Big Thunder Gold Mining, Keystone, South Dakota

During our Mount Rushmore Road Trip in the Black Hills of South Dakota, we spend a fun day gold mining on an actual gold claim!  It was one of my favorite parts of the trip, and we had so much fun, plus we were able to keep the gold we found!  Best of all, it was easy with the help of Big Thunder Gold Mining, who provided us with a guide, all the equipment, and access to their claim!

Check out my tips for visiting and start planning your own Mount Rushmore Vacation!


Big Thunder is located in Keystone, and while we met at the mine, we then followed our guide in our car for about 4 miles to the claim in the National Forest.  I liked having our car, just in case we needed it, for a quick trip to the restroom or something.

We had planned our gold panning for earlier in the week, but one thing we learned about South Dakota is that the weather is unpredictable, and a storm caused some flooding on Battle Creek, making us need to push back our mining date a few days.  Like Colorado, afternoon showers seemed to be common in South Dakota.  I was glad we had booked for the Tuesday, and were able to reschedule to that Thursday before we left on Sunday.


Be sure to make a reservation a few weeks in advance, it books up during the Summer!

Book early in your trip, in case you need to reschedule.

You can book a morning or evening half day, or a full day trip.  If  you’re only doing a half day, I’d do the morning to avoid afternoon storms.


We had such a fun time mining!  It was explained to us that mining rights are owned, and not anyone other than the miner can mine there, per the law.  In the United States, you can still shoot a claim jumper!  They showed us where the boundaries for Big Thunder existed, and then where the best places to dig were, and how to pan it afterwards to find the gold.

We had to walk about a 1/4 mile from the car to the claim on a trail.  Bring shoes good for walking that can get wet.


We aren’t getting rich off our finds, but we had the best time and everyone loved it!   We each filled up our vial of gold!  On a warm day, the cool water felt great to be in, too!

More Tips:

Be prepared to get wet. Wear clothes to get wet in.

Dress in layers to remove as it heats up during the day.

Pack a towel.  Bring plenty of water.  Pack snacks or a lunch.

Bring a stool or something to sit on.

Tip your guide!  Not sure how much to tip?  The general rule of thumb is 10% – 20% of the cost of the service.

Big Thunder Gold Mine
604 Blair Street, Keystone, SD
Click HERE to visit their website.

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