Main Street of Keystone South Dakota located in the Black Hills near rv camp site and cabin camping Holy Smoke Resort

Your Budget Friendly Black Hills Vacation

With the rising concerns of inflation, cost of gas, groceries, and interest rates, an affordable family vacation is a MUST – and there’s still time to squeeze on in this summer!

The Black Hills of South Dakota has been a popular vacation spot for families, especially those within driving distance, due to the many free and budget friendly options parents can find for themselves and their children. We are also becoming a popular destination for young adults and couples who loves the great outdoors or want to know more about our part of the country’s rich history.

Of course, there are the staples: 

And other family favorites nearby:

Main Street of Keystone South Dakota located in the Black Hills near rv camp site and cabin camping Holy Smoke ResortHowever, we want to share a few activities to check out that are also FREE!

Make a stop at Dahl’s Chainsaw Carving to watch the artist Jarrett Dahl in action! He carves bears, eagles, and more out of wood with a chainsaw! The gallery showcases his creations available for purchase and Jarrett can also create an original carving for you. This is a must stop photo opportunity and the show will wow the kids (and you!).

Explore Keystone by following the numbered signs of the Old Town Walking Tour.

There are a total of 19 stations throughout the tour, each stop sharing the history of Keystone’s unique history and how its growth impacted our area of the Black Hills. It’s a great way to get those steps in, snap some photos, and learn more about the city nearby Holy Smoke Resort!

Those seeking adventure will want to check out Wind Cave National Park, one of the most complex caves in the world, and Jewel Cave National Monument – with over 210 miles of mapped and surveyed passages, its the longest cave in the world!. Admission to each of the cave’s parks are free, with tour prices ranging based on age and the tour you choose. Check other their websites for fee free days!

For visitors staying with us for the peace and quiet, but interested in seeing the “City” during the day – check out these Top 10 Free Attractions in (and around) Rapid City

The list covers a ton of must-see stops and offers a good variety to hit everyone’s interests. Military buffs will be interested in the South Dakota Air and Space Museum, while Prairie Edge Trading Company showcases the heritage and culture of the Northern Plains Indians, and the Chapel in the Hills is a replica of the famous Borgund Stavkirke of Leardal, Norway!

And of course, families with young children (or even those who are just young at heart) will want to stop by Dinosaur Park and Storybook Island!

If you’re more interested in scenic cruises or outdoor activities like hiking, mountain biking, and paddlesports, then you’ll want to read our blog Outdoor Adventures in the Black Hills.

Only here for a few days? Read up on our Black Hills 2 Day Vacation Itinerary!

Still looking for a place to stay? Check out our rv sites, cabins, and vacation rentals or give us a call and we’ll help you make your reservation.

Outdoor Adventures in the Black Hills

Here in the Black Hills of South Dakota, we pride ourselves on the abundance of outdoor experiences – not just for the locals, but for the travelers who come visit!

Most of our favorites are right next to Keystone – right next to Holy Smoke Resort.

Aside from the obvious, Mount Rushmore and Crazy Horse Memorial, the Rushmore Tramway Adventures, the Rush Mountain Adventure Park, Big Thunder Gold Mine, and 1880 Train are just a few we want to shout out.

But our area has everything from hiking, cruises, mountain biking, paddlesports, and rockclimbing – plenty to do while you’re here exploring the area!

Hikers will enjoy Black Elk Peak – previously Harney Peak – a natural, historical, and cultural gem to our Black Hills Area. The trail ends at the fire lookout tower, which is only accessible by a hiking trail (just under 4 miles). You’ll start out near Sylvan Lake in Custer State Park. We would say the trail is moderately difficult, but because of its significance and popularity, the trail is heavily traveled. 

TIP: Many mountain bikers also enjoy the same trails as hikers, so be sure to take out the ear buds and watch out for your fellow adventurers!

Bikers (motorcycles) will appreciate Iron Mountain Road, one of the most scenic areas of our great country. The turns are fun and the views are truly spectacular, unlike any you’ve ever seen! We promise you’ll have a great time.

For bikers here for the Sturgis Rally, we recommend being exceptionally cautious as some of the turns do not give you a direct line of sight for oncoming traffic. We would recommend arriving a few days before the Rally or extending your stay to a few days after for increased safety precautions.

Mountain bikers, shouldn’t feel left out either! The Black Hills offer many different trail experiences at a variety of difficulty levels, so there’s something for everyone.

