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Author Topic: Best campground in Custer State Park  (Read 10298 times)
mls052603
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« on: May 05, 2009, 06:48:01 PM »

Which campground is your favorite in Custer State Park and why? Are they all roughly the same distance from the "main attractions"?

I understand most sites now have electric with showers and toilets. Is water available there? If not, where do you fill your tank (don't want to pull a full water tank 500 miles!)

We're looking at a mid-June trip. What temperatures can we expect?

Are pets okay?

Thanks, as always, for your imput!
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GrowlyBear
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« Reply #1 on: May 05, 2009, 07:10:22 PM »

We haven't been to all of them, but my general impression is that they are approximately equal. We last stayed at Blue Bell and will be doing so again this Summer in late June. At Blue Bell the sites are relatively open, not a lot of woods or brush between to act as a privacy buffer, but that is more a function of the terrain than anything else. We were there in the midst of the annual motorcycle rally when we were there last, but even with that crowd we found the campground enjoyable. The look and feel reminded me of Colorado where we once lived and camped a lot.

Blue Bell is probably farther from the "main attractions" than Sylvan Lake, but distances are not a big issue in the park. You will want to see as much of it as you can and none of it will be that far away regardless of where you stay. Sylvan Lake may have a bit more of a woodsy feel and privacy. However, we liked the quiet surroundings of Blue Bell at a time when the park was jammed with people.

The weather may be a bit cool at night, but you shouldn't need anything more than a decent summer sleeping bag. We were there in early August last time and had frequent late afternoon showers. Since they didn't last long it wasn't a major problem, but something you needed to anticipate. I don't know what might happen in June since we haven't been there at that time in the past. This will be our first June trip. I'm guessing that we may still have to deal with the showers...another similarity with Colorado.

There will be a place near the shower and toilet building where you can fill your tank with water. Doing so on the way in will work. The shower and toilet facilities are well maintained on a daily basis. There are evening programs in the campgrounds. They include movies and slide shows with naturalists. We looked forward to them and so did the kids.

Pets are allowed, but must be on a leash at all times. You can't take a hike and let the dog run even if you have good vocal control over the critter. They will expect you to have physical control at all times. To a large degree this is because the park is full of wild critters that you will encounter all over the place. These include buffalo, donkeys, prairie dogs, prong horn antelope, coyotes and more. Your dog would be a major problem for you if it decided to chase after a buffalo. You don't want to get anywhere near one of those without a large fence between you and those aren't available in Custer.

It's a great park and obviously one of our favorites. Enjoy.
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GrowlyBear
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« Reply #2 on: May 06, 2009, 02:58:03 AM »

I would agree they are all nice with different favorable aspects...except Legion Lake.  It is, I believe, the smallest.  The best sites are toward the front with a few nice ones (from a shade standpoint) on one side, however, the ones toward the front get road noise and the campground can be loud with people. 

Try the others.  They are much nicer and have a different feel.  Have you looked online?  One nice feature of SD parks are the maps of the CG's and pics of each campsite online.  And I would have to say that over time, more people have mentioned Bluebell as a favorite, but that is a subjective observation. 

Custer is one of my favorite parks anywhere. 
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mls052603
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« Reply #3 on: May 06, 2009, 05:37:33 AM »

I think you're right about Blue Bell being mentioned more than others. I think I will give that one a try! We're really excited to go. We tried to go last fall, but too many other things came up (life!). I have 2 teens and a hubby that have never been there and I think they will really appreciate the area. Heck, I barely remember much about my trip as a kid so it'll probably be facinating to me too.

We do have wiener dogs we'll be taking, but they love to walk on their leashes so that won't be a problem. Actually, unfortunately, one of them has a nasty agressive tumor/cancer and has only been given a couple of months to live so we're unsure if he'll be around still to make the trip. Poor baby would love to go for that long car ride!

I have been on the SDCamp website and one of the things I like the most about Blue Bell is all the pavement. We have 18 month old twins that will be able to walk on pavement easier than uneven dirt. Plus they'll stay a little cleaner.

Thanks again!
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mountainrev
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« Reply #4 on: May 06, 2009, 06:27:04 AM »

We've stayed at Stockade Lake (north) and Center Lake (upper loop).  Center Lake does not have electric hookups, at least not last summer.  I think it's the only campground without electric. 

We liked both of those campgrounds, and would go back to either.  I've driven through Blue Bell and didn't like it because of the lack of trees and privacy.  Many of the sites at Stockade Lake are very wooded and quite private.  The drawback with Stockade Lake is that if you want to go to the lake, you have to go about 1/3 of a mile along the busy main road, which has no shoulder, so you almost are forced to drive.  At Center Lake, it's a steep walk down to the lake from the upper loop (and steeper walking back, it seems!), but it's all within the campground, so no worries about traffic.

I'd love to stay at Sylvan Lake, just because it's so close to that amazing lake.  But there aren't many sites in that campground, so it's not easy getting them.

We took our dog last time, and had no problems whatsoever.  We always keep him on a leash anyways.  The biggest challenge with dogs at Custer is the fact that you will undoubtedly want to visit Mount Rushmore, and dogs aren't allowed there (and rightly so).  I don't think dogs should be left at the campsite alone in most cases, so that means leaving them in the car as you visit Rushmore.  If you do that, try to find a parking spot inside the parking structure, where it's cooler.

