12325 Rafter J Road
Hill City, South Dakota 57745
Pros: Beautiful views of the Black Hills, good number of shady sites
Cons: The pines tress in the “ranch” camp section of the campground were difficult to maneuver around. Pushy about fires out at 11:00 p.m.
Rafter J Bar Ranch campground is located in the Black Hills of South Dakota and convenient to Mt. Rushmore, Custer State Park, and the Crazy Horse Memorial. The campground is divided into seven sections. There are 279 sites, 27 which are cabins. We stayed at site #149, which was located in the “Ranch Camp” section of the campground. It was surrounded by beautiful pine trees. Being a full hookup, back-in site, the cost was $55. Rafter J Bar Ranch has tent sites, pull thru sites, 50 amps, water/electric, and full hook up. We had adequate cell service (Verizon and AT&T). However, Wi-Fi only really worked at the camp store, not at our campsite. The camp store was fully stocked with camping supplies, food, and souvenirs. Firewood was $5/bundle and an eight-pound bag of ice was $2.25. Propane refill was also available. Rafter J Bar Ranch demonstrated good customer service during our stay. They offered us a 10% discount as Good Sam members. Laundry facilities are located in the shower houses. It’s $3.00 per wash and .25 per 7 minutes of the dryer. There is a fire pit at your campsite. However, be aware they are very pushy about fires having to be out at 11:00 p.m. We left a fire to go in the camper to get snacks and at 10:50 they were knocking on our door to tell us they were going to put out our fire. Knocking on the door at that hour caused an uproar with our dogs. I get there are rules, but come on! Checkout time is 11:30.
The main road of the campground is paved, however, the side roads and campsites are gravel. A dumpster is conveniently located in each of the seven sections of the campground. Rafter J Bar Ranch is maintained and manicured. There were not of flowerbeds and indulgence with the landscaping, but the campground was taken care of. There are lots of pine trees and beautiful views of the Black Hills. Although a main road (Rt. 16/385) is located near the campground, highway noise is minimal. One nice aspect of the campground was how spread out it was over the seen sections. There was adequate space between campsites in our opinion.
Rating: (One to five lanterns with 5 being the highest)
This campground offered a variety of activities for the kids and families. Rafter J Bar Ranch includes a playground, basketball court, sand volleyball court, a large and maintained pool, and game room. The playground is a modern and seemed fairly new. The pool included a hot tub, which was ages 16+ after 7:00 p.m. The campground is adjacent to Spring Creek and Sunday Creek for fishing (license required). One disappointment we had with Rafter J Bar Ranch was the lack of a fenced-in dog park. This campground has plenty of area, especially the open field near the pool. The sales clerk said we could let out dogs off-leash in that field if nobody was nearby. However, the field had grass that was a foot tall.
There are many things to do in this tourist areas of South Dakota. The main attraction is Mt. Rushmore. The only cost is parking ($11). We highly recommend the restaurant at Mt. Rushmore as well as attending the lighting ceremony in the evening. Custer State Park has a scenic drive where it is possible to see bison, donkeys, pronghorns, deer, etc.). The Crazy Horse Memorial is located 11 miles south of Rafter J Bar Ranch. However, the memorial is nowhere near being completed after all of these years and was disappointing. The Native-American museum, however, was interesting. Throughout the Black Hills there are plenty of opportunities for hiking and fishing. Adjacent to the campground is the Mickelson Hike/Bike trail which is part of a 110-mile trail. Great for biking, hiking, or running. Nearby cities, such as Rapid City, Deadwood, Sturgis, Keystone, Custer, and Hill City offer their own, unique stores, restaurants and attractions. There is a lot to do nearby if you are camping at Rafter J Bar Ranch.
We found the restrooms and showers of Rafter J Bar Ranch to be average. The toilets and showers were clean. Showers offered good water pressure and hot water. However, the dressing area within the shower were very small and only two hooks for towels and clothing. Not all sections had their own restrooms/shower house. The sinks were ones which you had to use one hand to turn the water on and hold it there while washing the other. We understand and appreciate water conservation, but this was a downside.