Exploring Mount Rushmore National Memorial

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mount rushmore national memorial

Park: Mount Rushmore National Park 

State: South Dakota

Year Established: 1925

Acres: 1,278

Annual Visitors: 2 Million

Entrance Fee: $0 (but you need to pay for parking)

Mount Rushmore National Memorial is a massive stone sculpture carved into Mount Rushmore tucked in the Black Hills region of South Dakota. Proudly featuring the presidential faces of Abraham Lincoln, Theodore Roosevelt, Thomas Jefferson and George Washington, the iconic mountainside is located just 75 miles from Badlands National Park, and 500 miles from Yellowstone National Park.

Bordering on the Black Hills National Forest, you’ll enjoy the required drive through the majestic forest to get to Mount Rushmore. Rich with wildlife and covered in Ponderosa Pines, the drive through Black Hills is itself a soothing and transcendent experience. If you plan to visit several national parks in one year, we recommend springing for the America the Beautiful Pass which will get you access to all the national parks, memorials, forests and more for just $80 for the year.

Planning your trip to Mount Rushmore

south dakota winding road to mount rushmore national memorial

Things to do Near Mount Rushmore

There are tons of amazing places to visit around Mount Rushmore so we recommend spending at least a long weekend road trip exploring South Dakota. Spearfish Falls is located an hour north of Mount Rushmore and is especially beautiful to visit in autumn with tons of colorful foliage. The trail is just under a mile long and descends into a canyon leading to the falls.

Badlands National Park is also a popular place to visit during your vacation to Mount Rushmore, with over 244,000 acres of diverse landscape to enjoy. You can explore the largest undisturbed grass prairie in the U.S., catch a stunning sunset over the stripped hills, and watch bison roam.  The Crazy Horse Memorial is another popular attraction nearby.

Hiking in Mount Rushmore

south dakota hiking mount rushmore presidential trail loop

The Mount Rushmore and Presidential Trail Loop is a must visit when you’re at the national monument. It’s paved, family-friendly, and goes to the rockpile located at the base of the mountain for a great view. Warning, there are 422 stairs on the loop so it’s a bit of a workout! If you want to get a close look at the iconic cliffside, this is your chance. But if you want fewer stairs on your route to the base, use the Presidential Trail which is an easy and short hike with great views as well.

And if you want to see more than just the mountain, check out Horse Thief Lake or Old Baldy Mountain Trail. You can access Horse Thief Lake from Mount Rushmore via Blackberry and explore the prairies with tons of wildflowers in the spring, rock features, and plenty of other foliage making it a great opportunity to experience the local flora and fauna of the area. Old Baldy Mountain Trail is a 2.1 out-and-back trail popular for bird watching and requires some boulder scrambling and rock climbing.

hiking south dakota mount rushmore national memorial

Best Camping near Mount Rushmore

Kemp’s Kamp is the closest available campground to Mount Rushmore in Keystone, South Dakota. Nestled among the Ponderosa Pine trees, the campground accommodates tent camping and RVs, and if you prefer a more homey stay, then you can choose a cabin. Kemp's Kamp is kid-friendly and it’s also a family-owned and operated business!

Horsethief Lake Campground is another popular place to stay because in addition to tent camping sites and cabins they offer hot shower facilities and a laundromat. Slightly off the beaten path and less crowded than other campgrounds, Horsethief Lake even has a heated pool on site.

And you can always camp at the Mount Rushmore KOA Resort at Palmer Gulch Resort. Not only can you enjoy a fun play to stay, you can also let KOA help plan other activities for your trip with access to everything from wagon rides, mini golf, and horseback adventures to UTV rentals. However, keep in mind this campground gets very busy and crowded during the summer months.

Prefer to VRBO? Check out cabins for rent near Mount Rushmore.

When to visit Mount Rushmore

south dakota camping near mount rushmore national memorial

The busiest time to visit Mount Rushmore is during the summer months in June, July and August. So if you’re looking to avoid the crowds but still want good weather, we recommend visiting in the fall during September or October. Temperatures will be more mild and you’ll also get a chance to view the beautiful leaves changing colors.

Spring is also a great time to visit Mount Rushmore because crowds will also be thinner and it won’t be as hot as the summer months. The weather usually starts warming up into the mid 55s around April. While Mount Rushmore is open all year round including winter, temperatures start to drop dramatically in November and you’ll likely be trekking through the snow if you visit in December or January.

Can’t wait to plan your next National Park adventure? Check out all of our Parks + Rec recommendations for our favorite spots to vacation.