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Trip to Mount Rushmore National Memorial

Do you plan to visit Mount Rushmore in South Dakota? We tell you how to plan a perfect Mount Rushmore National Memorial trip. How much does it cost, how much time is needed to visit, where to stay, and what other attractions are nearby when visiting Mount Rushmore? Check our ultimate guide to Mount Rushmore, the “Shrine of Democracy.”

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Trip to Mount Rushmore National Memorial:  colossal sculpture withe heads of 4 presidents.

Visiting Mount Rushmore, called the “Shrine of Democracy,” is on most travelers’ bucket lists. Symbolizing the ideals of freedom and democracy, it is a tribute to four presidents, George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt, and Abraham Lincoln, and their invaluable contributions to the United States.

The memorial’s purpose is to communicate the founding, expansion, preservation, and unification of the United States. How can you prepare for a perfect trip to Mount Rushmore? We share our experiences and tips for visiting this iconic American attraction. My partner Chris and I have visited this place during winter. All the pictures presented in this article we took during this trip.

Where is Mount Rushmore National Memorial?

Mount Rushmore National Memorial is located in the Black Hills area in Keystone, southwestern South Dakota. The region gets its name from the Lakota phrase Pahá Sápa, which refers to the tree-covered mountains’ dark appearance from a distance.

Mount Rushmore is 23 miles from Rapid City, 50 miles from Deadwood, and 84 miles from Badlands National Park. Moreover, the Black Hills National Forest is also home to Crazy Horse Memorial, Wind Cave National Park, and Custer State Park.

The History of Mount Rushmore National Memorial

Mount Rushmore National Memorial is an icon of American Democracy. The colossal sculpture carved into the granite face of Mount Rushmore features the 60-foot (18 m) heads of four Presidents. They are (left to right)

  • George Washington (1732–1799) was the first President of the United States. Washington led the colonists in the American Revolutionary War to gain independence from Great Britain. He was the father of the new country and laid the foundation for American democracy.
  • Thomas Jefferson (1743–1826), Third President of the United States. Jefferson was the principal author of the Declaration of Independence, a document that inspired democracies around the world. He also purchased the Louisiana Territory from France in 1803, doubling the size of the country.
  • Theodore Roosevelt (1858–1919), 26th President of the United States. Roosevelt took the lead as America experienced rapid economic growth in the early 20th century. He was instrumental in negotiating the construction of the Panama Canal, which connected the East and West. He was known as the “Trust Buster” for his support of the abolition of large corporate monopolies and the rights of the common worker.
  • Abraham Lincoln (1809–1865), 16th President of the United States. Lincoln held the nation together during its greatest test, the Civil War. Lincoln saw his most sacred duty as preserving the Union. He firmly believed that slavery must be abolished.

Sculptor Gutzon Borglum chose these four presidents to represent the nation’s birth, growth, development, and preservation, respectively. You can read more about his choice on the NPS.

Sculptor Gutzon Borglum designed and oversaw the execution of Mount Rushmore, with his son Lincoln Borglum helping him. The works lasted from 1927 to 1941, and over 400 workers worked at the monument. Mount Rushmore is 5,725 feet (1,745 m) above sea level.

The trip to Mount Rushmore is important to anyone interested in American history and democracy.

statue of Gutzon Borglum sculpted by his son Lincoln Borglum.
heads of four Presidents carved into the granite.

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

There is no entrance fee for Mount Rushmore National Memorial. However, parking at the memorial requires fees.

The Mount Rushmore Parking Fee for private vehicles is $10.00 per day. The fee for Seniors 62 and older is $5, and active-duty military parking is free. Overnight parking is not permitted within the boundaries of Mount Rushmore National Memorial.

What is the best time of year to visit Mount Rushmore?

If you can, plan your trip to Mount Rushmore after the high season. The most crowded months are June, July, and August. Three million people visit the place each year.

Mount Rushmore National Memorial is open year-round, seven days a week. The only day the visitor center and buildings are closed is December 25, but the grounds themselves remain open that day.

Spring and Fall months will be perfect for a visit. It’s also a great idea to combine visiting Mount Rushmore and the surrounding Black Hills attractions. Winter is cold. January – March are the snowiest months. Some trails might be closed due to the weather. However, visiting Mount Rushmore in winter is still a great idea.

Early morning is the best light for photography. But between May and September, you can admire Mount Rushmore’s evening lights and music ceremonies.

Operating hours change according to the season, so check the actual details on the NPS website before your trip to Mount Rushmore.

visiting Mount Rushmore

Where to stay when visiting Mount Rushmore National Memorial?

