you definitely have your fair share of space.
Even on the weekend that we were there when the campground was probably 75% full, we never felt like we had anyone right on top of us. Once it emptied back out after the weekend, it felt quite secluded even with several RVs in nearby campsites.
The price for the water/electric sites like we stayed in is $33 per night. That’s a little higher than a lot of other campgrounds in other areas of the country, but it is right around the going rate of the area, give or take a couple dollars a night. But really, we don’t have a single complaint about the price.
Like we said, everything about the campground was basically perfect. There are the big sites with hookups. The bathrooms were great and the wi-fi was fast. The owners were super friendly, stopping by regularly just to see how things were going. Then there were the little touches like being incredibly pet-friendly and making sure you got settled in quickly and easily. If/when we find ourselves back in The Black Hills, we’ll certainly be looking to stay at Big Pine again.