You really can't go wrong at Custer SP, in my opinion.  It's got to be one of the best state parks in the nation, in terms of beauty, nearby attractions, upkeep, hiking, etc.
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« Reply #5 on: May 06, 2009, 07:00:02 AM »

We stayed at the Pig Pine Campground in Custer. ( http://www.mickelsontrailaffiliates.com/bigpinecampground.htm ) and had a great time. The place does not have a pool, so the rates are lower as the owner told me that he is saving on insurance and maintanience costs.

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« Reply #6 on: May 06, 2009, 07:37:50 AM »

And to get you in the mood, try to pick you up a copy of Mary Stuart's "Badlands" to listen to on the way.

Beck
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« Reply #7 on: May 06, 2009, 11:10:05 AM »

I will also give a big thumbs up to Big Pine.  It is just outside of Custer on the other side from the park, but there are some really good wooded sites and very very clean restrooms much better than the park and a very nice couple that run it.  We stayed there the last time as the girlfriend wanted electric and that was just before SD parks put it in.  Clean Clean Clean...  They have free wifi also but the closer to the office the better on that. 

I actually prefer it to the park in many ways.  There are nice play areas for kids also and they are very dog friendly.  They had a dog that rode around with the owner and loved to play with our dog. 

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mountainrev
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« Reply #8 on: May 06, 2009, 11:52:27 AM »

I will also give a big thumbs up to Big Pine.  It is just outside of Custer on the other side from the park, but there are some really good wooded sites and very very clean restrooms much better than the park and a very nice couple that run it.  We stayed there the last time as the girlfriend wanted electric and that was just before SD parks put it in.  Clean Clean Clean...  They have free wifi also but the closer to the office the better on that. 

I actually prefer it to the park in many ways.  There are nice play areas for kids also and they are very dog friendly.  They had a dog that rode around with the owner and loved to play with our dog. 



I'm not going to dispute any of this, since I've never stayed there.  But just to make sure no one gets the wrong impression about Custer SP:  In my experiences camping there, the bath facilities are very well maintained.  It's a very popular park, so if you use the shower after 50 other campers just got done using it, obviously it won't be sparkling.  But I have always been impressed with the level of service at Custer, from their on-line reservations (which allow you to see pictures of every single campsite) to the maintenance of the park. 

Again, I'm not saying anything against Big Pine whatsoever.  Just wanted to make sure no one gets the impression that Custer isn't well maintained. Smiley
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« Reply #9 on: May 06, 2009, 06:45:31 PM »

One thing I forgot to mention about Blue Bell, there is a horse stable right in the campground near the entrance. Very friendly wranglers and you can take a guided ride from there through the area immediately to the east for about an hour. With older kids it would be great fun. We did it last time we were there and really enjoyed the whole process.

I think there may also be a stable at Sylvan Lake. When I was a teen we stayed at that location and I recall a small herd of horses running by in the morning and evening of each day. It was fun to watch. At Blue Bell, the night pasture is across the road and away from the campground rather than through it. Our two grand kids spent a lot of time down at the barn talking to the young people caring for the horses and leading the rides. The place was also full of a new litter of barn cats.

The more I recall our last trip, the more I'm looking forward to it.
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GrowlyBear
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« Reply #10 on: May 07, 2009, 02:36:02 AM »

It wasn't my intent to denigrate the parks facilities either.  They are quite superior to most state park systems.  More to note the diligence of the lady that runs Big Pine in keeping theirs clean. 
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« Reply #11 on: May 07, 2009, 09:59:33 AM »

If you need a reserved site, you will need to call NOW.  I tried to find a site for 3 nights in a row for mid June and could not find any in Grace Coolidge, Sylvan Lake, Stockade North, or Game Lodge.  I called a month ago and I wanted a site near the restroom with some shade.  I did find one at Blue Bell and reserved it.  Good luck!

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« Reply #12 on: May 10, 2009, 05:05:51 AM »

We've stayed at Blue Belle twice in the past 3 years and it's our favorite.  We also stayed at Sylvan Lake last year and while sites are more wooded and seem more private I didn't feel they were.  Sites were considerably smaller and lots more traffic in that area.  We stayed there 3 nights and that'll probably do me unless there are no other sites in other campgrounds.  Now, for going in early to mid June.  We went the second week of June last year and had 2 really nice days but the rest of the week was rainy with a lot of hail and lows in the low to mid 30's and highs in the upper 50's to 60.  We cut our trip short (left 2 days early) as we did all of the tourist stuff in previous years and had planned to do plenty of bike riding and just kicking it by the fire.  Stayed the remaining 2 nights at Roy Lake in the NE corner of SD, another favorite SD park of ours.  No matter where you stay I'm sure you'll enjoy yourselves.  Have fun.
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« Reply #13 on: May 11, 2009, 02:49:54 AM »

If you want a treat for a drive, take the road into Blue Bell and go out the back.  Up the road is the horse campground.  It has to be one of the best in the U.S.  I know there was a fire up there a couple of years ago so can't say now for sure, but that road is a back way into the wildlife loop.  It's a great drive.  It was a neat surprise for us a few years ago coming in from the wildlife loop and suddenly finding ourselves coming into Blue Bell. 
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« Reply #14 on: May 12, 2009, 01:07:00 PM »

Wow, this is the exact topic I was just going to post!  Could someone please tell me the website where there are pics of each site?  I can't seem to find it - the words SDCamp just gets me to a kids camp.  :)

Thanks!

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