Mount Rushmore lodging in Keystone

Keystone is a small town closest to Mount Rushmore. It’s hard to find a place here in high season, and it’s crowded. However, it is definitely worth staying there for a while because of the interesting wooden houses, many souvenir shops, and nearby attractions. If you plan to stay overnight, book it well in advance.

Keystone Dakota leather outlet.
Mount Rushmore lodging in Keystone

Lodging near Mount Rushmore in Rapid City

Rapid City is only 23 miles from Mount Rushmore. It’s a perfect place to stop because the city is worth your time and visit. It’s known as the “Gateway to the Black Hills” and the “City of Presidents” because of the life-size bronze president statues downtown.

Rapid City is the second-most populous city in South Dakota so you will find a large selection of lodging for every budget and type. We stayed in Super 8, and it was great for us, clean, and the price was affordable.

Rapid City
sculpture on the street in Rapid City
Lodging near Mount Rushmore in Rapid City

Lodging near Mount Rushmore in Deadwood

Deadwood is our favorite town in South Dakota. It has an excellent atmosphere, architecture, food, and attractions. It is worth staying here longer than one night. But hotel prices are higher than in Rapid City. So, we stayed at the nearby Best Western Black Hills Lodge.

The city has a dark history. In 1874, when the Black Hills area was discovered, a gold rush began. Deadwood attracted outlaws, gamblers, gunslingers, and gold seekers. Murders were common on the streets and in the saloons, and the city became known for its lawlessness.

main street in Deadwood with hotels and restaurants in winter scenery.
Deadwood trolley in winter.

What are the Best Things to do when visiting Mount Rushmore?

Admiring the majestic figures of the four Presidents is not the only activity you can do when visiting Mount Rushmore National Memorial.

Stop at Lincoln Borglum Visitor Center in Mount Rushmore National Memorial

The best idea is to start your trip to Mount Rushmore with a stop at the park’s visitor center. You will get a park map and find up-to-date weather forecasts and possible park closures. The Mount Rushmore visitor center opens at 8:00 a.m. daily (closed December 25th). Closes at 5:00 p.m. October through May, 10:00 p.m. June through mid-August, and 9:00 p.m. mid-August through the end of September.

But to be sure, check the opening hours before your trip to Mount Rushmore on the official website.

Moreover, at Lincoln Borglum Visitor Center, you can see a documentary film about Mount Rushmore and museum exhibits and find a great bookstore. It’s worth visiting Mount Rushmore; see images and videos of its construction.

Admire Sculptures from the Grand View Terrace

Right next to the Lincoln Borglum Visitor Center is an observation deck – Grand View Terrace. This is the easiest way to admire the monumental sculptures of presidents. However, remembering that the sculptures are also perfectly visible from the road is worth remembering. So, it is worth driving to Mount Rushmore slowly to admire the presidents’ faces from a few miles away.

Walk through the Avenue of Flags

During your trip to Mount Rushmore, you can admire all state flags on the Avenue of Flags. Moreover, during this walk, you can learn when each state was admitted to the Union.

Walk the Presidential Trail

The Presidential Trail is only 0.6 miles long but has 422 stairs. If weather permits, it’s open, and you can get up close to the mountain sculptures.

Join Mount Rushmore Ranger Programs

Mount Rushmore offers several exciting Rangers Programs, including the Evening Lighting Ceremony. Most of the programs are free. So, it’s worth joining them if you have more time. Check the offer on the official website.

close-up view of president head in Mount Rushmore National Memorial.
close-up view of Mount Rushmore National Memorial.

How long should you spend at Mount Rushmore?

It all depends on your interests and needs, but 2-4 hours should be enough to visit Mount Rushmore National Memorial.

heads of 4 presidents in Mount Rushmore National Memorial.

What are other attractions near Mount Rushmore?

Visit Crazy Horse Memorial

After visiting Mount Rushmore, you can drive 40 minutes to the world’s largest mountain carving, Crazy Horse Memorial.

The Crazy Horse Memorial is a mountain monument that has been under construction since 1948 and is far from complete. It’s a statue of the Oglala Lakota warrior Crazy Horse riding a horse and pointing to his tribal land. The Crazy Horse Memorial Foundation, a nonprofit organization, operates it. Henry Standing Bear, a Lakota elder, commissioned the memorial.

The sculptor was Korczak Ziolkowski. The place is also dedicated to preserving and sharing the living history and culture of all Native Americans. You will find there an Indian Museum of North America and a Native American Cultural Center.

The sculpture’s final dimensions are 641 feet (195 m) long and 563 feet (172 m) high. The head of Crazy Horse will be 87 feet (27 m) high. The heads of the four U.S. Presidents at Mount Rushmore are each 60 feet (18 m) high.

