South Dakota is more than 4 giant heads on the side of a mountain. Sure, we all want to be in an Alfred Hitchcock movie, and let’s face it, a visit to Mount Rushmore is an essential element of that experience. But there is more to do, and so much more to see while you’re there. A tour of the Mount Rushmore state also needs to take in the Badlands National Park, with its surreal scenery of sculptured pinnacle and gullies hinting at the fantastic age of the landscape.
The Crazy Horse Memorial and the historic town of Deadwood are reminders of the trials and challenges that faced thousands of families as they pushed west against the Frontier. Jewel cave, Wind Cave and the Missouri River are there to speak to the overwhelming power nature has applied to the countryside.
South Dakota is a state that is proud of its place in America’s history, and proud of its rugged features and weathered landscape – like any Frontiersman should be. And it is a magnificent place to visit, boasting some of the most wondrously spectacular and familiar scenery you are likely to come across.
Let’s have a look at the best resorts in South Dakota:
1. The Lodge at Deadwood
Linked to the Casino, and located in the Historic Town of Deadwood, the Lodge is an award-winning resort situated to provide access to breathtaking views over the Black Hills. The Resort includes 140 rooms and suites, which offer design features like private viewing decks, or sumptuous fireplaces (in selected suites) where guests can take in the magnificent scenery, breath the crisp mountain air, or just curl up with a loved one with a glass of wine.
The resort also sports a pair of restaurants, each having won awards in their own right, as well as a 24-hour fitness center, shuttle service for local tours, and of course the Las Vegas-styled Casino. The hotel also boasts an intricate indoor water playground for the kids. Overall an outstanding place to stay while scheduling tours of the historic precinct.
2. The Mount Rushmore Resort at Palmer Gulch
With a history dating back to 1925, the Resort at Palmer Gulch offers a broad array of accommodations for guests looking to take in the sights. The resort sports 61 rooms, a restaurant, and one of the most grandiose entrances you are likely to experience. The resort however also provides for an impressive array of serviced RV and tent sites, as well as dozens of free-standing cabins that can provide for up to 12 people.
Although built in the shadow of the spectacular Black Hills, the current operators of the resort are obviously keen to provide for a vibrant and dynamic experience for guests. Regular events are scheduled, and there are always activities running within the confines of the property. The resort has a definite family focus, with horse riding, swimming, nightly movies, and regular craft activities planned to keep everyone entertained.
3. The Horse Thief Campsite and RV Resort
The Horse Thief is located central to all the features South Dakota has to offer, including Mount Rushmore, the Crazy Horse Monument, Custer State Park, and the Wind and Jewel Cave monuments. Apart from having the coolest name of any campground in the world, the Horse Thief offers an assortment of cabins and powered tent and RV sites, which are supported by a significant range of amenities.
The general store located on-site provides groceries, camping supplies, snacks, and firewood. Also housed inside the 40-acre property are newly designed bathhouses, basketball courts, a heated swimming pool, and a sheltered picnic pavilion. Whether you decide to stay in cottages, cabins, or tents, the experience you have here will be unbeatable.
4. The Barefoot Resort
Situated at 6,500 feet and spread across South Dakota’s premium ski fields in the Black Hills, The Barefoot Resort offers an outstanding experience of the landscape for both Summer and Winter tours. With a range of Villas and Chalets available (and more planned) the Barefoot excels as a destination for those that want to relax and take in the crisp mountain air.
The resort is located within close proximity of Mount Rushmore, and Deadwood, and guests are able to access a range of local tours and events while enjoying their stay. However, the indoor pool and sports facilities are also available to those who wish to partake. If there’s one place you should be this holiday season, it’s at the Barefoot Resort, a place that averages 150 inches of snowfall each year!
5. Lewis and Clark Lodge and Resort
Built on the shores of the Lewis and Clark Lake, 6 miles west of Yankton, the Lewis and Clark Recreation Area has grown to now boast a private lodge and array of cabins and chalets. The 4,000 sq ft lodge is perfect for corporate retreats and provides spectacular views over the lake and the Chalkstone Bluffs. It features six bedrooms, four bathrooms, and a convention room. The lodge can accommodate up to 28 people.
The Resort now features 17 contemporary cabins and 24 motel rooms that have access to the lake, and a private pool, while being within walking distance from the restaurant and camping grounds. Guests can take advantage of the bike and walking trails, and rent outdoor games or DVDs for when the weather turns sour. The Lewis and Clark Recreation Area also sports over 400 powered RV and camping sites, making it a great alternative for all ranges of guests.
6. Elk Creek Lodge and Resort
Built on 150 acres of magnificent Black Hills landscape, the Elk Creek Lodge and Resort is able to accommodate a broad spread of campers and guests. Multiple powered RV and tent sites complement the Deer View cabins which are built nestled between surrounding trees.
The Lodge itself is available for special events and can accommodate large parties with catering and bar facilities. This resort features hiking trails, Petrified Forest & Museums, an outdoor pool, a wedding chapel, and game, and gift shops. The Elk Creek Lodge is ideally suited for large family reunion gatherings or weddings.
7. Cedar Shore Resort
Sporting the lodge, cabin, and various campsites, the Arrowhead Cedar Shore Resort is located on the Marina in Oacoma. With the open water of the Missouri River on its doorstep, the resort specializes in outdoor activities, supporting fishing and hunting tourists. The site even boasts its own Clay Shooting course.
