How To Visit Mount Rushmore: Tips From a Local

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I grew up in the Black Hills, about 20 minutes away from Mount Rushmore, and I’m sharing everything you need to know to visit and plan an unforgettable trip.

Visiting the famous granite mountain sculpture honoring four of our nation’s past presidents is high on many people’s summer bucket lists to South Dakota. Over 2 million people visit the memorial every year.

What Is Mount Rushmore?

Avenue of Flags at Mount Rushmore.
Pablo standing on the Avenue of Flags the first time I took him to visit.

Mount Rushmore is one of the most iconic memorials in the U.S. It is a symbol of American freedom and democracy and a national treasure.

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 is a memorable trip because it brings people together to educate and share the history of America.

How To Visit Mount Rushmore

Mount Rushmore National Memorial is in the Black Hills near Keystone, South Dakota, about eight minutes from downtown Keystone.

It is part of the U.S. National Park Service and is open year-round, seven days a week.

How Much Does It Cost To Visit?

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

The fees for parking are:

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

How Long Should You Spend Here?

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

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.

Best Time of Year To Visit

Regarding weather, 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.

Tips for Beating the Crowds

The best time to visit is first thing in the morning. The facility opens at 8:00 a.m. U.S. mountain time.

You might also consider visiting during shoulder seasons when people aren’t on vacation or summer breaks from work or school.

Attend the Lighting Ceremony

If you would like to see the lighting ceremony, visit later in the day. This is a popular event, especially in the summer.

Evening Lighting Hours:

  • October 1 through May 23: No ceremony, but the lighting of Mt. Rushmore is at sunset, nightly.
  • May 24 through August 10: 9 p.m.
  • August 11 through September 30: 8 p.m.

How Big Are the Heads?

One of South Dakota’s mottos is “Great Faces and Great Places.” This motto refers to Mount Rushmore and the wonderful people who live in the state.

To give the size of the sculpture context, George Washington’s head is roughly 60 feet tall. His eye is about 11 feet wide, and his nose is roughly 21 feet tall.

Can You Bring Your Dog?

Yes, dogs are allowed on a leash near the parking garage and pet exercise area (only).

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.

Dog-Friendly Trail: You might be interested in hiking the Blackberry Trail. You can take your dog (leash requirement) on this hike.

Where To Stay Near Mount Rushmore

There are many places to stay close by, from camping to hotels in Keystone, Hill City, and Custer.

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

Camping

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

Hotels

Below are hotel recommendations that have great reviews.

  • Roosevelt Inn – Keystone
  • Comfort Inn and Suites – Keystone
  • K Bar S Lodge, Ascend Hotel Collection – Keystone

Things To Do Nearby

The Black Hills of South Dakota are full of wonderful things to do. They are an excellent place for outdoor activities and local attractions, including hiking, camping, swimming, stargazing, sightseeing, touring national parks, and panning for gold.

You might enjoy my article on the best things to do in the Black Hills to help you plan your summer road trip.


More South Dakota Travel Guides:

I love South Dakota! If you are planning a trip, you might find these other guides helpful:

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top photo: view of Mount Rushmore presidents, middle photo: view of the Black Hills of South Dakota, bottom photo: view of Mount Rushmore

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Ashlee Fechino

Ashlee Fechino is an outdoor recreation and travel writer sharing the best-kept secrets that aren’t in your typical guidebook. Her goal is to inspire people to travel with a sense of adventure by sharing hidden gems across the U.S. and beyond. She is married to an expat Argentine, Pablo. They camp in their Aliner often and love wandering the world. Follow their latest adventures on Instagram @thehappinessfxn.

10 Comments

  1. William B Randall on March 29, 2021 at 2:15 pm

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

    • Ashlee Fechino on March 31, 2021 at 1:25 pm

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

      • Lyndae Gilbert on July 8, 2023 at 8:34 pm

        My friend and I have a hard time walking. Are there any accommodations for those of us who have difficulties?

  2. gloria li on March 28, 2021 at 12:44 pm

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

    • Ashlee Fechino on March 28, 2021 at 1:11 pm

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

  3. Krista on March 28, 2021 at 3:47 am

    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 on March 28, 2021 at 12:11 pm

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

  4. Cristina Sala on March 25, 2021 at 4:18 pm

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

    • Ashlee Fechino on March 28, 2021 at 12:10 pm

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

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