The Centennial Trail (also open for hiking, backpacking, and horseback riding), George S. Mickelson Trail (also open year-round for our off-season guests) and Storm Mountain Trail (another popular hiking trail) are our top three picks – but there are several others to enjoy on our side of the state as well.

If you’re more interested in water activities, our lakes and reservoirs offer the opportunity to beat the heat by boating, kayaking, and canoeing! If you don’t have a way to bring your own equipment, families and travelers have the ability to rent from a majority of local businesses.

For the brave, you can also rockclimb in Custer State Park, at Devil’s Tower National Monument, Falling Rock, Spearfish Canyon, and more! We recommend you are an experienced climber and have a spotter or a group with you for this specific activity. We want everyone to stay safe and have an enjoyable vacation! If you’re a beginner or traveling solo, you should look into Sylvan Rocks, a climbing school and guide service and only 24 miles from us!

TIP: We suggest anyone venturing out for the day to bring some snacks, sunscreen, and a few bottles of water with you. If you’ve forgotten any these necessities, we have some available at the office or if you’re looking for a place to eat, we can recommend restaurants based on where you’ll be spending your day!

Ready to book your stay? Give us a call or find your cabin or RV site on our website.

Cabin Camping at Holy Smoke Resort in the Black Hills at Keystone South Dakota

Summer Camping in the Black Hills

Cabins 22 and 23 at Holy Smoke Resort Keystone, SD, Mt Rushmore, lodging, black hills

Cabins, vacation homes, and RVs… oh my!

What is your preferred way to camp during the summer?

Cabin camping lets you and your family be in the great outdoors, while keeping their preferences for a comfortable vacation experience. Being one with nature doesn’t mean you have to undergo the discomforts and inconveniences that traditional tent camping comes with. In fact, cabin camping offers a long list of perks and some cabins are complete comfort for families traveling during the summer and is a popular option for many of our guests!

Cabin camping means…

A structurally sound place to stay with the comforts of home, but away from home.

Most cabins come with amenities and utilities that offer you the same flexibility and comfort of home, without bringing everything and the kitchen sink. For example, each of our cabins are equipped with modern facilities – air conditioning, satellite TV, wifi, fully furnished (all queen size beds!), and are complete with a full kitchen!

The full kitchen ensures a way to cook meals without worrying about a possible burn ban or hauling coolers and cook-top options with you during your stay. This is incredibly appealing to our travelers who are trying to pack light and have planned to travel across the midwest and have several other stops planned.

That’s not even addressing the lovely indoor plumbing and electricity.

Multi-generational families will see the benefit as well since sleeping arrangement for infants, young children, and grandparents are more comfortable than an air mattress (or the ground).

Something our travelers should know, is the Black Hills are also no stranger to thunderstorms or hail weather during the summer. This means a cabin would provide adequate and safe shelter during the night! (PS – bikers coming for the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally should take the appropriate measures for the weather too!)

Little to no consuming campsite setup – which more time for fun!

Tent camping requires a lot of setup (and equipment!) to bring and cuts into valuable family bonding time. Especially for larger families when tent camping could also mean multiple tents! Whereas a cabin offers more comfortable sleeping arrangements without the extra packing (and unpacking).

Instead, your time can be spent enjoying the beauty of the Black Hills in South Dakota – and if you’re only here for a few days, we’ve built an ideal two-day itinerary as a suggestion for how to spend your time here! Of course, if you’re here longer or have other interests, you can always let us know more about your trip and we would be happy to help you plan so you get the most out of your experience.

Enjoy the Black Hills while staying IN the Black Hills!

Camping is about enjoying the great outdoors, being one with nature, having adventures, and creating memories. Cabin camping provides a great balance between hotels (often located in more populated areas, away from nature, and/or in a city) and RV or tent camping.

For families looking for a place in the Black Hills or in the Keystone or Hill City area, you’ll wake up to the smells of pine, a breathtaking view, and a tranquil setting with our cabins!

Still unconvinced about cabin camping? Holy Smoke Resort also hosts 21 spacious, shaded RV sites and our RV park is open mid-April through mid-October! In addition, our vacation homes available for visitors to the Black Hills are great for larger parties or multi-family vacations looking to bunk together.

Black Hills 2 Day Vacation Itinerary

Here in the Black Hills but only have limited time?

