Avenue of Flags at Mount Rushmore

How To Visit Mount Rushmore: What You Need To Know

One of America’s most famous landmarks and most patriotic monuments, the Mount Rushmore National Memorial proudly adorns the horizon in the Black Hills of South Dakota. The perfectly detailed features chiseled into white granite stand out against the rugged, gray mountain and verdant ponderosa pines. Gazing up at the humbling memorial is a surefire way to rekindle patriotic feelings. The Black Hills region has natural beauty and many other nearby attractions. We cover everything you need to know to visit Mount Rushmore.


Disclosure: We thank Kampgrounds of America for generously hosting our stay. All opinions are our own. This article may contain affiliate links from which we earn a small commission at no additional cost. 


Who Are the Presidents on Mount Rushmore & Why Were They Chosen?

South Dakota's Mount Rushmore
Mount Rushmore National Memorial. Photo credit: Miles with McConkey

A colossal sculpture carved into a granite mountain, the Mount Rushmore National Memorial is a tribute to four of our nation’s former presidents. Viewing the sculpture from left to right, you will discover: 

  • George Washington
  • Thomas Jefferson
  • Theodore Roosevelt
  • Abraham Lincoln

The four presidents represent America’s birth, expansion, development, and preservation.

As the nation’s first president, George Washington represents America’s birth. Thomas Jefferson, the architect behind the Louisiana Purchase, symbolizes the country’s expansion. Confronting the challenges of holding the nation together during the Civil War, Abraham Lincoln represents preservation. Theodore Roosevelt signifies development through his support of the Panama Canal construction.

Who Carved the Mount Rushmore National Memorial?

Although the mountain bears the name Rushmore, the person behind the memorial does not share the name. It was named in 1885, long before the monument was conceived, for New York attorney Charles E. Rushmore. 

Gutzon Borglum is the genius behind the memorial, creating its design and overseeing the project. Nearly 400 workers helped in the massive project, with 90% of the carving done using dynamite. Astonishingly, nobody died during the project.

The original plan was to portray the four presidents from the waist up. Due to funds running out in 1941, the team decided to carve only the heads into the mountain.

The entire project took 14 years, from 1927 to 1941. Unfortunately, Gutzon Borglum passed away in 1941, just before its completion. Gutzon’s son, Lincoln Borglum, oversaw the memorial’s completion, ensuring his father’s vision became a reality.

Mount Rushmore Controversy

The Lakota Sioux considered the land sacred and lived in the Black Hills before white settlers arrived. In 1868, the United States government promised the Sioux they could live in the Black Hills. Many prospectors flooded the region during the 1870s Gold Rush, forcing the Sioux off the land.

Sitting Bull and Crazy Horse retaliated by attacking the United States Army. One of the most famous battles was against General Custer at the Battle of Little Bighorn, also known as Custer’s Last Stand. The Native Americans eventually fell in the Battle of Wounded Knee in 1890.

Doane Robinson, a South Dakota historian, initially presented the concept of the Mount Rushmore sculpture. He proposed carving the faces of Lewis and Clark, Sacagawea, Red Cloud, Crazy Horse, and Buffalo Bill Cody into the mountain. Robinson felt these figures truly represented the American West.

Gutzon Borglum believed the famous presidents delivered more national appeal, thus promoting tourism. So, he carved the presidents into the mountain. 

Since the memorial’s completion, Native Americans have unsuccessfully protested for the return of the Black Hills to them. In response, the Crazy Horse Memorial is being constructed in the Black Hills but at a different location.

Interesting Facts

Here are a few other interesting facts to consider before your trip.

  • The memorial cost just under a million dollars, with a total project price tag of $989,992.32.
  • Each sculpted head is approximately 60 feet tall.
  • Mount Rushmore’s peak is 5,725 feet above sea level.
  • Scientists predict the sculpture will erode 1 inch every 10,000 years.
  • The park site regularly draws over 2 million visitors annually.
  • Lincoln Borglum served as Mount Rushmore’s first superintendent from 1941 to 1944.

