The Ultimate Guide To Mount Rushmore National Memorial
Mount Rushmore National Memorial, American history engraved into the mountains!
Standing tall amid the Black Hills National Forest of South Dakota are the intricately carved faces of four American Presidents, whose leadership laid the foundation of this great Nation!
Mount Rushomer National Monument, featuring large mountain sculptures of four US Presidents, George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln, and Theodore Roosevelt, is a tribute to the great leaders and commemorates the accomplishments made in the first 150 years as a free Nation! The sculptures are about 60 feet tall and are intricately carved into the southeast face of Mount Rushmore, which is approximately 5700 feet tall.
Mount Rushomer National Monument not only symbolizes the great American history, but it’s also a monumental achievement in the field of sculpturing! The making of the monument was not an easy feat! Built under the supervision of the great sculptor Gutzon Borglum, it took fourteen years and four hundred workers to create this man-made wonder! The sculpture was carved by blasting the rocks and then hand drilled by workers hanging from the top of the mountain using steel cables.
History, craftsmanship, and a memorial, Mount Rushmore National Monument is a national treasure and a premier destination in South Dakota!
The imposing monument and the unparalleled craftsmanship lure people from all over the globe to Mount Rushmore, making it one of the most sorted after destinations in the US! The monument, with designated viewing areas, a hiking trail leading to the base of the memorial, Gutzon Borglum’s sculptor studio, and the evening lighting ceremony, offers an experience that’s hard to match! However, a trip to Mount Rushmore doesn’t require a lot of time and is often combined with a few great nearby attractions, including Custer State Park, Crazy Horse Memorial, and Wind Cave National Park.
Here is my ultimate guide to Mount Rushmore National Memorial, featuring essential trip-planning information, things to do in Mount Rushmore, hiking trails, nearby attractions, and recommendations on hotels and restaurants near Mount Rushmore National Monument!
Planning Your Trip To Mount Rushmore National Memorial
While Summer is the peak season, the shoulder seasons of Spring and Fall are a great choice to beat the crowd at Mount Rushmore National Memorial!
Best Time To Visit Mount Rushmore National Memorial: Mount Rushmore National Memorial is open year-round, but the visitor center and other facilities remain closed on 25th December for Christmas, but the Memorial is still accessible. Though Summer, June through August, is the Park’s busiest season, if you don’t mind a little cooler weather, the shoulder months, Spring and Fall, are a great choice to beat the crowd in Mount Rushmore. Winters are generally cold and snowy and hence have the lowest visitation.
Time Required At Mount Rushmore National Memorial: While an hour is sufficient to see the Mount Rushmore National Memorial, I recommend spending 3 – 4 hours in the morning to see the intricate details of the sculptures in broad daylight and returning in the evening to see the lighting ceremony, held May through September in the evening. In the morning, post your visit to Mount Rushmore National Memorial, you could visit the nearby Custer State Park or Crazy Horse Memorial, have your dinner and then return to Mount Rushmore for the lighting ceremony.
Getting To Mount Rushmore National Memorial: Located in southwest South Dakota, Mount Rushmore National Memorial is quite far from the major international airports, making the Rapid City Regional Airport the best choice to get to Mount Rushmore. There’re no direct Amtrak train services or Greyhound bus services to Mount Rushmore National Memorial or anywhere in South Dakota.
- Flight: Rapid City Regional Airport (RAP), Rapid City, South Dakota, around 30 miles from Mount Rushmore, is the closest major regional airport to Mount Rushmore National Memorial. The Denver International Airport (DEN), Denver, Colorado, is the nearest international airport to Mount Rushmore, but it’s located about 370 miles from Mount Rushmore National Memorial.
- Train: There’re no direct Amtrak train services to Mount Rushmore National Memorial or anywhere in South Dakota. The closest Amtrak station to Mount Rushmore is in Fort Morgan, Colorado, about 320 miles from the Memorial.
- Bus: Unlike other states, Greyhound doesn’t offer bus services to South Dakota. The closest Greyhound bus stop to Mount Rushmore National Memorial is located about 270 miles south of Mount Rushmore in Cheyenne, southeast Wyoming.
Parking In Mount Rushmore National Memorial: There’s a large multi-story parking lot at Mount Rushmore National Memorial with easy access to the Memorial. The parking passes for the Memorial are valid for a year from the day of purchase.
Other Attractions Near Mount Rushmore National Memorial: Visiting Mount Rushmore National Memorial shouldn’t take more than half a day, so it’s a good idea to add a few other attractions to your Mount Rushmore itinerary, including Custer State Park, Crazy Horse Memorial, and Wind Cave National Park.
