Why Visit Mount Rushmore National Memorial?
Mount Rushmore is one of the most iconic landmarks of the United States. A location that we see represented in U.S. culture often. It is also a real artistic and technological achievement. Simply put Mount Rushmore is an impressive sight to see.
I visited Mount Rushmore as a part of a larger Western U.S. road trip. Starting by flying into Salt Lake City, Utah then driving through Idaho, to Grande Teton and Yellowstone in Wyoming. Through Montana to Medora, North Dakota, then onto Mt. Rushmore in South Dakota. We ended our trip with a visit to Rocky Mountain National Park in Colorado and flew home from Denver. If you are interested in blogs about other locations on this trip see the links below.
How To Get There
The easiest way to visit Mount Rushmore, and what I would recommend, is to build it into a larger road trip. Mount Rushmore is located in southwestern South Dakota. Near Keystone South Dakota.
The closest airport is Rapid City Regional Airport which is about a 45-minute drive. Rapid City is also the closest city. Mount Rushmore is really not near any larger cities or large airports.
If you choose to go the roadtrip route there are several other attractions in the vicinity.
Crazy Horse Memorial – Forty minutes away from Mount Rushmore is the Crazy Horse Memorial. Started in response to Mount Rushmore this memorial to the famous American Indian Crazy Horse was never completed but his face is there to see. There is a welcome center, museum, and sometimes live events all featuring the history and culture of American Indians indigenous to the area. This is a great stop to gain more insight into the history of this land from its indigenous peoples.
Black Hills National Forest – Mount Rushmore is located in Black Hills National Forest. In the surrounding areas you can partake is most outdoor activities you can think of.
Medora, North Dakota – About 4 hours from Mount Rushmore. This adorable tourist town comes alive in the summer, with a quaint town center with shops and dining options. There are several live performance options in town. The towns signature activity is the outdoor musical variety show, Medora the Musical, performed nightly in the summer in an amphitheater with spectacular views. We greatly enjoyed the atmosphere and performances at Medora, the Musical. In addition you will find rotating live performances at the Old Town Hall Theatre many featuring Teddy Roosevelt as well as a Gospel Brunch. The big draw to Medora is Teddy Roosevelt National Park where you can drive through the scenic landscapes, or hike and explore the park. Don’t miss the visitor’s center where you can learn the history of the park and see the cabin Teddy Roosevelt lived in during his time in North Dakota.
Deadwood, South Dakota – About an hour north of Mt. Rushmore and much larger and with a very different feel than Medora, Deadwood is the historic home to outlaws of the Wild West and the town today draws on that for it’s spirit and the theming of its tourist areas. If you are looking to visit the Wild West with some modern kitsch you will enjoy Deadwood, however it does not have the quaint charm of Medora. We much preferred Medora. Deadwood is home to several casinos, and hotels. As well as a lot of stores, bars, and restaurants. There are several museums featuring the history of the town and surrounding areas, historic tours, and historic homes. There is a vintage train nearby that you can ride as well as an indoor waterpark, ropes course, zipline, and mini-golf. Deadwood is also an option to use as a central hub to visit several of the National Parks nearby such as Mount Rushmore.
Badlands National Park, South Dakota – About an hour and a half east of Mount Rushmore is Badlands National Park where you can view the iconic Dakota buttes and pinnacles. Drive or hike through the park and enjoy scenic views.
Wind Cave National Park, South Dakota – An hour south of Mt. Rushmore is Wind Cave National Park. Hike, look for the parks bison and elk, explore the cave with a ranger tour or on your own, and more.
Devil’s Tower National Monument, Wyoming – Two and a half hours west is the iconic Devil’s Tower. Here you can hike, climb, and learn about the geology and history of the location, including its sacred nature to the indigenous Northern Plains Indians.
Where To Stay?
If you want to stay right next door to Mount Rushmore you want to look at Keystone, SD. You will find many hotels, inns, hotels, RV parks, and cabin rentals. The entire town is dedicated to the tourism from Mount Rushmore with several museums and tourist attractions available. Including mining for gold, zip lining, golfing, a wax museum of U.S. Presidents, and more. This is a tourism town but there is also lots to keep you busy and a lot of activities with families in mind.
If you are looking to stay in a larger more luxurious hotel or just a larger town look to nearby Rapid City.
What To Do At Mount Rushmore?
Avenue of Flags & Grand View Terrace – As you enter the monument the Grand View Terrace and Avenue of Flags is really the main area. You will see all 50 United States state flags that will lead you to the the fabulous view of the monument.
Presidential Trail – Walk this loop trail to get closer to the monument. The entire pathway is 0.6 miles long and paved or raised wooden walkway making it easy going but there are some stairs in places with no ramp options.
Sculptor’s Studio – Hear a ranger talk about the techniques used to carve the monument and see the sculpter’s scale model.
Lincoln Borglum Visitors Center – View a short film about the carving of the monument and several exhibits exploring the history or the area and monument.
Junior Ranger Program – Complete an activity booklet designed for kids, with several age group options.
Tours & Ranger Programs – There are several programs offered from the park rangers throughout the day ranging from the carving of the monument, the Presidents featured on the monument, and the history of the lands surrounding the memorial and the American Indian tribes who have populated the area. You can also rent a handheld media device to take part in a self guided talking tour.
Cafe & Gift Shop – At the entrance you will find a gift ship where you can get anything you can imagine that is Mount Rushmore themed. You will also find the Carver’s Cafe where you can grab coffee, ice cream and meal options like beef stew, hot dogs (or buffalo dogs), salads, chicken, and fish.
Nightly Light Show – “Freedom: America’s Lasting Legacy” – Weather permitting there is a nightly show in the amphitheater below the Grand View Terrace. Lead by a ranger see a film celebrating America and special lighting on the monument. The entire program is 45-minutes long.
What We Did
We really enjoyed our visit to Mount Rushmore. We walked all of the paths and visited the exhibits. As you drive up to the monument you can see the Presidential faces from the road. Then as we approached the entrance to the monument on foot it felt unreal that we were actually seeing something we had seen in photos so many times. Learning about how the artists and workers actually made the monument was very interesting and the exhibits were well done. We also particularly enjoyed walking the Presidential Trail getting up close to the monument. Being able to see such an iconic American landmark was one of the highlights of this larger trip.
Before Your Visit
If you are looking for some inspiration before your visit be sure to check out these movies that have been filmed at Mt. Rushmore.
- North By Northwest
- National Treasure 2: Book of Secrets
- Richie Rich
- Head of State
Who Should Visit?
I think a visit to Mount Rushmore is great for anyone!
I think families and adults of all ages will enjoy a visit.
I am a travel agent and I would love to help you plan your trip to Mount Rushmore or anywhere else! All of my travel services are complimentary.
If you would like to discuss your next adventure contact me at: email@example.com