We’ve created an adventure-filled, two-day itinerary option for you!

With Mount Rushmore National Memorial only 4.2 miles from Holy Smoke Resort, this is an obvious place to go – and honestly, it’s probably one of (if not THE) main reason most of our visitors come to western South Dakota. Unsurprisingly, Crazy Horse Memorial and Custer State Park are also common locations that draw people to the area.

The plan below can be interchanged to best fit your family and fellow travelers, and if you have any questions at all – be sure to let us know any time during your stay at Holy Smoke Resort so we can help you out!

DAY 1: Mount Rushmore and Downtown Keystone

  • We recommend heading south to the Powder House to fuel up on a tasty and filling breakfast and coffee to get your day started. This is also a great place for lunch or dinner.
  • On your way to Mount Rushmore, be sure to spend some time in downtown Keystone.

Rushmore Tramway Adventures is the perfect place to bring the kids and burn off some energy. With a zipline tour, alpine slide, aerial adventure park, and more; it’s a fun way to spend your morning!

Dahl’s Chainsaw Art is an impressive gallery featuring, you guessed it, chainsaw carvings! Black Hills Glass Blowers, Black Hills Gifts & Gold, Turtle Town, and Iron Creek Leather are also notable shops we recommend you swing in and visit.

The Big Thunder Gold Mine is a fascinating mining museum in a replica 1895 gold mill. With guided tours of the old gold min and gold and gem panning, it’s a fascinating experience for all ages.

Make the stop for a refreshing treat too! Order the VANILLA ice cream cone – because the recipe is from Thomas Jefferson.

If you time your visit after Memorial Day, be sure to spend the evening for the Mount Rushmore evening lighting ceremony! After sunset, a park ranger shares the history of the monument in this spectacular and patriotic scenery.

DAY 2: Crazy Horse Memorial and Custer State Park

  • Custer State Park encompasses 71,000 acres!! Grab your breakfast to-go and enjoy the scenic drive as you make your way from Holy Smoke to the park.

Hikers will want to hit the trails of the park where breathtaking views of granite spires and the Black Hills await you. Make the stop at Sylvan Lake – consider the crown jewel of Custer State Park – for a tranquil stroll around the lake or pick up a paddleboard or kayak (available for rent – ask our front desk for details) and take your adventure to the water!

The best part of making this an early morning activity is the Wildlife Loop – with the cooler temperatures, it’s more likely the buffalo and begging burros will be out!

PS… do NOT pet the buffalo!!!!

  • Crazy Horse Memorial is much more than a memorial, be sure to explore the campus and the incredible exhibits and gallery available for learning about American Indian history and culture.

Take a tour! Grab a ride on the bus and get a close-up view of the Crazy Horse carving – those who choose to make a charitable gift will also have the opportunity of standing on the arm of the memorial.

Visitors who come between Memorial Day weekend through the end of September are in for another after-sunset show. Reserve one of your nights in the Black Hills to see the “Legends in Light” laser light show that is displayed on the side of the mountain!

Now that you’ve stayed with us for the last two days, were we able to charm you into staying for an additional day or so in the Black Hills? Add these must-visit stops!

Reptile Gardens
Bear Country USA
1880 Train (there’s a stop in downtown Keystone!)
Rushmore Mountain Adventure Park
National Presidential Wax Museum
Holy Terror Mini Golf
Rockin’ R Trail Rides

…and more!!

Let us know what you’re looking for in your Black Hills vacation when you book your RV site or cabin.

We’ll be happy to help you create your perfect getaway!

Multi-generational family with dog

Planning your 2022 family vacation!

Multi-generational family with dogWhy does it feel like it’s getting harder and harder to plan a family vacation that everyone is going to enjoy? 

After all, a family vacation sounds simple.

Pick a place. Go there. Have fun. Make memories. Come home.

Easy, right?

We have found, the challenge comes when parents are trying to pick a summer vacation that will entertain and interest everyone in the family – brothers, sisters, toddlers, teens, and even grandma and grandpa. Sometimes, that also means bringing fido along too! So now, you have a group of people with not only different interests but also various ages.

In short, you’re looking for an affordable way for your entire family to take a break and have some relaxation… and unplug for a little while. Maybe see a part of the country you’ve never been to or you find yourself looking for places with things to do that are only within a day or two’s drive.

We are a little biased, but the Black Hills of South Dakota is the perfect location for your next multi-generational family vacation. 