Is Mount Rushmore a National Park?

Fog rolls across Mount Rushmore
Fog rolls across the memorial. Photo credit: Miles with McConkey

Mount Rushmore is a national memorial rather than a national park. National memorials commemorate a person or event that significantly impacted our history, helping to shape our country. The National Park Service (NPS) also manages these sites.

Location

Mount Rushmore sits in the Black Hills region of southwest South Dakota. The address is 13000 Highway 244, Building 31, Suite1, Keystone, SD 57551.

Directions

If you are traveling by car from the east, take exit 61 off Interstate 90 and follow the signs. 

For those coming from the west, take exit 57 at Rapid City. Follow U.S. Highway 16 southwest to Keystone, then Highway 244 to Mount Rushmore.

If you are coming from the south, follow Highway 385 north to Highway 244, which takes you to the memorial.

Closest Airport

Rapid City Regional Airport in Rapid City, South Dakota, is the closest airport to Mount Rushmore. The memorial is about a 45-minute drive from the airport.

Operating Hours and Seasons

The Mount Rushmore grounds are open every day, weather permitting. Although the park grounds are available, all buildings are closed on Christmas Day.

The park site is typically open from 5 a.m. to 11 p.m. from mid-March through September. From October to mid-March, the park closes a bit earlier, at 9 p.m.

Fees and Passes

Mount Rushmore is free to visit year-round. An entrance fee is not collected; you do not need a pass. Reservations are unnecessary to visit or participate in any park programs.

However, the park site charges a parking fee by vehicle. Cars, RVs, and motorcycles each pay a $10 fee to park. Seniors, age 62 and over, pay $5, while active duty military members park for free.

You can pay parking fees with cash or most credit cards. Your parking ticket is valid for one year from the date of purchase.

Please note that national park passes do not cover parking fees.

If you have any questions about parking or parking fees, contact Xanterra Travel Collection at (605) 574-2515.

How much time do you need to visit?

For those who only care to see the memorial and snap a photo, you can do so in a half hour.

A half-hour to an hour allows you to walk along the iconic Avenue of Flags and savor the view from the Grand View Terrace.

You should spend two hours enjoying more of the park’s offerings. Now, you have time to watch a film about Mount Rushmore’s construction and to walk the Presidential Trail for a closer view of the monument. You may even have time to grab a bite to eat.

If you have half a day or a full day, you can join the day’s ranger programs and stay for the Evening Lighting Ceremony.

When is the Best Time of Year to Visit?

Generally, spring and fall are the best times of year to visit due to mild temperatures and lighter crowds. May is an excellent month with a warming thermometer and summer travelers still sidelined.

Temperatures and crowd levels soar in summer. If your schedule dictates that you go in summer, head to the park early in the day to beat the heat and crowds.

If you love fall foliage, consider visiting Mount Rushmore and the Black Hills in late September or early October. The area draws some crowds this time of year, but the weather is mild, and the autumn colors are outstanding.

Winters get cold, but the park site typically has few visitors. You may see our famous presidents wrapped in a blanket of snow.

It is essential to note that some park programs occur only during peak season. Ranger talks and the Sculptor’s Studio are typically available from June through September, while the Evening Lighting Ceremony regularly occurs from May through September. 

The Presidential Trail can close in winter if conditions get icy. Going during summer’s peak travel season may be worthwhile if these attractions are critical to you.

When is the Best Time of Day to Visit?

Mount Rushmore lit up at night
Mount Rushmore illuminated at night. Photo credit: Miles with McConkey

Crowds typically get thickest around midday. Weekends are even busier, with late morning to early afternoon drawing the most guests.

Due to lower crowds and cooler temperatures, early morning is the best time to see Mount Rushmore. The evening is excellent as guests and temperatures drop. 

You can watch the Evening Lighting Ceremony at night from May through September. We suggest you check the Mount Rushmore site before your visit to verify the program start time. During our visit in late August, the ceremony started at 8:00. It typically begins at 9:00 until mid-August.

