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Mount Rushmore National Memorial Guide — Hiking, Visitor Centers, and More

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Amar Hussain

Amar Hussain

Senior Content Contributor

Countries Visited: 63U.S. States Visited: 9

Amar is an avid traveler and tester of products. He has spent the last 13 years traveling all 7 continents and has put the products to the test on each of them. He has contributed to publications incl...
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One of America’s most iconic features is the awe-inspiring, immense Mount Rushmore, a fascinating sculpture that towers over the Black Hills of South Dakota. Each year, over 2 million visitors make their way to stand in awe of the sculpted granite figures of George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt, and Abraham Lincoln.

There’s much more to do at this park than view the memorial, including tours, programs, and demonstrations. The national memorial’s fascinating story of history and culture is just waiting for you to explore.

How To Get to Mount Rushmore National Memorial

Where Is Mount Rushmore National Memorial?

The majestic Mount Rushmore National Memorial is approximately 35 miles from Rapid City, South Dakota, the closest major city to the park. This park stretches over 1,278 acres and is in the heart of the Black Hills. 

Mount Rushmore National Memorial Opening Hours and Seasons

Mount Rushmore National Memorial is open year-round with varying hours depending on the seasons. For about half of the year, the hours are 5 a.m. to 11 p.m., but from October 1 to the second week in March, the hours are shortened to 5 a.m. to 9 p.m. Several buildings within the park close on December 25. 

Nearest Airports to Mount Rushmore National Memorial

The closest airport to Mount Rushmore is Rapid City Regional Airport (RAP). This airport is approximately 35 miles from the park.

Rapid City Regional Airport has a variety of flights, both nonstop and connecting, with flights to major hubs worldwide. Airlines serviced by this airport include Allegiant, American, Delta, Sun Country, and United.

Driving to Mount Rushmore National Memorial

Image Credit: Mike via Pixabay

Several routes lead to Mount Rushmore, depending on where you’re coming from. Those driving to Mount Rushmore from Rapid City Regional Airport will take I-90, exit at Rapid City, follow U.S. Highway 16 to Keystone, and then take South Dakota Highway 244 to Mount Rushmore.

Visitors from the south will follow U.S. Highway 385 north to South Dakota Highway 244, which leads right to the memorial. 

Taking the Train to Mount Rushmore National Memorial

There is no train service to Mount Rushmore National Memorial.

Taking the Bus to Mount Rushmore National Memorial

No public transportation options are available for those visiting Mount Rushmore National Memorial.

Getting Around Mount Rushmore National Memorial

The only way to get around Mount Rushmore National Memorial is on foot. Visitors park in the nearby parking structure and spend the rest of the visit walking to different sites and facilities. There is a $10 per vehicle parking fee. The park’s website offers a variety of printable and interactive maps to help you plan your outings.

What To See and Do at Mount Rushmore National Memorial

When most people think of Mount Rushmore, they think about a quick trip to see the massive sculpted faces of America’s early presidents. While this is a big draw to the park, there are several other things to do when you visit this area of South Dakota.


Image Credit: NPS

Hiking is a popular activity at Mount Rushmore National Memorial. The primary trail is the Blackberry Trail, designated as a National Recreational Trail. This trail is considered moderately strenuous and is a mile-long gravel trail connecting to the Centennial Trail in Black Elk Wilderness, part of the Black Hills National Forest. 

Hiking is an excellent opportunity for getting in a workout and enjoying time viewing the scenery and wildlife of the park. The trails feature small water crossings, picnic tables, and wooden bridges.

Ranger Programs

There are several ranger programs available at Mount Rushmore National Memorial. These programs include ranger talks, Sculptor’s Studio talks, guided tours with local Lakota, Nakota, and Dakota community members, and cultural demonstrations.

The ranger programs vary from 15 to 45 minutes and do not require reservations in advance. They are available from late May to the end of September. Participating in these programs is the best way to learn about this national memorial’s cultural and natural history. 

Self-Guided Tours

Self-guided tours are great ways to explore this park. A few options for the types of tours include an audio tour, a multimedia tour, and a Junior Ranger Quest.

