How to Visit Mount Rushmore | Local’s Guide

Mount Rushmore National Memorial is one of the most iconic memorials in the United States. It is a symbol of American freedom and democracy, a national treasure. Visiting the famous granite mountain sculpture tributing four past presidents is likely high on your bucket list – which is why you are here! I grew up in Custer, South Dakota, about 20 minutes away from Mount Rushmore. I’m sharing everything you need to know to visit Mount Rushmore and plan an unforgettable trip to the Black Hills of South Dakota.

Continue reading to discover how to visit Mount Rushmore!

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Mount Rushmore

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Mount Rushmore Symbolizes American History

Mount Rushmore National Memorial is located in the Black Hills near Keystone, South Dakota.

The Memorial is a tribute to George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt, and Abraham Lincoln, previous U.S. presidents whose instrumental and invaluable influence helped shape America.

Gutzon Borglum carved the sculpture to celebrate the first 150-years of America being a free country. The project started in 1927 and was completed in 1941. It cost just under a million dollars to create.

Visiting Mount Rushmore is such a memorable bucket list trip because it brings people together to educate and share the USA’s history and diversity.

How to Visit Mt. Rushmore

The Memorial is part of the U.S. National Park Service and is a public park open year-round, seven (7) days a week.

Map of Mt. Rushmore

Mount Rushmore is located about eight (8) minutes from downtown Keystone, South Dakota.

How Much Does It Cost to Visit Mount Rushmore?

There is no fee to enter Mount Rushmore; however, there is a fee to park.

As of 2021, the fees for parking in the parking area are:

  • $10 – per car, motorcycle, RV
  • $5 for Seniors (62+) for car, motorcycle, RV
  • Free – for active-duty military for car, motorcycle, RV

Trip Tip: The Annual National Park Pass does not cover the parking fee.

How Long to Visit Mount Rushmore?

So, how long does it take to visit Mount Rushmore?

Plan to spend at least half a day visiting for the first time. You’ll want to tour the museum area, walk the paths, enjoy the views and take photos.

How Much Time to Visit Mount Rushmore?

We recommend planning at least four (4) to five (5) hours to enjoy your first trip there.

Spending half a day at the Memorial will give you plenty of time to browse all of the attractions, including the Lincoln Borglum Visitor Center, Avenue of Flags, and Sculptor’s Studio.

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The Avenue of Flags photo by Ashlee Fechino

You might also be interested in hiking the Blackberry Trail.

Trip Tip: You can take your dog (leash requirement) on the trail!

Best Time of Year to Visit Mount Rushmore

As far as weather goes, the best time of year to visit is late spring through early fall. South Dakota can have pretty harsh and cold winters, so it is best to see the Memorial from May through October.

However, the wintertime has the least number of crowds.

You might also consider shooting for shoulder seasons when people aren’t on holiday or summer breaks from work or school to beat the crowds.

When is the Best Time to Visit Mount Rushmore?

The best time of day to visit Mount Rushmore is in the morning to beat the daily crowds.

Try to get there early! The facility opens at 8:00 am U.S. mountain time.

If you would like to see the lighting ceremony, then a visit later in the day is for you! More people attend this event, though, especially in the summer.

Evening Lighting Ceremony Hours

  • September 16 – Late May – no ceremony, lighting of Mt. Rushmore is at sunset, nightly
  • Late May – mid-August – 9 pm
  • Mid-August – end of September – 8 pm

How Many People Visit Mount Rushmore?

In 2020, over 2 million people visited Mount Rushmore!

How Big are the Heads of Mount Rushmore?

South Dakota is known for its great places and great faces!

The sculpture of George Washington is roughly 60 feet tall. On the sculpture, George Washington’s eye is about 11 feet wide, and his nose is roughly 21 feet tall.

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Mount Rushmore National Memorial photo by Pablo Fechino

Can I Take My Dog?

Yes, dogs are allowed near the parking garage and pet exercise area (only) on a leash. However, dogs are not permitted in the remaining public areas of the Memorial.

There are no kennels available at the facility.

Service dogs are, of course, permitted in all areas.

Where to Stay Near Mount Rushmore

There are many places to stay near Mount Rushmore, from camping to hotels in Keystone, Hill City, and Custer.

We have camped in Custer State Park, at Rafter J Bar Ranch, and the Mount Rushmore KOA and enjoyed the facilities.

Being from the area, we have not stayed at any hotels, but the hotels listed below have great reviews online!

