Luxury and Adventure Beneath the Stars at Under Canvas Mount Rushmore | Black Hills Travel Blog

Luxury and Adventure Beneath the Stars at Under Canvas Mount Rushmore

  • Luxury and Adventure Beneath the Stars at Under Canvas Mount Rushmore
    Luxury and Adventure Beneath the Stars at Under Canvas Mount Rushmore
Monday, July 27, 2020
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Just across a lush, 2-mile valley from Mount Rushmore, you can escape to an oasis under the stars. Tucked into granite and beneath the towering pine forest of the Black Hills, Under Canvas Mount Rushmore allows you to experience the luxuries of home while connecting with nature and escaping the busy outside world.

Recently, I had the chance to experience this unique glamping property and create memories of a lifetime at the remarkable mountain location in Keystone. Come along with me on this journey through Under Canvas Mount Rushmore, where you can sleep in luxury under the stars, connect with nature, and take an amazing adventure through the Black Hills. 

What is Glamping?

For all those unfamiliar with glamping, the luxury-style camping experience differs from the typical rough-and-tumble excursion that we’re used to seeing portrayed. There’s no need to set-up camp, haul in equipment, or sleep on the cold ground when you glamp—at properties like Under Canvas, your site is often accompanied with running water, flushing toilets, on-site restaurants and even beds with plush mattresses.

As someone who grew up in a family that never camped, RV-ed or roughed it in the outdoors often, the glamping experience is a dream come true—as it is for many families and couples who grew up the same way. Being able to sit back and relax in a tent without a single worry, while still enjoying the impossible beauty of the Black Hills, is my ideal getaway. It gives the opportunity to get out and take off on adventures throughout the region, enjoy a warm shower afterward, and still fall asleep under the Milky Way away from loud city life.

That being said, as a local familiar with the Black Hills and the Keystone area, it was a fantastic surprise to see how quiet the spread apart, 200-tent campsite was on the mountain. Though the site is only a 1.5-mile journey from the small town, I could hardly hear any signs of city life while I checked in for the evening.

Even better, as a “delightful inconvenience,” there is no Wi-Fi on site within the campground. While cell service is still available and you’re able to charge your phone with the power banks provided in each tent, the absence of Wi-Fi encourages many families to disconnect from their devices for a short time. It’s a small detail that can make all the difference on your getaway into the Hills.

Checking In and Setting Up

There’s no doubt the crew at Under Canvas love their jobs. They keep a warm, welcoming, and helpful air about them at all times, each person passionate about the outdoors and preserving the natural beauty of the Black Hills. They gave us a friendly greeting at check-in, handing off a complimentary bag of smores supplies, hand sanitizer and tissues, before introducing us to the layout of the campsite, all its amenities and pointing us in the direction of outdoors activities we could do on our excursion the next day.

They were kind enough to help us get to our tent and haul in our belongings for the night. From there, we took the opportunity to take a second and unwind from the day, away from everyone else. We stayed in a deluxe tent and faced the setting sun as it was just starting to get low in the sky, filtering in beautifully through the pine tree canopy above us. I took a second to admire the warm, down to Earth ambiance of our tent, before cracking open a few books and listening to my friend play a quiet, humming tune on her guitar.

Inside the Tents

Our deluxe tent had its own sink, shower and restroom, with a privacy divider, a king-sized bed, and a wood-burning stove in case the night got a little too chilly. It also had its own private deck and lounging chairs, so we could sit and enjoy the sounds of the mountain and take in the fresh forest air.

Other tents at the Mount Rushmore location include the Safari, Stargazer, and Suite, with various amenities and space to fit your getaway. The Stargazers are perfect for honeymooning couples or to highlight an anniversary retreat into the Hills, with a viewing window to see the stars right above a king-sized bed. You have the option to go minimal or full luxury with Safaris and Suite tents—both are excellent options for traveling families or big family gatherings, and you have the option of renting a tent with an added “hive” attached for more space.

Communing With Nature

The Black Hills and Badlands are perfect for creating long-lasting memories and highlighting big moments in life, as well as taking time to slow down and appreciate the world around you. As Willa Cather reminded me with a quote from her book, “O Pioneers!”,

“She had never known before how much the country meant to her. The chirping of the insects down in the long grass had been like the sweetest music. She had felt as if her heart were hiding down there, somewhere, with the quail and the plover and all the little wild things that crooned or buzzed in the sun. Under the long shaggy ridges, she felt the future stirring.”

While the Under Canvas location may not have quail or plover hidden among the granite and tall grass surrounding the site, it certainly did remind me how stunning the Black Hills can be, and I think the realization is the same for many of the guests that stay there. As we left our site and journeyed to the main tent to enjoy dinner and view Mount Rushmore from their deck, it was impossible to not be enthralled with how gold the sun was and the way it deepened and enriched the tones of the forest.

Dining with the Presidents

The activity of the evening hosted by Under Canvas was Bingo, but we opted to hang back at our tent, so we only made it to the main deck in time to enjoy the fun from the sidelines. Winners took home great prizes, and the main hostess was phenomenal at keeping everyone entertained.