The audio tour, “A Living Memorial,” incorporates narration, interviews, music, sound effects, and recordings of Gutzon and Lincoln Borglum, workers, and Indigenous Americans. You can rent a recorded guide for $6.

The multimedia tour tells the inspiring story of how the memorial was carved and why, as well as viewing photos and videos that accompany the audio. Visitors can rent a device for $8 that enables audio and video for this tour.

The Junior Ranger Quest is available to youth and can either be part of the self-guided tour ($8 to rent) or accessed via app (iOS, Android). The self-guided tour takes young visitors to 16 challenges at stops throughout the park. Once 12 challenges are complete, they are given a Junior Ranger badge from a park ranger. This quest is a great way to get even the youngest park visitors to interact with and learn about this national memorial. 

Visitor Centers

Image Credit: NPS

Mount Rushmore National Memorial has 2 buildings that serve as visitor centers. The first is a simple information center near the parking structure as you walk toward the mountain structure. Visitors can obtain maps and newspapers and chat with park rangers. This information center is open daily at varying hours, depending on the time of year.

The Lincoln Borglum Visitor Center is the most significant visitor center at the park, located under the Grand View Terrace. Tourists can get information about the park at this center, watch a film, take in several museum exhibits, and shop at the on-site bookstore.

Hot Tip:

This visitor center is open daily but has various closing times throughout the year.

What To See and Do Near Mount Rushmore National Memorial

Thanks to its fantastic location, there are many wonderful places to explore near Mount Rushmore National Memorial. The Black Hills of South Dakota are brimming with national parks, national monuments, and historic sites.

Badlands National Park

Badlands National Park is a little less than an hour and a half from Mount Rushmore National Memorial. This national park has breathtaking views of the incredible Badlands terrain and remarkable wildlife. A half-day adventure at this park will allow plenty of time to visit the overlooks, complete a short hike or 2, and hopefully take in sunrise or sunset. 

Devils Tower National Monument

Devils Tower National Monument is about 2.5 hours from Mount Rushmore. This is the location of some of Earth’s most awe-inspiring geological features. This national monument is perfect for stargazing, participating in ranger-led night programs, and learning about the fascinating geologic and cultural history.

This park can be toured in 2 to 4 hours, which allows time to hike a popular trail, see a prairie dog town, and take in the famous “Circle of Sacred Smoke” sculpture.

Jewel Cave National Monument

Jewel Cave National Monument is 32 miles from Mount Rushmore. This cave is filled with some of the most impressive cave formations in the world. Visitors can explore underground passages filled with spectacular calcite formations, dazzling crystals, and other natural wonders when visiting this national monument.

If you plan to visit this park, be sure to allow at least an hour and a half to take the scenic tour and explore the underground labyrinth and all the beauty within the cave. 

Best Times To Visit Mount Rushmore National Memorial

Mount Rushmore National Memorial is a phenomenal park to visit throughout the year. If there are particular events and activities you want to participate in, there are better times than others to visit.

Best Time To Visit Mount Rushmore National Memorial for Ideal Weather

Planning a trip around the weather is wise; We all know that weather can make or break a trip. September is a great month to visit Mount Rushmore, as the weather is ideal. The high temperatures are in the low 70s, and the low temperatures are typically in the low 50s.

There is always a chance of rain in this area of South Dakota, but there aren’t as many days of precipitation in September as in others. Be sure to pack a rain jacket should you encounter a shower during your visit. 

Best Time To Visit Mount Rushmore National Memorial To Avoid the Crowds

Image Credit: NPS

A vacation without crowds might seem unheard of, but it is possible with proper planning. October is the best time to visit this national memorial with fewer crowds. Visiting this time of year will allow you to explore the park at your own pace without the stress of long lines and numerous other visitors impacting your visit. 

Best Time To Visit Mount Rushmore National Memorial for Fall Foliage

If you love autumn and the bursts of color that appear all around, you may want to visit Mount Rushmore in the fall months. The best time to visit this park for fall foliage is in the first week of October. The leaves showcase their vibrancy, and the contrast against the bright blue sky is breathtaking.

