Adam and I began discussing a visit to Mount Rushmore several years ago. As this national monument symbolizes so much of our country’s history, we wanted to view the site and explore the region with Emilie. We finally made it out this summer and for our lodging I was excited to book a stay at the Mount Rushmore KOA. With so much to offer and an unbeatable location, this campground is the perfect home base while visiting the Black Hills.

Attractions in the Area

The Mount Rushmore KOA at Palmer Gulch is conveniently situated near a number of popular attractions. Black Hills National Forest surrounds the campground, with hiking trails leading towards Black Elk Peak (the highest point east of the Rockies).

Black Elk Peak Harney Peak

Mount Rushmore itself is located within 5 miles. This was especially convenient as we visited for sunrise views, the evening light show, and during the middle of the day.

Also nearby are Custer State Park (8 miles) and Crazy Horse Memorial (10 miles). Both of these sites offer natural and historical adventures.

Several small cities are within close proximity as well, providing additional dining and entertainment options. Hill City is around 15 minutes from the campground, which was convenient for picking up groceries during our visit. Custer is less than 20 minutes and has a fun selection of restaurants and shops. Keystone is also close, at around 25 minutes away. Rapid City is slightly farther out being 40 minutes from the campground. Finally, famous Deadwood is around an hour from the Mount Rushmore KOA. The campground’s central location makes it easy to discover all the region offers.

Campsite Features

With over 100 acres, the Mount Rushmore KOA at Palmer Gulch is one of the largest campgrounds we’ve stayed at. There are 20, 30, and 50 amp spots with full hookups or water/electric. Some deluxe sites offer patios as well. For tent campers there are sites with no hookups or sites with electric. Additionally there are a number of cabins available for rent (some with bath facilities and others without). A unique option at this KOA campground is their lodge, with 61 rooms available.

Mount Rushmore KOA Full Hookup site

Our campsite was located in the back section of the park. From our spot were beautiful views of granite hills. It wasn’t the site that drew us to this campground though, it was the amenities and activities.

camp site


One of the things I look for when researching campgrounds are family activities. Though I know we’ll generally be out exploring, we love finding fun options at campgrounds as well.

The Mount Rushmore KOA had more activities available than we’ve ever seen at a campground before. They offer bike rentals, fishing, gemstone mining, mini golf, and a bounce pillow. A rock wall and playground are setup at the Fun Zone. Basketball courts and sand volleyball are available. And for those who love the water they have a swimming pool, splash pad, and water slide. Our timing was unfortunate as they were in the process of repainting the water slide during our visit. Judging by the progress while we were there though, I’m sure it will look great and families will be thrilled to use it again.

Special Activities

Beyond the amenities listed above, the Mount Rushmore KOA has a number of special activities. As part of their on-site stables, Palmer Gulch, this KOA offers horseback riding, a chuckwagon dinner show, and a rodeo. The horseback riding adventure was Emilie’s favorite part of our trip. To see more details and options, read all about our horseback riding experience.

We all enjoyed the chuck wagon dinner show. This unique activity was a fun way to feel like we were part of the old west. Check out our review of the Palmer Gulch chuck wagon dinner show to see what this activity includes.

In addition to the amazing horse related options, the Mount Rushmore KOA also offers traditional campground activities. Each day events to launch air rockets, decorate tie dye shirts, and build marshmallow guns are available for guests. These are just a sampling as the activities schedule is packed with fun options daily.


The common areas of the resort, like restaurants and the Fun Zone, all have WiFi available. Though the campground works to make it available for sites also, there are some areas without cell or internet connection. Our camping spot had neither. This wasn’t an issue during our stay, but good to be aware of if planning to work from the area. Cell availability can also vary depending on provider, but overall AT&T, Verizon, and T-Mobile received similar results, with the best service being closest to the front of the campground.


Within the campground there are a handful of restaurants available. We were excited to try the $3 all you can eat pancake breakfast at the Prospector’s Tent. Beverages and sides are available a la carte, or full meal options are available. The pancakes were so large I could only finish a single plate, but the taste was great and the value was unbeatable.

Other options include Turtle Town (offering pizza, wings, and ice cream), Grapes & Grinds (with selections of coffee, smoothies, wine, cheese, and fudge), and the Peak Grill & Tap Room (a full service restaurant). The Peak Grill was closed during our visit, but as an alternative option the KOA hosted fiesta nights at the Prospector’s Tent each evening.

We really enjoyed our stay at the Mount Rushmore KOA and would definitely return. We almost felt too short on time because we wanted to explore Mount Rushmore and the surrounding attractions, but also fit in time at the campground. You could plan a whole vacation just staying on-site at this KOA. To learn more or make a reservation, check out the link below for the Mount Rushmore KOA.


12620 Highway 244
Hill City, SD 57745
Phone: 605-574-2525 Info 800-562-8503 Reservations
Website: Mount Rushmore KOA at Palmer Gulch

Categories: AdventuresCampgroundsNational ParksSouth Dakota