How Much Walking Will You Do?

Compared to most national park sites, Mount Rushmore requires little walking. The iconic Avenue of Flags is a short stroll to the Grand View Terrace, where you gain a spectacular vantage point of the memorial. It is level and wheelchair accessible.

The Presidential Trail is optional but an experience we highly recommend. It is 0.6 miles long and includes 425 stairs. Your reward is a closer view of the granite sculpture.

The park offers an optional 2-mile round-trip hike, the Blackberry Trail. It is more about finding solitude in nature than viewing the Mount Rushmore National Memorial.

Can You See Mount Rushmore Without Going Into the Park?

It is possible to see the memorial without going into the park. Although some vantage points are unique, it is challenging to appreciate the craftsmanship from a distance.

Is it Worth it to Visit Mount Rushmore?

Julie and I firmly believe Mount Rushmore is worth visiting. For such an iconic United States landmark, the cost is minimal. The history alone is fascinating. You gain a deeper appreciation for the sculpture by seeing it up close and learning about its history.

The park is lovely and stirs patriotic emotions within your soul. Sometimes, we need reminding to be grateful for our opportunities and proud of our heritage. Your heart will swell with pride when you visit Mount Rushmore.

As a bonus, the Black Hills region offers many other nearby attractions. Mount Rushmore is a must-see on a South Dakota road trip full of natural beauty, history, unique wildlife, and fun adventures.

Top Things To Do in Mount Rushmore

The park offers more to do than gazing at a sculpture. Let’s chip away some more granite so you can best determine how to spend your time at Mount Rushmore.

Lincoln Borglum Visitor Center

Mount Rushmore Visitor Center
Lincoln Borglum Visitor Center. Photo credit: Miles with McConkey

The Lincoln Borglum Visitor Center is the perfect place to learn about Mount Rushmore’s history, particularly the sculpture. Beyond a fantastic museum with historical artifacts and photos, you will find park information and a bookstore. Park rangers are on hand to answer your questions. 

We recommend you watch the film covering the memorial’s creation. It is 14 minutes in length but well worth your time. Two theaters sit within the visitor center, each showing the film.

The visitor center sits beneath Grand View Terrace. It opens daily at 8 a.m., with the closing time varying seasonally.

The park also has an information center located near the entrance. You can obtain park information and talk to rangers. Although a good place to start, the Lincoln Borglum Visitor Center offers a more immersive experience.

Avenue of Flags

Signs for main attractions at Mount Rushmore
Approaching Avenue of Flags. Photo credit: Miles with McConkey

The main walkway to the Grand View Terrace is called the Avenue of Flags. Aptly named, 56 flags line the thoroughfare representing:

  • Fifty states
  • One district: the District of Columbia
  • Three territories: Guam, American Samoa, and the Virgin Islands
  • Two commonwealths: Puerto Rico and the Northern Mariana Islands

The Avenue of Flags perfectly frames the faces as you stroll toward the sculpture. Walking along the grand promenade feels special, if not surreal. It can stir emotions or, at the very least, make you feel like you are attending a royal event.

If you want to find your state flag, they are alphabetically ordered, with names on plaques beneath the banners.

Grand View Terrace

Grand View Terrace at Mount Rushmore
Perspective from the Grand View Terrace. Photo credit: Miles with McConkey

The Grand View Terrace is a viewing platform, the primary spot from which you will observe the memorial. It is where you will take your photos and selfies. The Avenue of Flags will lead you directly to the Grand View Terrace for an unobstructed view of the four famous presidents.

Please note that the area regularly gets crowded. With a bit of patience, you will get your photo opportunity.

Presidential Trail

Trailhead for the Presidential Trail at Mount Rushmore
Start of the Presidential Trail. Photo credit: Miles with McConkey

Many guests end their Mount Rushmore visit at the Grand View Terrace. We suggest you hike the Presidential Trail. It leads upward to the mountain’s base for a closer perspective of the main attraction. 

You will navigate 425 stairs along the relatively easy 0.6-mile hike. The trail includes informational signs so you can learn more about the memorial.