The resort also hosts 2 restaurants, with the Bridges providing a casual, family-friendly fair and a happy hour for the adults, and with the Waterfront Grill pops up on the deck overlooking the Missouri River and specializes in some hefty and juicy steaks. As far as accommodation is concerned, you can choose between lodge rooms, cottages, and campgrounds, but don’t be fooled because each of these rooms are uniquely designed providing ample space and convenience.
8. The Holy Smoke Resort
Specializing in relaxation, peace and quiet, and the scent of pine, the Holy Smoke Resort is built off the highway and offers a unique Black Hills experience with an array of modern log cabins. Actual log cabins. Built with a wide range of guests in mind, the cabins are complemented by an RV campsite that includes 21 sites located among the sheltering pines that are scattered across the property.
The property itself is within close to most of the major South Dakota attractions and provides for fishing, gold panning, trail walks, and some spectacular star gazing when the sun goes down. With a wide variety of lodging and activities to choose from, this resort will paste a smile on your face that’ll transform into beautiful memories.
9. Diamond Jewel Black Hills Mountain Cabins
Now you can’t tell me that name doesn’t inspire some interest. The Mystery Mountain is built on 38 acres of pine forest in the heart of the Black Hills, and offers a range of RV campsites and cabins. The natural shade offered by the densest concentration of pine trees you will find in a Black Hills campsite makes Mystery Mountain a perfect summer destination.
The Resort offers cabins for touring parties of all sizes, including the expansive Reunion Cabin. Around the grounds are basketball and horseshoe courts, a children’s playground, and a pool. There is free Wifi available on the grounds, a hot tub for the adults, and plenty of pancakes for everyone! The Resort’s’ central location to the majority of Black Hills attractions is an added bonus.
10. Legion Lake Lodge and Resort
Within the confines of the Custer State Park, the Legion Lake Resort and Lodge offers 26 cabins dotted through the forest around the edge of the water. In the center of the park, the recently developed Lodge includes a restaurant providing dining in a casual atmosphere, overlooking the glistening waters of the beautiful lake.
Boating, fishing, and swimming are all possible in the lake, and the resort is blessed with spectacular walk trails that will open you up to some of the remarkable scenery that makes up the Park. This lodge lets your imagination run wild thanks to their different variety of accommodations available. Whether you decide to stay in a hideaway lodge, one that overlooks Sylvan Lake, or one built from stone and wood, this place has you covered. It’s time you embrace the natural beauty of South Dakota!
11. Red Rock River Resort and Spa
Located in historic Hot Springs, the Red Rock River Resort and Spa offers guests the unique experience of a stay in one of the grandiose sandstone buildings that grace the town. Built around the turn of the century (the last one, not this one) the Resort and Spa will pamper guests beyond measure with elegantly decorated rooms and a luxurious spa experience.
The conjunction of a 19th-century building and 21st-century amenities will leave an impression on any guests of the Spa Resort. The Resort is located in the center of town, with a multitude of restaurants and tour services available within close proximity. If you’ve always wanted to turn back time and experience luxury at its best, this is the place to be.
12. Spearfish Canyon Lodge
A spectacular-looking building nestled in a spectacular location with spectacular views. That is a dangerous combination, and the Spearfish Canyon Lodge does not disappoint. It is built in one of the most beautiful canyons in South Dakota, availing guests of views of the magnificent pine forests and scaling cliffs. And when the sun starts to go down … there are no words for that.
The Lodge provides 54 rooms of gradually escalating splendor, all branched off the main lodge, which is built of timber and stone in the style of old Lodges of the West. Perfect for the frontier location. Visually, a stay at Spearfish Canyon cannot be matched perhaps anywhere. At this resort, time will stand still so you can absorb the beauty of the most beautiful and breathtaking canyons in the world. Here, it’s all about being one with perfection.
13. Sylvan Lake Lodge
The administrators of Custer State Park speak of the Sylvan Lake Lodge as the ‘Jewel in the Crown’, and a quick inspection of the property reveals why. Tucked in between the pines and spruce trees, the lodge has been constructed with timber and stone and emanates a sense of warmth and welcome that modern architecture cannot replicate. Then you turn around and realize the Lodge provides a truly breathtaking view over Sylvan Lake.
The lodge was originally built in 1932, with a new wing added in 1991, and is now complemented by 32 cabins of varying sizes that have been spread among the trees so as not to dilute the experience. Whatever the size of your party, the Sylvan Lake Lodge will be able to find a place for you, and you will not regret the adventure.
14. The State Game Lodge
Still inside Custer State Park the State Game Lodge is a stately residence that was built in 1920 and served as the summer residence of Present Calvin Coolidge in 1927. The lodge itself is built deep in a wooded valley within the park and is surrounded by Pine, Spruce, and Oak trees, making a stay there a majestic experience whatever time of year (though I imagine Fall would be particularly enchanting).
The largest resort in the Park the State Game Lodge provides for a range of hotel rooms, lodge housings, and freestanding modernized cabins. Imagine waking up in the morning to the sound of birds chirping on trees of changing hues, or the gentle breeze that welcomes you… a dream, isn’t it? You get to live it here.
15. Blue Bell Lodge
From the largest accommodation in the park to the smallest, the Blue Bell Lodge is an example of the changing character available to visitors of the Park. The Blue Bell Lodge is advertised as old-style cowboy lodgings, with modern amenities, and the Blue Bell Stables (for trail rides) and chuck-wagon cookouts (a staple for guests) hold true to that experience.
There are 29 cabins in the woods surrounding the main lodge, each with contemporary amenities and an extraordinary amount of character. A stay at the Blue Bell Lodge is indeed a unique experience. If you always loved the idea of telling tales around a campfire while soaking up a true Western flavor, the Blue Bell Lodge won’t disappoint you!