Cheapest Time To Visit Mount Rushmore National Memorial

Traveling expenses can add up quickly, but you can travel while saving money. The cheapest time to visit Mount Rushmore is in October. Lodging and flight rates are typically reduced at this time of year, which can cut hundreds of dollars from your budget. 

Annual Events at Mount Rushmore National Memorial

Mount Rushmore National Memorial hosts a variety of programs regularly, such as evening lighting ceremonies, sculptor studio talks, and ranger programs. There are also a few annual events.

Find Your Park Festival

The Find Your Park Festival occurs each year in June at the Main Street Square in Rapid City. People from the region come for a day filled with games, activities, and entertainment geared toward teaching about the public lands in the Black Hills.

This event is anticipated each year by locals and visitors alike. It is a great way to learn about the different parks and organizations in this region of the U.S. 

The Spirit of America Gala

The Spirit of America Gala occurs each October at Mount Rushmore National Park. This event invites park supporters and community leaders to a cocktail reception in the historic Sculptor’s Studio.

There is a catered dinner in a beautiful tent under the stars, guest speakers, shuttle rides to different sites in the historic area, and musical entertainment. Benefits from this event support the national memorial and the Mount Rushmore Society.

Where To Stay Near Mount Rushmore National Memorial

There are plenty of options for places to stay in the Mount Rushmore area. Whether you are looking for a rustic camping trip or a luxury stay at a well-known resort, there’s something for everyone in this area of South Dakota.

Inside the Park

There are no lodging or camping options within the boundaries of Mount Rushmore National Memorial.

Towns Near Mount Rushmore National Memorial

There are several towns near Mount Rushmore National Memorial. Each has unique offerings and makes a great place to settle during a trip to this park. Check out the 2 closest cities to this park and see if either will work for your vacation needs. 

Hill City, South Dakota

Hill City is an excellent option for a home away from home when visiting Mount Rushmore National Memorial. This city is 13 miles from the park and has everything you need for an incredible stay. 

There are dozens of lodging options, from guest ranches to local bed and breakfasts, family cabins to popular chain hotels, and everything in between.

Food enthusiasts are in for a treat when staying in Hill City. The town has over 30 dining options, including restaurants serving home-style cooking, woodfired pizzas, and several options for diners with special dietary needs. 

Adventure awaits in this town. On top of visiting Mount Rushmore, visitors can enjoy checking out other main attractions, including Crazy Horse Memorial, Black Hills Central Railroad, and various museums. Outdoor recreation such as hiking, bicycling, fishing, rock climbing, and golfing are great ways to enjoy nature and physical activity simultaneously.

Bottom Line:

With its proximity to Mount Rushmore National Memorial and the abundance of restaurants, accommodations, and excitement, it makes perfect sense to settle in Hill City when visiting this part of South Dakota.

Keystone, South Dakota

Keystone is 3 miles from Mount Rushmore and an excellent place to set up a home base during your visit. This city has plenty of lodging, dining, and recreation options. 

Popular chain hotels and resorts, private rentals, budget-friendly motels, rustic cabins, and campgrounds are just some of the accommodations you will find. No matter what experience you seek, you will find the perfect solution in this town. 

The restaurants are mostly locally owned and include casual dining rooms, cafes, pizza parlors, smokehouses, and saloons. Whatever you crave, this town has a solution to your hunger. 

There are plenty of activities to keep you entertained in Keystone. From helicopter tours to gold mining and natural mineral spas to adventure parks, it is easy to fill your days with fun and excitement. You can’t get any closer to Mount Rushmore National Memorial than Keystone. It’s got everything you could need and more in a base camp.

Where To Eat at Mount Rushmore National Memorial

There are plenty of choices for dining in and near Mount Rushmore. Whether you are hankering for a juicy burger or a sizzling slice of pizza, you have plenty of options for a restaurant near the park. Check out 2 of the top restaurants and see if you want to add them to your itinerary. 