We recommend hiking the Presidential Trail in a clockwise direction to face the monument most of the time.

Sculptor’s Studio

Nestled at the end of the Presidential Trail, the Sculptor’s Studio houses a 1/12th scale model of the sculpture, as initially envisioned, depicting the presidents from the waist up. 

It is a unique opportunity to learn about the tools and techniques used in the project. Knowing one inch of the model equals one foot of the sculpture puts everything in perspective and gives you such an appreciation for Borglum’s vision. Also, it is surreal knowing Gutzon Borglum worked in the small building from 1939 to 1941.

The Sculptor’s Studio is typically open daily from June through September. Rangers give 15-minute talks, spotlighting the workers and their tools. 

The park posts the scheduled talks in the information and visitor centers. Generally, these occur every hour between 9 a.m. and 3 p.m., but the studio is open from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Evening Lighting Ceremony

Mount Rushmore Evening Lighting Ceremony
Evening Lighting Ceremony. Photo credit: Miles with McConkey

Many visitors skip the Evening Lighting Ceremony. The program is one of the most uplifting experiences in our national park system.

It regularly occurs nightly from late May through September in the park’s outdoor amphitheater near Grand View Terrace. The 45-minute program includes a ranger talk and a short film before the inspirational lighting of the memorial. Military veterans get invited to come up on stage, and guests sing our national anthem. Most everyone gets chills and teary-eyed.

It starts at 9 p.m. from late May through mid-August, then begins at 8 p.m. from mid-August through September.

The sculpture is illuminated nightly for the remainder of the year, but no ceremony exists. While the lighting of the presidential faces is inspirational, the ranger program adds to the overall experience. We highly recommend attending the lighting ceremony.

If you visit Mount Rushmore early in the day, you can always return for the Evening Lighting Ceremony the same day or another evening during your stay. Be sure to save your parking ticket.

Take a Self-guided Tour of Mount Rushmore

You can freely explore the park on your own. However, the park offers a self-guided tour option that provides more details on the history and construction of the memorial. 

Self-guided tours come in two flavors.

Audio Tour

Mount Rushmore offers an audio tour for $6. You will receive a device that guides you along 29 stops throughout the park. Listen to narration, interviews, and recordings of Gutzon Borglum, Lincoln Borglum, workers, and American Indians as you explore the park.

Multimedia Tour

The multimedia tour costs $8. It enhances the audio tour by displaying videos and photos on your handheld device. A GPS-enabled map will alert you as you approach each spot. 

Blackberry Trail

Unlike many national park sites, Mount Rushmore’s hiking options are limited. Whereas the Presidential Trail delivers a closer view of the monument, the Blackberry Trail provides a more remote experience. 

The Blackberry Trail consists primarily of dirt and gravel. It is a 2-mile round-trip hike that is rated moderately strenuous. For those seeking a more extended excursion, it connects to the Centennial Trail in the Black Elk Wilderness, part of the Black Hills National Forest. The trailhead rests across Highway 244 from the parking area.

Enjoy a Monumental Meal

View of Mount Rushmore from Carvers' Cafe
A meal with a view at Carvers’ Cafe. Photo credit: Miles with McConkey

Many national park sites offer limited food options. Mount Rushmore shines in this area. Regardless of what you select to eat, your meal comes with a spectacular view. The Carvers’ Cafe has large picture windows to admire the sculpture while eating. Monumental indeed!

The cafe serves breakfast until 10:45. Their famed monumental breakfast includes eggs, breakfast potatoes, bacon or sausage, and biscuits with gravy. You can order a la carte, where the menu also includes French toast sticks and cinnamon rolls.

At 11 a.m., Carvers’ Marketplace switches to their lunch and dinner menu. Popular items include burgers, buffalo burgers, chicken sandwiches, chicken tenders, hot dogs, chili dogs, veggie burgers, New England pot roast, and grilled chicken breast.