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South Dakota Black Hills view from Black Elk Peak Lookout Tower

Camping

  • Custer State Park – Custer
  • Rafter J Bar Ranch – Hill City
  • Mount Rushmore KOA at Palmer Gulch Resort – Hill City

Hotels

  • Holiday Inn Express & Suites Mt. Rushmore – Keystone
  • Roosevelt Inn – Keystone
  • Rushmore Express Inn & Family Suites – Keystone

What Should I Wear to Visit Mount Rushmore?

Mount Rushmore is located in the Black Hills mountain range in South Dakota. The Memorial is situated at an elevation of 5,725 feet.

Trip Tip: Watch the weather before your trip to plan what to wear best.

Plan to have layers for all four seasons! Bring lots of layers and a rain jacket. This way, you can add more clothes if you need to, or shed some layers if it is too hot.

Wear comfortable shoes to walk or hike in so you can freely explore!

What to Pack to Visit the Black Hills

Below is an example of what to pack on a spring-fall trip to the Black Hills:

  • Light down jacket
  • Fleece layer
  • Rain and windproof jacket
  • Wool socks
  • Comfortable hiking boots – I have the Oboz brand these days, and Pablo wears these Merrell hiking shoes
  • Casual walking shoes
  • Long pants
  • Shorts
  • T-shirt
  • Long sleeve shirt
  • Hat
  • Sunglasses
  • Sunscreen and chapstick – we love the Sun Bum brand since it is environmentally and ethically safe
  • Undergarments
  • Sandals
  • Camera
  • Day Pack – we love this Osprey pack
  • Reusable Water bottle – we love the brand Net Zero Company
  • Bathing suit
  • Snacks

What Else Can I do Near Mount Rushmore?

The Black Hills of South Dakota are packed full of wonderful things to do! The Hills are an excellent place for outdoor activities and local attractions, including hiking, camping, swimming, stargazing, sightseeing, touring bucket list National Parks, and panning for gold! Get travel inspiration and discover the 40 best things to do in the Black Hills of South Dakota during your summer vacation or road trip.

Plan Before You Go

Be sure to check out the current park conditions before planning your trip! This way, you can be informed of COVID operating procedures, construction, weather, and any closures.

We hope you have a memorable trip and that this guide on how to visit Mount Rushmore inspires your adventure.

Thanks for reading.

Ashlee & Pablo


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Are you planning a trip to South Dakota? You might also enjoy our other articles on the Black Hills, a place I call home!

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top photo: visiting Mount Rushmore national memorial, middle photo: view of South Dakota Black Hills, bottom photo: view of Mt Rushmore sculpture

We would love to hear from you!

When are you going to visit Mount Rushmore?

Have you been to the Black Hills of South Dakota? What was your favorite thing to see or do?

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About The Author

Ashlee Fechino

I’m a travel and outdoor recreation writer with dreams to inspire happiness through an outdoorsy lifestyle. I want to help people live their best life by sharing free adventure guides. The USA has been my backyard most of my life, and it’s the place where you’ll find most of our escapades! I’m married to an expat Argentine, chihuahua Mom, and am passionate about the environment. I hold a BS degree in Biology and MS in Environmental Policy & Sustainability. We camp in our Aliner often, love road trips, hiking, and SUP’ing!

8 COMMENTS

  1. Cristina Sala | 25th Mar 21

    Cuanta historia gusrda el monte Rushmore.
    Me encanto la foto de la Avenida de las Banderas. Y Pablo alli.
    Abrazo Ashlee

    • Ashlee Fechino | 28th Mar 21

      ¡Hola Cristina! Gracias por leer. ¡Tuvimos una agradable visita! Me encanta esa foto de Pablo también 🙂

  2. Krista | 28th Mar 21

    I would love to visit Mount Rushmore, I think it’s such an interesting thing to see in person. Thanks for the helpful tips!

    • Ashlee Fechino | 28th Mar 21

      Hi Krista! I hope you can visit someday. Have a great time.

  3. gloria li | 28th Mar 21

    Wow this looks like an amazing hike, they are so scenic

    • Ashlee Fechino | 28th Mar 21

      You can see Mount Rushmore from the main viewing area, you don’t even have to hike!

  4. William B Randall | 29th Mar 21

    I’ve visited before !! I didn’t know all the historic facts and all about the park. So neat !!

    • Ashlee Fechino | 31st Mar 21

      Hi Uncle Burt! Nice to see you on the blog! Thanks for stopping by. You live in such a beautiful place 🙂

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