Attractions

13 Best Things to Do Near Mount Rushmore

Mount Rushmore is one of America’s most beloved national parks, but it’s not the only attraction in the area. There are plenty more things to do near Mount Rushmore!

Built to promote tourism in the area, this monument has since brought attention to other places of interest in South Dakota, both natural and manmade.

Today we’ll learn about this iconic memorial and things to do in and around Mount Rushmore.

Mount Rushmore National Memorial

The heads of Presidents George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt, and Abraham Lincoln, representing the country’s “birth, growth, development, and preservation,” respectively, loom large on the granite face of Mount Rushmore.

It’s one of the most iconic American landmarks and also one of the most visited, with around 3 million visitors annually.

Things to do and see at Mount Rushmore

When you enter the park, you’ll first pass by the Information Center, the Gift Shop, the Carvers’ Café, and the Memorial Team Ice Cream Station.

You’ll then stroll through the Avenue of Flags, a walkway flanked by the flags of all 50 states and 6 territories of the US (including Washington, D.C.).

The Grand View Terrace is the main vantage point for visitors.

Below the Grand View Terrace is the Lincoln Borglum Visitor Center where you can learn more about the park through films and museum exhibits.

Make your way to the Sculptor’s Studio to learn about the sculptor’s tools and techniques to carve the sculpture.

Walk the Presidential Trail to get up close to the sculpture, explore the Lakota, Nakota, and Dakota Heritage Village, and maybe see some wildlife.

In the evening, go to the Amphitheater for the Evening Lighting Ceremony, featuring an inspirational program and ending with the lighting of the sculpture.

Where to Stay Near Mount Rushmore

Hotels, motels, RV parks, and campgrounds are available in the surrounding cities and communities, including:

  • Keystone
  • Hill City
  • Custer
  • Rapid City

Best Time of Year to Visit Mount Rushmore

Predictably, June, July, and August are the most popular months to visit Mount Rushmore. It’s less busy during the shoulder season (April to May, September to October) with the added bonus of mild weather.

Essential Information
Address: 13000 SD-244, Keystone, SD 57751 | 605-574-2523
Parking and Memorial Grounds Hours: Oct to mid-Mar: Mon–Sun 5am–9pm; mid-Mar to Sep: Mon–Sun 5am–11pm; open every day of the year
Other Buildings Hours: Different buildings have different operating hours, but they’re all closed on Christmas Day.
Admission Fees: Free for everyone; reservations not required
Parking Fees: Cars, motorcycles, and RVs: $10 per vehicle, $5 for seniors, free for military; commercial tour bus: $50 per vehicle; verified, nonprofit educational bus: $25
More information:
Mount Rushmore National Memorial | US National Park Service

Things to Do Near Mount Rushmore

You can make a day of visiting Mount Rushmore, but if you drove hundreds of miles to get here, you might as well take off a few days and explore the historic Black Hills.

Here are some of the most interesting things to do around Mount Rushmore.

1. Shop and dine in Wall Drug Store.

If you’re driving into Mount Rushmore from the east and going through I-90, you won’t miss Wall, South Dakota.

Don’t believe me?

The 80-foot Wall Drug Dinosaur looming in the distance begs to differ.

Give in and stop at Wall Drug for a bit.

After all, where else can you visit a cowboy-themed mall, department store, western art museum, a chapel, and a brontosaurus all in one place?

Plus, they’ve been giving out free ice water and selling five-cent coffee since 1931.

Wall Drug Dinosaur - Things to do near Mount Rushmore
Image Created by Mykl Roventine | CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

Essential Information
Address: 510 Main St, Wall, SD 57790 | 605-279-2175
Hours: Mon–Sat 8am–5:30pm; Sun 8am–4:30pm
Activities: shopping, eating, photo ops
More information:
Wall Drug Store

2. Zipline at Rushmore Tramway Adventures with a view of Mount Rushmore.

If you’re traveling with both younger kids and teens, it’s hard to find a place where everyone will have fun.

Rushmore Tramway Adventures may just be the answer.

An adventure park 2 miles away from Mount Rushmore, it offers a variety of rides, activities, and attractions.

Ziplining and riding a scenic chairlift with a spectacular view of Mount Rushmore is one of the most fun things to do near Mount Rushmore!

Don’t miss Mountain Top Grille where you can have bison burgers and a cold beer while looking out the Black Hills National Forest and of course, Mount Rushmore. Walk off the calories on the nearby walking trails among flower gardens and waterfalls for a completely scenic lunch experience.