Julie and I ordered the pot roast and chicken breast plates. Each comes with vegetables, mashed potatoes with gravy, and a yeast roll. We were pleasantly surprised at the tenderness of the pot roast and chicken. Each was well-seasoned and reminiscent of a home-cooked meal lovingly prepared by mom.

You can even pair your meal with a local beer or wine. The marketplace includes a specialty coffee bar and an ice cream shop, Memorial Team Ice Cream, in honor of the local baseball team formed around the monument carvers.

Xanterra Travel Collection runs the park concessions. They knock it out of the park with various food offerings, flavorful entrees, and exquisite views.

Where to Stay

There are many accommodation options near Mount Rushmore. You can choose from hotels, cabins, campgrounds, house rentals, and more.

In full disclosure, Kampgrounds of America (KOA) hosted us for two nights. Julie and I had longed to visit Mount Rushmore for some time. To say we were excited when KOA invited us to stay near the iconic memorial would be an understatement. We want to share our experience with you. All opinions are our own.

We stayed at a vacation rental through VRBO for two additional nights. Each accommodation offers a unique experience, but both are excellent. Your circumstances and interests will determine which is the better fit.

Mount Rushmore KOA Resort at Palmer Gulch

KOA near Mount Rushmore
Mount Rushmore KOA Resort at Palmer Gulch. Photo credit: Miles with McConkey

If you enjoy camping, KOA delivers a top-notch experience with their Mount Rushmore KOA Resort at Palmer Gulch

I fondly remember sleeping in tents at various KOA sites across America as a child. The Mount Rushmore KOA Resort at Palmer Gulch has so many amenities it feels like a dream.

Regardless of whether you are traveling solo, as a couple, or as a family, anybody who enjoys camping will love this site. However, it is perfect for families due to the extensive entertainment for kids.

The campground offers tent sites, RV sites, and cabins. Julie and I stayed in a deluxe cabin. It had two bedrooms, a master and one with bunk beds. An upstairs sleeping loft could easily accommodate two children. 

The deluxe cabin had a full kitchen and a shower. It was roomy and clean and felt like home. Just outside the house, we had a firepit and chairs. 

Although it is more in the realm of glamping, it still has a cabin vibe to give you that feel of camping.

With restaurants, shops, swimming, biking, horseback riding, mini-golf, fishing, golf cart rentals, a chuckwagon supper, and a rodeo, you could have an excellent vacation week without ever leaving the campground. If you venture out, you can drive to Mount Rushmore in about ten minutes.

Food options in the campground are plentiful. You will find pizza, chicken wings, and ice cream. You can pair adult beverages with burgers, chicken, steaks, seafood, and ribs at The Peak Grill & Tap Room.

Grapes & Grinds is a unique shop specializing in wine and coffee drinks. Be sure to try a delicious and refreshing wine slushie. The campground serves a delightful breakfast in the Prospector’s Pancake Tent from Memorial Day to Labor Day.

This place takes camping to a whole new level!

VRBO – Mount Rushmore View

VRBO Mount Rushmore View
Enjoying the view from the deck. Photo credit: Miles with McConkey

For couples who prefer a vacation rental with privacy, the Mount Rushmore View is a heavenly escape. It feels rustic with sliding barn doors and Western elements within the home. However, it is spotless, spacious, and cozy, with all the modern conveniences you need.

You can drive to Mount Rushmore or Custer State Park in less than fifteen minutes, yet you feel miles from tourists. Tall, fragrant pines surround a beautiful deck. However, the trees provide a window, perfectly framing the famous presidents on the distant mountain.

Whether you prefer lounging in the cozy house or on the comfortable deck, the place feels special. Nearly everyone leaves a note in the house journal that they only have one regret – not staying longer. 

You can enjoy forested hikes on the property during the day. The house offers a full kitchen so you can easily prepare food for a lovely evening. 

After dinner, observe the monument get illuminated at nightfall. Then, watch the black sky slowly reveal a vast blanket of white stars. 

For anyone nervous about staying in a vacation rental, this home is one of the nicest we have ever seen. As a bonus, the hosts are some of the nicest people you will ever meet. The view from the deck alone is reason enough to stay here. However, everything else lines up perfectly.

