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“The Upper Loop of Center Lake Campground is great!” 5 of 5 stars
Review of Center Lake

Center Lake
Custer, SD
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Ranked #12 of 20 Attractions in Custer
Type: Bodies of Water, Outdoors
Activities: Swimming, Fishing, Camping
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Attraction details
Owner description: Located at Custer State Park, this lake offers fishing, swimming and a nearby campground.
Emmaus, Pennsylvania
Top Contributor
65 reviews 65 reviews
14 attraction reviews
Reviews in 49 cities Reviews in 49 cities
52 helpful votes 52 helpful votes
“The Upper Loop of Center Lake Campground is great!”
5 of 5 stars Reviewed July 15, 2013

As we traveled cross country with our 11 and 6 year old boys, we attempted to tent camp every few nights to save money. Custer was a favorite stop in past trips, so we decided to try one of the campgrounds.

We asked one of the rangers at the entrance station which campground was the most private (we really dislike public camping - we like a little privacy and quiet!). She recommended we check out Center Lake Campground.

We had no prior reservations, but it was a Monday night so we were safe. She told us there wouldn't be much of a cell signal back there, but there was a park phone at the entrance to the campground that connected us directly to the National Parks Reservation system. Very cool.

We drove around the Upper and Lower loops and decided we'd stick with the Upper Loop - farther from the lake, but definitely less full and more quiet. I used the campground phone and connected immediately to a nice reservation agent. They were able to tell me which spots were available and which were already reserved. It was a little more expensive than we expected ($25 for non-resident).

We got a great site at the top of the Upper Loop - very spacious with a nice flat spot for the tent. They have boxed, gravel tent sites all ready for you. The tall pines offered shade and a wonderful scent. There was also a nice parking pad, set off the road through the campground.

We drove the Wildlife Loop as dusk fell and returned just as it became dark. As we were getting the boys into bed, another group pulled up to the site next to us (around 9 p.m.). They were very loud as they set up their tent - four adults in their 20s. This continued until about 1 a.m. which was so rude. It ruined the feeling of the spot, but again, that's the downside to organized campgrounds vs. dispersed camping.

The pit toilets were fine - didn't smell terrible. There was potable water just a few sites away. We were able to take showers the next morning with a short drive down to the lake area and Lower Loop. The showers were free and were decent.

The beach area at Center Lake was kind of gross - lots of geese leaving their feces around, but overall it was a nice place to stop for the night. I did get one bar signal with AT&T at our campsite - enough to send texts back and forth.

All-in-all, it was a nice spot with pretty much space. Can't help how loud the neighbors get!

Visited June 2013
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18 reviews from our community

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  • English first
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English first
Rock Port, Missouri
Senior Contributor
44 reviews 44 reviews
21 attraction reviews
Reviews in 18 cities Reviews in 18 cities
21 helpful votes 21 helpful votes
“Beautiful lake!”
5 of 5 stars Reviewed June 4, 2013

The kids had a great time swimming near the sandy beach! Beautiful scenery and picnic area!! Will definitely be going again!

Visited May 2013
Was this review helpful? Yes 1
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Valley City, North Dakota
Top Contributor
60 reviews 60 reviews
16 attraction reviews
Reviews in 23 cities Reviews in 23 cities
28 helpful votes 28 helpful votes
“Best kept secret”
5 of 5 stars Reviewed November 18, 2012

I am only writing this because I am moving out of South Dakota, otherwise I wouldn't share this secret. But this is a great little lake for camping, fishing, swimming, and kayaking. The water is pretty clear, you can see trout swimming in it quite easily. If you stand in the swimming area part of the lake, you will see fish swimming around your feet. I once caught a trout with my bare hands there. And bison walk through the campsite sometimes. You can only reserve a campsite here the day of your stay, though.

Visited June 2012
Was this review helpful? Yes 2
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
South Dakota
Top Contributor
129 reviews 129 reviews
49 attraction reviews
Reviews in 47 cities Reviews in 47 cities
59 helpful votes 59 helpful votes
“Always a treat!”
5 of 5 stars Reviewed October 25, 2012

Pretty lake in a pretty setting. Closest CG to the Black HIll Playhouse. Very lovely picnic (day use only) area - right on the lake shore. CG areas are back a little - nice country feel, easy access.

Visited August 2012

Review collected in partnership with La Quinta

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Kansas City, Missouri
Top Contributor
64 reviews 64 reviews
12 attraction reviews
Reviews in 34 cities Reviews in 34 cities
29 helpful votes 29 helpful votes
“Peaceful and uncrowded”
4 of 5 stars Reviewed September 24, 2012

This small lake with wooded shoreline and some handsome rock formations is a fine picnic and fishing spot. We fished directly off the dock by the boat ramp and caught enough trout for several dinners. We stayed as the sun went down, when the trout start surfacing and it was like watching a trout ballet as multiple fish spashed to the surface, some clearing the lake by 4-6 inches as they jumped into the air. We saw no more that 3 - 4 other people the whole afternoon we were there.

Visited September 2012
Was this review helpful? Yes 1
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.

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