The main tent on top of the mountain functions as a great communal space with the opportunity to get to know your fellow glampers and make connections. Besides the outdoor seating along the deck, inside there are tables, beanbags and couches to lounge, play games, listen to music and enjoy the outdoors with a bit of shelter if the weather isn’t up to par that day.

It’s also where the on-site restaurant cooks up delicious meals to satisfy your appetite and help you recharge after a long day exploring the region. In addition to serving up tasty meals, the restaurant also strives to be eco-friendly, with sustainable packaging for all food and drinks, and serves up many locally sourced ingredients in their recipes.

Not only do they make delectable dinners with vegan and healthy options available, as well as local wines and craft beers, but they also have breakfast and takeaway sandwiches for lunches on the go. It’s certainly one less thing to worry about while camping and enjoying the outdoors. If you’re not a fan of “cowboy coffee” and happen to crave something that’s leagues above your average camping food, then this is the dining spot for you.

And while we stayed and enjoyed our dinner in the main tent and a glass of wine on the deck, you can, of course, also take your meal back to your tent and socially distance. An added, and wonderful benefit, to the Under Canvas locations is that they are practically built to help you maintain your social distance. In fact, walking around the Mount Rushmore site, it’s hard to tell that there are 200 tents on the property—the unique way the tents have been built without interrupting the surrounding landscape makes it easy to feel comfortably isolated from the rest of the world in your own tent.

I opted to enjoy my dinner, a mouth-watering cheeseburger topped with spinach and a bit of peanut butter, with a view of the presidents from afar. Afterward, I topped it all off with a glass of local wine, watching the sun go down below Mount Rushmore, and listening to the sounds of the mountain fade for the evening.

Unforgettable Summer Nights

Of course, just because the wildlife in the forest turns in for the evening, doesn’t mean your night has to end just yet. After sundown, we took our smores kit down to the communal firepit closest to our branch of the campsite and sat down for my favorite part of the outdoor experience.

After all, there’s nothing quite like a campfire in the summer—roasting marshmallows and hotdogs, listening to the wood crackle and pop in the fire, the scent of pine smoke in the air, and good music and good conversation beneath the night sky. And thankfully, you don’t have to worry about the hassle of starting the fire yourself or hauling in firewood. The staff takes care of getting things started for you—a huge relief as a person who can never seem to get a fire going easily.

While we sat around the fire, Steph serenaded passerby with songs on the guitar and ukulele. Afterward, we watched the fire die down, barely cracking in the cool nighttime air. Too cool for crickets to sing us to sleep, but after a day in the Hills, we didn’t need much besides a very comfortable bed and the dark of night.

Yoga, Hiking and Even More Adventure

Like many of the other campers on the mountain, we woke up to greet the day at dawn. While I’m not much of a morning person, the early morning sunlight creeping over the Hills is hard to deny. Accompanied by a chorus of crickets, birds, chipmunks, yellow-bellied marmots and more singing their early morning salutation, it was easy to wake with the sun.

And there’s no better way, as the Under Canvas staff members agreed, to get a start on your day than with a bit of yoga on the main deck and a view across the valley to see Mount Rushmore. Group-led yoga on the mountain is a summer staple, but to keep everyone’s social distance, we had our own session and cool down, followed with a hot cup of coffee and breakfast in the fresh forest air.

After a light serving of overnight oats and berries for me, and a savory breakfast burrito for Steph, we took the recommendations of the staff and took off for the nature trail that surrounds the property. While it’s not a long hike, there’s a decent amount of uphill walking and remarkable views along the way.

With the temperatures just a bit lower on top of the mountain, the trail is perfect to start the day and get a bit of exercise. For kids, it’s an excellent way to burn off any extra energy and explore the natural surroundings. If you’re lucky, you’ll spot a deer on your path while the rest of the world is still waking up.

Because the Under Canvas Mount Rushmore site is located right in Keystone, and thus in the center of the Black Hills, it makes for the perfect basecamp for your adventures within the region. Almost all of the Black Hills is within an hour’s drive or less, and every route is scenic. After getting a few recommendations from the staff of places to see and consulting our Black Hills Vacation Guide, we were ready to disembark and hold our time at the site close to our hearts.

After yoga, fantastic food, sweeping views from the mountain and a luxurious outdoor experience, we left refreshed, sun-kissed and with a new appreciation for the natural world surrounding us.

If you and your family have the opportunity to escape to this one-of-a-kind place, the memories you make and the adventures you take will certainly be highlights of your Black Hills and Badlands vacation.

Of course, the fun doesn’t stop here—learn more about Under Canvas and their many locations across the U.S. If you’re making your way to Yellowstone National Park, be sure to check out the Under Canvas Yellowstone site. Only 15 minutes away from the park’s west entrance, the sweeping views of the camp are made to extend and highlight your adventures in the Montana wilderness.

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