Things To Do Near Mount Rushmore

South Dakota’s Black Hills harbor many natural attractions for you to explore beyond Mount Rushmore.

Extraordinary Views of Mount Rushmore

As you drive the area surrounding Mount Rushmore, you will discover unique views of the famous landmark. We want to highlight a couple of these for you.

Profile View of George Washington

Side view of George Washington at Mount Rushmore
Profile view of George Washington. Photo credit: Miles with McConkey

Just outside the park on Highway 244, you will discover a delightful side view of George Washington. 

To find it, turn right onto Highway 244 as you exit the park. You will see a sign and a small parking area in less than a mile. The sign reads, “Profile View Turnout ¼ mile.”

Tunnel View from Iron Mountain Road

View of Mt Rushmore through a tunnel on Iron Mountain Road
View of Mount Rushmore from Doane Robinson Tunnel. Photo credit: Miles with McConkey

One of the most unique and rewarding views is through a tunnel on Highway 16A. Please note that the highway is more commonly called Iron Mountain Road.

The scenic road snakes 17 miles southeast of Mount Rushmore National Memorial. Along the journey, you will encounter three narrow tunnels, two of which frame the monument if you drive north:

  • Doane Robinson Tunnel
  • Scovel Johnson Tunnel

We suggest driving Iron Mountain Road early in the morning from south to north. With an early start, you can park in a pullover outside the tunnel and capture the magical moment with a photo. Beyond less traffic, you have increased odds of wildlife sightings.

We made the drive just after sunset. The winding road yields excellent views of the forest and jagged rock formations. We saw at least fifty deer on the way. Drivers regularly spot bison, bighorn sheep, and mountain goats. Please take your time and stay alert.

Scenic Drives

South Dakota’s Black Hills offers some of the most scenic drives in America. The area abounds with natural beauty and iconic attractions.

Iron Mountain Road

As mentioned above, Iron Mountain Road runs between Mount Rushmore and Custer State Park. If the tunnels and wildlife do not delight you, surely the more than 300 curves and three pigtail bridges will.

Needles Highway

The Needles Highway, or Highway 87, nestles southwest of Mount Rushmore and runs from Sylvan Lake to Legion Lake in Custer State Park. You will encounter giant, jagged granite spires that resemble needles. 

The narrow road twists and turns for 14 miles through mountains, pine forests, and meadows. Travelers regularly spot wildlife on the scenic drive.

Needles Highway harbors three narrow tunnels, with Needles Eye Tunnel being the most famous. Be sure to park outside the tunnel to capture a photo of the famous Needles Eye rock formation.

Peter Norbeck National Scenic Byway

Highways 16A, 87, 89, and 244 combine for 70 miles to create the Peter Norbeck National Scenic Byway. The gorgeous route takes you by Mount Rushmore, Crazy Horse Memorial, Custer State Park, Norbeck Wildlife Preserve, and Black Elk National Wilderness Area.

Wildlife Loop Road

Running south of and between Iron Mountain Road and Needles Highway for 18 miles, Wildlife Loop Road takes you through the southern regions of Custer State Park. It can be combined as part of these other two roads or in addition to Peter Norbeck National Scenic Byway for a leisurely day of scenic driving.

Wildlife Loop Road easily lives up to its name. Julie and I enjoyed this safari adventure a few times, spotting bison, bighorn sheep, pronghorn, prairie dogs, donkeys, wild turkeys, and more.

Badlands National Park

The famous Badlands National Park sits about 1.5 hours from Mount Rushmore. You will encounter otherworldly striated mounds and canyons between vast grasslands that stretch forever. 

The park houses unique wildlife like bison, bighorn sheep, and prairie dogs. You can experience much of the park on scenic drives and short but rewarding hikes.

Wind Cave National Park

A magical underground world of stalactites and stalagmites awaits you about an hour from Mount Rushmore. The park offers various ranger-guided cave tours. 