The Carvers’ Café

The Carvers’ Café is the only restaurant within the boundaries of Mount Rushmore. This restaurant is open daily for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. 

Breakfast specials, sandwiches, burgers, pizzas, salads, home-cooked dishes, and hand-dipped ice cream are featured on the menu at this restaurant. Some favorite meals include biscuits and gravy, buffalo bacon cheeseburger, and chicken Caesar salad. 

Should hunger strike while exploring this national memorial, The Carvers’ Café will have something to satisfy your appetite and help you rest up for the next part of your adventures. 


Cruizzers is a highly-rated restaurant in Keystone and is 6 minutes from the park. This restaurant serves lunch, dinner, and late-night eats every day of the week.

The menu features made-to-order pizzas, calzones, toasted sub sandwiches, and pasta dishes. Customers rave about the Hawaiian Twist pizza, the meatball sub, and the chicken alfredo.

With excellent customer service, affordable prices, and incredible cuisine, it’s not hard to figure out why Cruizzers is the top-rated restaurant near the park. Be sure to stop in for an unforgettable meal during your visit.

Mount Rushmore National Memorial Facts

Image Credit: Levi Jones via Unsplash

1. The Park Was Established in 1933

Mount Rushmore National Memorial was established on June 10, 1933. The sculpture wasn’t done; only George Washington was complete. President Franklin D. Roosevelt issued an executive order to place Mount Rushmore under the National Park Service 3 years after Washington’s face was dedicated. 

2. It Was a Monumental Project

It took 14 years to complete Mount Rushmore, requiring nearly 400 men and women to complete the task. The project cost $989,992.32 in total and was completed on October 31, 1941. 

3. Why These Presidents?

These presidents were chosen to honor their impact on America. These men embodied some of the most important events in America’s history, representing freedom and hope. 

4. Original Plans Included Further Sculpting

Initially, the design for the memorial was to include the presidents from the head to the waist. When time and money became limited, the plan was modified. Looking closely at George Washington, you will notice an outline of an arm and chest under his head, but you will not see this with the other presidents. 

5. What’s in a Name?

Mount Rushmore was named after Charles E. Rushmore, a New York attorney, in 1885. In 1884, he went to this mountain to check the legal titles on properties, and when he asked the mountain’s name, a local resident and guide said there wasn’t a name. This resident, Bill Challis, decided that from that point on, they would call it Rushmore. 

Final Thoughts

This majestic sculpture is an unbelievable sight to behold. When standing in its presence, you can’t help but be filled with awe and wonder. Visiting this memorial will provide you and your travel companions with memories to last a lifetime and learning experiences that can’t be taught from a book.

From guided tours to sculpture demonstrations to hikes, there’s no shortage of things to see and do when visiting Mount Rushmore.

Frequently Asked Questions

How much does it cost to enter Mount Rushmore National Memorial?

Entrance passes and fees are not required by those visiting this national memorial. There may be some fees for transportation within the park, but those are optional.

What is the weather like at Mount Rushmore National Memorial?

The weather varies throughout the year at Mount Rushmore National Memorial. Summers are warm, with temperatures ranging from 70 to 80 degrees. Winter temperatures range from 20 to 40 degrees. Spring and fall are cooler, with temperatures ranging from 30 to 80 degrees.

Is there Wi-Fi available at Mount Rushmore National Memorial?

Public Wi-Fi is not available at this park. Cell service is available in some areas of the park but is inconsistent.

Can I bring my dog to Mount Rushmore National Memorial?

Pets are allowed at Mount Rushmore. Still, they are only permitted in a few areas, including at the main visitor center entrance, on all sidewalks and green spaces between the parking areas, Blackberry Trail, and in the pet exercise area. Owners are expected to clean up after pet waste and always keep pets on a leash.

About Amar Hussain

Amar is an avid traveler and tester of products. He has spent the last 13 years traveling all 7 continents and has put the products to the test on each of them. He has contributed to publications including Forbes, the Huffington Post, and more.


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