Lodging Near Mount Rushmore National Memorial: There’re no campgrounds in Mount Rushmore National Memorial, but you will find quite a few lodging options in the town of Keystone and Custer, close to Mount Rushmore.
- Holiday Inn Express & Suites Mt Rushmore
- Baymont by Wyndham Keystone
- Holiday Inn Express & Suites Custer
Dining Options Near Mount Rushmore National Memorial: While there’s only one restaurant inside Mount Rushmore National Memorial, Carvers’ Cafe serving breakfast, lunch, and dinner, you will find a few more dining options in the nearby town of Keystone. Here’re my top picks for restaurants in Keystone, near Mount Rushmore – Guadalajara’s Mexican Restaurant for delicious Mexican food, Ruby House Restaurant for American fare, and Cruizzers for some great pizzas.
Things To Do In Mount Rushmore National Memorial
Marvel at the sculptures, hike the Presidential Trail, learn about the making of the Memorial during the day, and return in the evening to attend the Lighting Ceremony!
You don’t need a lot of time to visit Mount Rushmore National Memorial. If you’re really pressed for time, consider walking to the Grand View Terrace to see the sculpture and a brief stop at the visitor center to learn about the history and construction process. If you have 3 – 4 hours, which is the minimum I recommend spending at Mount Rushmore, you could additionally hike the Presidential Trail and visit the Sculptor’s Studio. If you’re staying close to Mount Rushmore, make sure to come back to the Memorial for the Evening Lighting Ceremony!
Information Center, Audio Tour, Carvers Cafe & Gift Shop: As you enter the Memorial from the parking garage, the first thing you notice is the Mount Rushmore Information Center, offering basic information about the Memorial and nearby areas to help you plan your trip. Across the Information Center is the Audio Tour Center, where you would need to pick up your headsets if you’re planning to do the self-guided audio tour of Mount Rushmore National Memorial. As you walk past the Audio Tour Center, you will notice a gift store on your left and Carvers’ Cafe to your right. I would save these two stops for the end of your tour of the National Memorial.
Mount Rushmore Avenue of Flags: Just past the gift shop is the Avenue of Flags, a pathway flanked with pillars and flags representing all 50 states, districts, commonwealths, and territories in the US. The views of the sculptures rising behind the Avenue of Flags are spectacular, and it’s one of the best places to photograph the Mount Rushmore National Memorial.
Mount Rushmore Grand View Terrace & Amphitheater: The Avenue of Flags leads to the Grand View Terrace, the primary viewing area in Mount Rushmore, offering unobstructed views of the Memorial. Just past the Grand View Terrace is the Mount Rushmore amphitheater with a large seating capacity, which is primarily used for accomodating visitors for the evening lighting ceremony and some special events. However, the amphitheater is accessible throughout the day, and if the Grand View Terrace is congested, head down to the amphitheater to sit and enjoy one of the most extraordinary mountain sculptures in human history.
Mount Rushmore National Memorial Visitor Center: The Lincoln Borglum Visitor Center, located on the lower level just below the Grand View Terrace, is a great place to learn about the history and effort put into the construction of the Memorial. The visitor center features an information desk, rangers, several exhibits, a bookstore, and a small theater playing a short video about the Memorial.
Presidential Trail: The Presidential Trail is a paved, stroller and wheelchair-friendly, half-mile loop, starting and ending at the Grand View Terrace. The trail leads to the base of the Memorial and offers a close-up view of the sculptures, and on the west end of the trail is Gutzon Borglum’s original workshop, which is now a museum.
Sculptor’s Studio Mount Rushmore: At the end of the Presidential Trail is Gutzon Borglum’s original studio, where he designed and executed the Mount Rushmore carving project. The Sculptor’s Studio offers several displays, including original tools, miniature models, and construction techniques, and hosts ranger talks enlightening people about the carving process and the challenges faced during the construction of Mount Rushmore National Memorial. If you’re unable to hike the Presidential Trail, there’re provisions to drive to the Sculptor’s Studio, but you would need to first check-in with the rangers at the information center, who would then make the required arrangements.
Sculpture Lighting Ceremony: The Lighting Ceremony, a short ranger talk followed by turning on the lights to illuminate the sculptures, is held every evening May through September. The Lighting Ceremony at Mount Rushmore is a very patriotic and emotional experience! Though the best views of the sculptures are in broad daylight and the Lighting Ceremony only begins after dark, I highly recommend making an extra effort to go back to the Memorial to attend the Lighting Ceremony in the evening.
Other South Dakota Attractions & Related Posts
I hope you enjoyed reading the post, The Ultimate Guide To Mount Rushmore National Memorial, and I hope this will help you plan your trip to Mount Rushmore. You can find other South Dakota attractions in my South Dakota Travel Guide.
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