Above ground, Wind Cave National Park has over 30 miles of hiking trails through prairie grasslands and ponderosa pines. The park’s wildlife includes bison, elk, prairie dogs, badgers, and burrowing owls.

Custer State Park

The 17-mile drive south on Iron Mountain Road will lead you to the East Entrance of Custer State Park. Or, you can reach the Sylvan Lake Entrance on the park’s northwest side in about half an hour.

One of America’s best state parks, Custer State Park harbors three top-notch scenic drives on Iron Mountain Road, Needles Highway, and Wildlife Loop Road. 

The park is brimming with wildlife. Julie and I have visited many parks across the country. 

Outside of Denali National Park, Custer State Park yielded the most exciting wildlife viewing we have ever experienced.

Custer State Park has some of the most rewarding hikes you will find. Jagged rock formations and towering spires greet you as you emerge from fragrant pine forests. 

Some treks require rock scrambling but reward you with outstanding views. You may encounter wildlife along the way. We spotted deer, squirrels, woodpeckers, and mountain goats on one of our hikes.

Crazy Horse Memorial

The Crazy Horse Memorial is a half-hour drive southwest of Mount Rushmore. Tasunke Witco, or Crazy Horse, is renowned for his bravery, battle prowess, and fighting for what he believed was right. 

The memorial is under construction but is a moving tribute to the warrior and the region’s Native American people. You can learn more about the story in The Indian Museum of North America and see the sculpture’s progress in the mountain.

Jewel Cave National Monument

The Jewel Cave National Monument is a 45-minute drive southwest of Mount Rushmore. It is one of the world’s longest caves, with over 215 miles of mapped passages. Guided tours are required to explore the beautiful cave, and park rangers recommend reservations.

Minuteman Missile National Historic Site

The Minuteman Missile National Historic Site is a 1.5-hour drive east of Mount Rushmore. Once part of an extensive missile field in western South Dakota, the site preserves part of our history during the Cold War. 

The area once housed 1,000 missiles and fifteen launch control facilities. About 400 missiles are operational today. The park preserves two of these facilities and contains a visitor center where you can learn more about the Cold War and nuclear weapons. 

Devils Tower

Although located in Wyoming, the Devils Tower National Monument is a 2.5-hour drive northwest of Mount Rushmore. Theodore Roosevelt designated it as our first national monument in 1906. It remains one of our most unique national monuments.

Considered sacred by many indigenous people, the surreal rock formation soars above the surrounding prairie. Popular park activities include hiking, stargazing, and rock climbing.

Spearfish Canyon

One of the most beautiful spots in the Black Hills, Spearfish Canyon Nature Area is a 1.5-hour drive north of Mount Rushmore. The canyon offers fantastic hiking trails that guide visitors to Spearfish Falls, Roughlock Falls, and Savoy Pond. 

Other popular activities include fishing, picnicking, birdwatching, and looking for wildlife. Although lovely year-round, the area’s autumn foliage is outstanding.

Wall Drug

The famous Wall Drug Store is a 1.5-hour drive east of Mount Rushmore. Although touristy, it is a fun place to visit. 

You will likely discover billboards for the store as you travel throughout South Dakota. There are supposedly hundreds of signs. We encountered too many to count during our travels.

Wall Drug offers shopping, eating, family fun, and more. It is renowned for free ice water, 5-cent coffee, hot beef sandwiches, and tasty donuts. Due to its massive size and outlandish props, Wall Drug feels like a theme park.

Plan Your Monumental Vacation

The Black Hills offers beautiful landscapes, unique wildlife, and history. One region rarely offers so many iconic spots, all within such a close range. Do yourself a favor and visit Mount Rushmore and the Black Hills of South Dakota. It truly is a monumental vacation!

Featured image credit: Miles with McConkey

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Scott and Julie at Miles with McConkey

Scott And Julie McConkey

After 30 years, Scott and Julie McConkey left the corporate world for a life of travel and adventure. What started as a gap year became a second act, and they are now full-time travel bloggers!
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