We have history, outdoor adventure, wildlife experiences, shopping, dining, and so much more – for families of all ages and stages! There really is something for everyone here in the Black Hills. Plus, we have absolutely stunning views, and seeing wildlife is easily an everyday occurrence. 

Parents of little ones will enjoy seeing their children’s eyes light up at the live shows at Reptile Gardens and playing with storybook characters at Storybook Island.

Experience the 1880 Train, Rush Mountain Adventure Park, and Big Thunder Gold Mine to keep pre-teens and teenagers engaged and satisfy their need for thrill-seeking. You can also stop by Rushmore Cave if you want to squeeze in a 7-D video game experience. They’ll have so much to share with their friends on TikTok and Instagram!

If Grandma and Grandpa are art and history lovers, this is the vacation of a lifetime for them. The Black Hills is probably most known for our Native American culture and history as much as we are known for Mount Rushmore National Memorial and Custer State Park.

And if you’re looking for outdoor adventure, we have plenty of scenic hiking and biking trails with breathtaking, unique views just ready for you to explore! Water-lovers can even take advantage of paddlesports rentals and make a splash in the lakes and creeks of the hills.

Regardless of what your family is looking for in a vacation, the Black Hills has it! Many of our guests come to the area knowing what they’re going to do… but if you are staying with us at the RV park or in the cabins and need some ideas, just let us know! We would be happy to help you with any recommendations to help you make the most of your time in Keystone and the Black Hills!

Buffalo Roundup field of bison at Custer State Park 18 miles from Holy Smoke Resort in the Black Hills of South Dakota

Fall Events and Traditions in the Black Hills of South Dakota

Buffalo Roundup field of bison at Custer State Park 18 miles from Holy Smoke Resort in the Black Hills of South DakotaSo, you’ve found yourself in our beautiful Black Hills and you’re staying with us at Holy Smoke Resort during the Fall. Welcome! It’s so tranquil here; the perfect little getaway spot for a long weekend. But what is there to do here once the summer attractions close? Well, aside from the must-see Legends in Light laser light show at Crazy Horse Memorial and the magnificent Mount Rushmore Evening Lighting Ceremony, the Black Hills of South Dakota hosts a variety of events throughout the Fall. Including one of the most infamous events for our area… Custer State Park’s Buffalo Roundup.

The “first official” Buffalo Roundup began in 1965, even though the park has a history of rounding up bison ever since 1914 (before Custer State Park was even officially a park!). The difference was the herd wasn’t quite as large and so it didn’t require an annual event like it does today – with approximately 1,300 bison. 

While spectators come from all around the country for this unique sight, the Buffalo Roundup is actually a critical management tool for Custer State Park in maintaining a strong and healthy herd. The history of the event and how it transformed into a three day arts festival featuring over 100 vendors with South Dakota made products, an auction, and even an application process for riders to join the roundup is fascinating. 

Our outdoor adventure visitors will appreciate the Fall Volksmarch at Crazy Horse Memorial. This 10K route (round trip) takes approximately 4 hours for hikers to complete and is set at your own pace. The terrain is described as “hilly and rough with some steep inclines.” If you stay a few days longer, marathoners have the opportunity to also join the Run Crazy Horse Marathon and Races! The event hosts a half marathon, full marathon, and a 5-person marathon relay. 

If running or hiking isn’t your thing, you can still soak up and enjoy the Native American culture by attending the Black Hills Powwow. This weekend-long event has been running for over 30 years. The Black Hills Powwow attracts hundreds of dancers, singers, artists, and attendees to enjoy a fine arts show, He Sapa Win pageant, tournaments, and a wellness symposium for youth among other entertainment.

Young adult travelers (or even those who enjoy people watching) may be interested in DEADWEIRD. This Halloween celebration is held annually in historic Deadwood, South Dakota. Yep. That TV show. People dress up in elaborate costumes while walking the streets, enjoying the various festivities. Most years consist of a costume contest, monster ball, live bands and entertainment, dancing, and prizes! 

Bridal Falls 72 miles from Holy Smoke Resort in Spearfish South DakotaOur lovely Black Hills is also home to gorgeous scenic drives; so while not an official “event,” we do encourage our Fall visitors to take advantage of the view. Spearfish Canyon in particular is popular among the locals and we highly encourage you to not only make the drive, but to take a leisurely stroll to view Bridal Veil Falls, Roughlock Falls, and Spearfish Falls. Bring a good pair of shoes! Another favorite is Iron Mountain Road, also known as 16A (we’re really close, by the way!), for its fun curves, stunning surroundings, and breathtaking and iconic views.