When finished, Crazy Horse will become the world’s second tallest statue, after the Statue of Unity.

Crazy Horse Memorial

Visit Custer State Park

If you can, add Caster State Park to your South Dakota itinerary. It’s a wildlife reserve in the Black Hills. It’s home to a herd of 1,500 bison. Moreover, elk, coyotes, mule deer, white-tailed deer, mountain goats, prairie dogs, bighorn sheep also inhabit the park. You can admire prairie grasslands and rugged mountains. It’s only a 45-minute drive from Mount Rushmore.

bison in snow scenery in Custer State Park

Visit Badlands National Park

Badlands National Park is a stunning, although less popular, national park. It’s worth seeing. Check out our wildlife photos from Badlands in the winter scenery.

The park is fabulous in summer and fall, and you can do many hikes during warmer months. The park is an hour and thirty-minute drive from Mount Rushmore, so you can combine it during one road trip.

Badlands National Park in winter scenery.

Visit Yellowstone National Park

A trip to Mount Rushmore is often combined with visiting Yellowstone National Park. This is a perfect idea if you have more time for your road trip. We did it as well. On March 1, 1872, Yellowstone became the first national park in the USA. We explored Yellowstone in winter, and it was an amazing adventure!

Now, we can enjoy its unique hydrothermal and geologic wonders. Yellowstone features canyons, alpine rivers, and lush forests. But most of all, it’s famous for its hot springs and gushing geysers, including Old Faithful.

It is a long journey of about 430 miles and 8 hours driving from Mount Rushmore to Yellowstone. But there are also interesting attractions along the way and, above all, beautiful views.

wildlife in Yellowstone National Park in winter scenery.
Yellowstone National Park in winter.


  1. My family and I visited Mt.Rushmore in July 2020. We had an amazing and awesome day there! We stayed in Rapid City, but didn’t visit downtown, now I wish we had! We tried to go to crazy horse but it was too late in the day. We also went to Devil’s Tower on this trip.  It was very beautiful there too! Wished we would have had more time, we would have went to Yellowstone, but had my heart set on visiting Pikes Peak in Colorado so we didn’t make it. Yet. Out west is absolutely amazing! Go visit! You won’t want to leave! 

  2. I found Mount Rushmore underwhelming in person as there was more attention to flags and tourist amenities than to the carvings themselves. I’m also conflicted given that this location was considered scared land to the native Americans of the region, but this was ignored. On the other hand, I see that it’s a key attraction for patriotic tourism.

  3. I would love to visit Mount Rushmore – it must be very impressive seeing those huge heads above your own….small head 😀 However, it’s a shame that they did not add Donald Trump as he wished #irony #sarcasm 

  4. I haven’t visited Mount Rushmore because for the longest time I thought there was nothing else to see other than the memorial! So good to know that there are other national parks nearby and attractions worth visiting. Sounds like the perfect stop for a road trip.

  5. We were glad we stopped to see Mount Rushmore on our trip across the U.S.  It is such an iconic U.S. site that we wanted to get a view.  It would be fun to visit when the evening lights and music ceremonies were on.  Maybe we will plan to stop closer in Keystone to enjoy that next time.  Then we could spend some time in Custer State Park.  

  6. I could see this would be a popular spot for travellers, especially American ones, to see these famous monuments. It’s a great spot for families to sneak in a little history lesson for their children too! I hadn’t realized this site was in close proximity to the Yellowstone National Park, great opportunity to hike and drive through for an epic road trip. 

  7. Mount Rushmore National
    Memorial was my first road trip with a friend. I was in my early
    twenties and really want to return, I have learned so much about travel since
    then I really want to return.  I would
    love to spend some time in Deadwood.   

  8. This is so helpful and we appreciate your detailed post. We have always wanted to visit Mt Rushmore but lack the information if it’s possible for us. Happy to know that there is no entrance fee and the parking fee is just cheap. 🙂

  9. This is so helpful and we appreciate your detailed post. We have always wanted to visit Mt Rushmore but lack the information if it’s possible for us. Happy to know that there is no entrance fee and the parking fee is just cheap. 

  10. Oh my God! I have always had Mount Rushmore on my list of places to visit. I would love to see those faces of the presidents sculpted out, looks beautiful. I have never been to South Dakota till date and I wish to go there some day. The wildlife looks stunning too. And of course the Yellowstone has been on my list too.

  11. We visited Mount Rushmore a couple of summers ago. We enjoyed our visit, but too bad they were working on the Avenue of Flags at that time. Visiting early morning is also good for less traffic. 

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