Essential Information
Address: 203 Cemetery Rd, Keystone, SD 57751 | 605-666-4478
Hours: Vary per season, weather, day, and attraction. Call in advance to know when individual attractions are available.
Fees: Differ per attraction; packages available. Buy tickets here.
Attractions: Aerial Adventure Park, Alpine Slide, Jump Tower, Tubing Hill, Scenic Chairlift, Pinnacle Zip Tour, 800-foot Zipline
Activities: Attractions, hiking, dining, viewing deck
More information:
Rushmore Tramway Adventures

3. Hike, fish, and swim at Horse Thief Lake

Not that the Black Hills aren’t spectacular, but maybe a side trip to a tranquil lake with aspen and ponderosa is a welcome change in scenery.

Horse Thief is just 2 miles northwest of Mount Rushmore. You can hike the Horsethief Lake Loop or go boating and fishing in the lake. There’s even a spot for cliff diving.

The surface of this tranquil lake freezes in the winter, allowing for ice fishing if that’s more your speed.

There’s a campground right on the edge of the lake if you want to stay overnight.

Ice fishing at Horse Thief Lake

Essential Information
Address: Horse Thief Lake Rd, Keystone, SD 57751
Best for: Lake and pond fishing; ice fishing in the winter
Activities: Swimming (no lifeguards), boating, picnicking, hiking, biking, wildlife-watching, birdwatching, camping
Amenities: Picnic area, drinking water, dump station, fishing dock, hiking trails, restrooms, boardwalk, pet-friendly, ADA accessible campsites, fishing docks, and hiking trails
Where to stay: Campground with tent and RV sites
More information:
Horsethief Lake Campground | Black Hills National Forest
Horsethief Lake Campground (Reservations)

4. Go horseback riding at The Stables at Palmer Gulch.

Hiking up and down Mount Rushmore can quickly get old, so why not treat yourselves to a horseback riding adventure?

THE STABLES at Palmer Gulch have been guiding visitors through trail rides into the Black Elk Wilderness Area and into the Norbeck Wildlife Preserve.

During the summer, they also offer an early morning breakfast cookout, as well as an open-air show and dinner where you get to eat a meal cooked just like how real cowboys do it, with a real cowboy music performance.

From Memorial Day to Labor Day, you can visit the barn where the horses are housed, talk to the tour guides, watch demonstrations, or simply hang out with the horses.

Note that the minimum age to ride is 6 and the maximum weight allowable is 230 lbs.

Essential Information
Address: Mount Rushmore KOA at Palmer Gulch Resort, 12620 SD-244, Hill City, SD 57745 | 605-574-3412
Barn Hours: Mon–Sun 8am–8pm
Fees: Vary per activity
Activities: Wagon Master’s Breakfast Ride, Chuck Wagon Dinner Show, Deadwood Trail Ride, Custer Trail Ride, Keystone Trail Ride
More information:
The Stables at Palmer Gulch

5. Hike to Black Elk Peak.

Black Elk Peak, previously known as Harney Peak, is the highest natural point in South Dakota with natural, historical, and cultural importance.

Climbing this peak is probably one of the best things to do near Mount Rushmore.

It is topped by a stone fire tower lookout that was built to monitor forest fires in the Black Hills. This lookout tower is now open to the public and provides a magnificent 360-degree vantage point of the surrounding forests.

This granite high point is sacred ground to the Native Americans, as this is where Nicholas Black Elk, an Oglala Lakota Sioux medicine man, first experienced a vision.

There is no other way to reach Black Elk Peak but to hike seven miles on Black Elk Peak Trail, which starts near Sylvan Lake in Custer State Park.

As you go higher up the peak, you’ll pass by prayer flags wrapped around tree trunks, hanging off branches, or tied together between trees. These are sacred gifts and should not be photographed.

The ideal time to visit here for the best views is in the afternoon. The hike takes around 3 to 4 hours to complete, so time your arrival to the peak to just before sunset.

Black Hills

Essential Information
Address: Sylvan Lake–Harney, Keystone, SD 57751
Hours: Mon–Sun 24 hours a day
Admission Fee: You’d need a day vehicle pass to Custer State Park to access the Black Elk Peak Trailhead at Sylvan Lake, which is $20 and is valid for a week
More information:
US National Forest Service Topographical Map: Black Elk Wilderness & Norbeck Wildlife Preserve Trail System
Custer State Park | South Dakota Game, Fish, and Parks

6. Go on a road trip and explore South Dakota’s Great Eight

South Dakota’s Great Eight is a collection of national parks, state parks, historic towns, and massive monuments that are all accessible via the I-90.

It’s heavily promoted by the South Dakota Department of Tourism to inspire locals and welcome visitors to explore this state.