See? We have many events for you during the Fall! And Holy Smoke Resort is the perfect place to stay! We’re tucked into the hills to offer you peace and quiet seclusion after a busy and exciting day, but we are also conveniently located to any of these events you, your family, and your friends have come to enjoy.

Sturgis Motorcycle Rally - Main Street Sturgis, South Dakota

The Sturgis Motorcycle Rally

Sturgis Motorcycle Rally - Main Street Sturgis, South DakotaThe Sturgis Motorcycle Rally (also known as Sturgis Bike Week, Sturgis Bike Rally, etc.) is hands down one of the most notorious motorcycle rallies in the United States. South Dakota locals will be able to tell you it’s one of the largest events within the state and west river South Dakota sees hundreds of thousands of motorcycle enthusiasts (on average around 500,000 people, with the high being over 700,000) from all over the country come to the Black Hills area over the course of ten days!

The Sturgis Rally started in 1938 by a group of Indian Motorcycle riders and initially began for stunts and races! Since then, The Rally has grown into the largest gathering of bikers in the United States; an event filled with vendors, concerts, parties, and introducing riders to the beautiful scenery of the Black Hills of South Dakota. Beginning the full first week of August every year, we look forward to our returning regulars and welcome newbies to the area.

Most bikers attending will drive campers, RVs, and trucks while towing a motorcycle trailer, then riding their bikes to and from Sturgis during the week; especially those traveling thousands of miles to South Dakota. Many visitors come to our area for more than just the motorcycle rally. Several opt to come before or stay after the Rally ends to enjoy Keystone and the surrounding Black Hills area’s family attractions, national parks, and outdoor activities – meaning that a camper, an RV, or an additional vehicle is a must-have during their vacation!

Black Hills Motorcycle Rides Map - 2021 Sturgis Rally editionBeing located in Keystone, South Dakota, Holy Smoke Resort is a prime spot to stay for these visitors. Our RV park offers 65 feet to 78 feet long pull-through sites, 50 amp service, full hook ups, water and sewer, free wifi, and electricity. Our cabins are equipped with modern facilities, are fully furnished, and have air conditioning. The best part is we are centrally located to everything you could want to see and do during your trip here in the Black Hills; including a gorgeous motorcycle route to Sturgis.

For our bikers, Black Hills Area Maps have been created to show various rides throughout the area along with an accompanying key to help you match your desired ride with your current skill level.

One of the favorite rides among intermediate riders includes Iron Mountain Road, which starts with Highway 16A – exactly where Holy Smoke is located! The route will take you through fun curves through the Black Hills and connects you to Highway 385, taking you into the historical towns of Lead and Deadwood, then finally through Boulder Canyon right into Sturgis.

Do you have time for a detour? More advanced riders enjoy the challenge of the Needles Highway. While on Highway 16A, you can venture West onto S. Playhouse Rd. which will have you on the second best scenic road in the Black Hills to ride – the Needles Highway. This route incorporates the natural beauty of western South Dakota, while the curves, dips, and inclines will upon your skill and savvy as a motorcyclist. After The Needles, you’ll be back to Highway 385 and you’re headed on the way to Lead and Deadwood.

Another popular question we receive is how to see Mount Rushmore! To ride through scenic views of Mount Rushmore National Memorial and the Crazy Horse Memorial, head South from Holy Smoke Resort toward Highway 244 which will lead you straight to the mountain of Presidents. Continuing West on Highway 244 will lead you to Highway 385, and you’ll be rewarded with the view of Crazy Horse Memorial. Staying on this road will land you right into the quaint town of Custer. Should you choose to venture through Custer State Park, we caution our motorcycle visitors… the buffalo are not a fan of the loud pipes! From Custer, you’ll be able to choose from several other ride options within the Black Hills area.

During the Rally, guided and group rides are also organized if you’re interested in meeting new people or don’t feel like riding solo the entire time.

The Sturgis Motorcycle Rally is an event we look forward to every year. The returning faces of past guests is always a treat and we love to hear what they’ve been up to over the past year. New riders, couples, and families find us and it’s a pleasure to meet new faces.