The Great Eight includes Mount Rushmore National Memorial, which we have discussed above, so here the seven other attractions, from east to west.

Bonus: This Google Maps itinerary shows all eight stops in this road trip.

6a. Missouri River, Chamberlain, South Dakota

The Missouri River is the longest river in North America, flowing 2,341 miles from the Rocky Mountains in Montana to the Mississippi River near St. Louis, Missouri.

For thousands of years, this river has provided sustenance and transportation and was one of the main routes for the westward expansion of the US in the 19th century.

The city of Chamberlain, South Dakota overlooks the Missouri River where it forms Lake Francis Case.

As such, there are plenty of river- and lake-related activities to do here, including boating, fishing, kayaking, paddleboarding, and various other water sports.

Don’t count out hiking and biking along the river and even hunting.

You can also visit the Akta Lakota Museum to learn about Lakota culture and the South Dakota Hall of Fame to know about the prominent people from South Dakota.

Try to find the 50-foot Dignity of Earth & Sky statue overlooking the Missouri River.

You can cross the Missouri River from Chamberlain to Oacama either through Lewis and Clark Memorial Bridge or through the Chamberlain Bridge. Downstream, there’s also the Chamberlain Railroad Bridge, though traffic is sparse here.

However you cross, you get treated to excellent sights of the mighty Missouri River.

Essential Information
Address: Chamberlain, South Dakota 57325
More information:
Chamberlain–Oacoma Tourism

6b. Badlands National Park

The Badlands features colorful mountains, rock formations, and steep canyons, with a foreground of grass prairie where wildlife like bison, bighorn sheep, and rhinos roam.

The best way to see these is to drive the Badlands Loop Road, also known as Highway 240. It’s dotted with plenty of overlooks and pull-offs to park safely and photograph the view without disrupting traffic.

Drop by the Ben Reifel Visitor Center to pick up visitor maps, look at museum exhibits, and visit the Fossil Preparation Lab to learn about the fossils in the Badlands.

From I-90 W, take exit 131 for SD-240 to get to Badlands Loop Road.

Badlands National Park

Essential Information
Address: 25216 Ben Reifel Road, Interior, SD 57750
National Park Hours: Mon–Sun 24 hours a day
Ben Reifel Visitor Center Hours: Summer: Mon–Sun 7am–7pm, Spring and Fall: 8am–5pm, Winter: 8am–4pm
Admission Fees: Vary per type of vehicle and activity. Check this page to see updated fees and discounts.
Activities: Driving, hiking, biking, wildlife watching, stargazing
More information:
Badlands National Park | US National Park Service
Things To Do | Badlands National Park

6c. Wind Cave National Park

Wind Cave is one of the world’s longest known and mapped caves and the first cave in the world to be designated as a National Park.

The Lakota people consider this cave to be sacred; it’s where they believe their ancestors emerged from the underworld.

There are different types of Guided Cave Tours so you can see the cave formations within. A favorite is the candlelight tour through a less-developed, unlit section of the cave.

You can also take a Geology Driving Tour from the visitor center to check out the rock record in this national park.

There are also over 30 miles of hiking trails where you can appreciate the scenery and the wildlife in its natural environment.

Essential Information
Address: 26611 US Highway 385, Hot Springs, SD 57747
National Park Hours: Mon–Sun 24 hours a day
Wind Cave Visitor Center Hours: Mon–Sun 8am–4:30pm; closed on Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Day, and New Year’s Day
Admission Fees: No fees for driving through or hiking in the park, but there are fees for camping in the park and for cave tours.
Activities: Cave tours, driving, hiking, biking, horseback riding, wildlife watching, birdwatching, picnicking, camping
More information:
Wind Cave National Park | US National Park Service
Things To Do | Wind Cave National Park

6d. Jewel Cave National Monument

Wind Cave is amazing, but it’s not the only cave in Black Hills.

Jewel Cave is the third-longest mapped cave in the world, featuring calcite spar crystals that glisten when illuminated, giving this cave its name.

Four different types of Guided Cave Tours are available, each with different difficulty levels. The Scenic Tour is the most popular.

Above ground, hiking through the ponderosa pine forest is another favorite activity of visitors, especially the Canyons Trail, which provides excellent views of Lithograph Canyon and Hell Canyon.

Canyons Trail is also popular for views of carpets of wildflowers. Different seasons, different wildflowers (except winter).

Jewel Cave National Monument

Image Created by Abir Anwar | CC BY 2.0

Essential Information
Address: 11149 US-16 B-12, Custer, SD 57730 | 605-673-8300
Monument Hours: Peak season: Mon–Sun 8:30am–5:30pm; Off season: Thu–Sun 8:30am–4:30pm
Admission Fees: No fees for driving through or hiking in the park, but there are fees for camping in the park and for cave tours.
Activities: Cave tours, hiking, biking, wildflower viewing, wildlife viewing, ranger programs, picnicking
More information:
Jewel Cave National Monument | US National Park Service
Things To Do | Jewel Cave National Monument

6e. Custer State Park

Custer State Park is one of the most popular state parks in the country and one of the few truly wild places that remain in the US.

Prairies, streams, hills, mountains, forests: nature comes together beautifully in this state park.

It’s home to a famous herd of roaming bison that you may encounter while driving, so drive slow.

As I mentioned above, you’ll need to enter this park first to be able to hike to Black Elk Peak. Maybe stop by the tranquil Sylvan Lake to swim or rock climb.

One of the favorite things to do near Mount Rushmore is to go on scenic drives, and you’ll get more than your share of scenery in Custer State Park.

Needles Highway is a spectacular drive through ponderosa pine and spruce forests, with needle-like granite formations after which the highway is named. Due to the dangerous hairpin turns and narrow passageways, the highway is closed in the winter.

Wildlife Loop Road, on the other hand, takes tourists through grasslands, canyons, and hills to see wildlife like buffalo, elk, deer, and prairie dogs, with an occasional eagle or hawk flying by.

Custer State Park

Essential Information
Address: 13400 US Highway 16A, Custer, SD 57730 | 605-255-4515
State Park Hours: Mon–Sun 24 hours a day
Wind Cave Visitor Center Hours: Mon–Sun 8am–4:30pm
Admission Fees: $20 per week per vehicle; annual passes also available
Activities: Driving, hiking, biking, horseback riding, rock climbing, hunting, birdwatching, picnicking, fishing, paddleboarding, camping
More information:
Custer State Park | South Dakota Game, Fish, and Parks
Custer State Park Resort

6f. Crazy Horse Memorial

Crazy Horse was an Oglala Lakota war leader in the 19th century who fought against the US federal government for Native American territory and to preserve the Native American way of life.

Polish American sculptor Korczak Ziolkowski started work on this sculpture on Thunderhead Mountain in 1948; seven decades later, it still isn’t done, though his face is now clearly visible.

Visiting the museums inside the park is educational and honors the heritage of the North American Indians. This memorial is home to three museums where you can see authentic American Indian art and artifacts.

Crazy Horse Memorial is only sustained by admission and private contributions, so every visit helps get the sculpture closer to completion.

Crazy Horse Memorial

Essential Information
Address: 12151 Avenue of the Chiefs, Crazy Horse, SD 57730 | 605-673-4681
Hours: Vary per building and season; check this page for updated hours and schedules.
Admission Fees: Vary per season and per number of people in vehicles; check this page for details; $4 per person for a bus ride to the base of the mountain; $125 per person to go to the top of the mountain
Attractions: Welcome Center, Indian Museum of North America, Native American Educational and Cultural Center, Mountain Carving Gallery, Gift Shop, Laughing Water Restaurant
More information:
Crazy Horse Memorial

6g. Historic Deadwood

Yes, it’s not just a TV show; Deadwood is an actual historic frontier town that sprung up when gold deposits were found here, which started the Black Hills Gold Rush.

Old West figures such as Wyatt Earp, Calamity Jane, Potato Creek Johnny, Seth Bullock, and Wild Bill Hickok walked its streets.

Its well-preserved Gold Rush era-architecture earned this city the distinction of being a National Historic Landmark District.

Learn about the history of Deadwood in Adams Museum, and take a guided tour of Mount Moriah Cemetery to learn about Deadwood’s most interesting characters.

Deadwood

Essential Information
Address: Deadwood, SD 57732 | 800-344-8826
Deadwood Welcome Center Hours: Summer: Mon–Sun 8am–7pm; Winter: Mon–Sun 8am–5pm
Attractions: Guided tours, museums, casinos, breweries, wineries, restaurants, bars, saloons, day spas, outdoor adventures,
More information:
Historic Deadwood
City of Deadwood, South Dakota

Visit Mount Rushmore and Black Hills Soon!

Despite its controversial location and origin, Mount Rushmore is an American landmark.

There are many more attractions and things to do in and near Mount Rushmore, but I hope this list has inspired you to take a trip to this gorgeous, historic area of South Dakota.

You can also hit the I-90 again and drive to Sioux Falls, South Dakota for more history, nature, and culture.

When do you plan to visit Mount Rushmore and the surrounding area? Share your travel plans with us in the comments!

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