A Family Guide To Visiting Mount Rushmore

Mount Rushmore

Mount Rushmore in beautiful South Dakota is truly an American symbol. Visiting iconic Mount Rushmore National Memorial is historical, fun, family-friendly and a place to make a lot of great memories. 

There is no mistaking the faces of Presidents George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Teddy Roosevelt and Abraham Lincoln. More than 3 million people visit this landmark and it’s easy to see why it’s become almost a rite of passage for so many people. 

Are you and your family ready to visit Mount Rushmore? Read on to get all the tips you need before you go! 

A mom, dad and two sons stand in front of Mount Rushmore

Visiting Mount Rushmore Basics

Standard Hours are 5:00am to 11:00pm
From October to March, Mount Rushmore closes at 9:00pm

There is no fee to visit Mount Rushmore, but there is a fee of $10 to park. However, the parking fee is valid for an entire year from purchase so you can visit Mount Rushmore several times during your visit. 

The visitor’s center and Lincoln Borglum visitor’s center typically closes at 5:00pm 

NOTE: As of this writing, construction has closed the Grand View Terrace and Avenue of Flags. HOWEVER, these areas are scheduled to re-open by Summer 2020. We highly recommend calling the visitor’s center to get an update before traveling to Mount Rushmore at (605) 574-2523         

 

This post may contain affiliate links in which we may receive a small commission ( at no cost to you). Click HERE to read our policies & disclosures

History of Mount Rushmore

In 1923, historian Doane Robinson thought of the idea  for what would become Mount Rushmore to promote tourism to South Dakota. He reached out to sculptor Gutzon Borglum and the two began to collaborate. Robinson originally wanted the project to depict Lewis & Clark, Oglala Lakota Chief Red Cloud and Buffalo Bill Cody. However, Borglum thought the sculpture would have broader appeal by sculpting US Presidents. Washington, Roosevelt, Lincoln and Jefferson were chosen because of their part in expanding US territory and their role in preserving the Republic.

Congress approved funding for the project in 1925 and construction began in 1927. Originally, Mount Rushmore was to sculpt the four Presidents from head to waist, but due to lack of funding construction stopped in 1941. Interestingly, Borglum had also originally envisioned a Hall of Records at Mount Rushmore. He wanted America’s greatest historical documents and artifacts to be protected and shown to tourists. After cutting only 70 feet into the rock, work was stopped to focus on the main sculptures.  In 1998, Borglum’s vision for a Hall of Records was somewhat recreated by a repository being constructed inside a cave with 16 enamel panels that have the historical information about Mount Rushmore and texts of America’s important documents like the Declaration of Independence.

 

Things To Do At Mount Rushmore

Avenue of Flags

As part of America’s  1976 Bicentennial celebration, the Avenue of Flags was established and remains very popular with visitors. It also makes for some great pictures! Flags are an amazing symbol and every state, district, territory and commonwealth are represented. 

Since the flags are in alphabetical order, definitely take time to find your home state and get a picture! 

avenue of flags at Mount Rushmore
two boys standing next to an avenue of flags pillar at Mount Rushmore

Admire Mount Rushmore From The Grand View Terrace

The view from the grand terrace can’t be beat! The wide expanse provides plenty of room to admire Mount Rushmore. Also, we highly recommend staying to see Mount Rushmore at night.

From late May to early Fall, there is a special program that begins at 9pm to light Mount Rushmore. 

Mount Rushmore light up at night

Walk The Presidential Trail

The .6 mile paved loop is a wonderful trail that is wheelchair and stroller suitable. This family friendly trail gives you a closer view of Mount Rushmore plus you may even see some wildlife! 

Carving of George Washington at mount rushmore

Join The Junior Ranger Program

We love all of the NPS’ Junior Ranger Programs! At Mount Rushmore, there are several options:

Junior Ranger Trainee
This is for children aged 3-4. Your children learn about Mount Rushmore and natural resources found in the Black Hills with activities that are in the Junior Ranger booklet. Your child will earn a Junior Ranger Badge after completion of the booklet and the Junior Ranger Trainee is a free program.

Junior Ranger Activity Book
This one is for children aged 5-15 and there is no fee. Your child will learn even more about Mount Rushmore through the activities within the book. After completing the book, your child will receive a Junior Ranger Badge and a certificate. 

Rushmore Ranger Activity Booklet
This is for ages 13 and up and again, no fee. This program is great for older kids and even adults to make their experience at Mount Rushmore even better. Your teen will receive a certificate after completion of the book.

Junior Ranger Quest
This newer program is part of the Mount Rushmore Self-Guided Tour that is available to rent for $8. The quest is an adventure that lets you participate in up to 16 challenges at the different tour stops around the park. After you complete 12 challenges, you will receive a Junior Ranger Badge. 

two boys standing in front of the avenue of flags at mount rushmore

Go To The Lincoln Borglum Visitor's Center

The Lincoln Borglum visitor’s center offers many fun interactive exhibits and a very interesting short film. “Mount Rushmore: The Shrine” is a 14 minute film that really gives great history about Mount Rushmore and your kids will certainly come away with a better appreciation of what it took to make Mount Rushmore. The film shows every 20 minutes and it’s definitely worth the time. 

Where To Eat

At Mount Rushmore, you can dine at Carvers’ Cafe. Enjoy the spectacular view of Mount Rushmore while you eat some buffalo stew or a buffalo burger. A must is a vanilla ice cream cone from Memorial Ice Cream Station! They use the original recipe used by Thomas Jefferson after a trip to Europe. 

In Rapid City, we chose Firehouse Brewing Company located in Downtown Rapid City.  We had read really great reviews and thought it would be a great stop. Overall, the service was good and it’s a neat place for kids. However, we don’t recommend the BBQ, but we’re from the South and maybe we’re biased.  The menu is varied and will have something for everyone. Plus, downtown Rapid City is really pretty and we enjoyed walking around after dinner.

Know that there are a lot of dining options within walking distance from the below-recommended hotel that you may enjoy more.

Firehouse Brewing Company

Where To Stay

There are a lot of lodging options in Keystone that are very close to Mount Rushmore. Rapid City is a short 30 minute drive from Mount Rushmore so staying in Rapid City is also an option. 
We stayed at the Holiday Inn Express in KeystoneThis Holiday Inn Express is rustic and has a lovely lobby.  Although the rooms are a bit dated, they are spacious. When possible, we choose Holiday Inn Express due to the free breakfast which can save quite a bit of money over the course of a trip. 

TIP: All lodging around Mount Rushmore books well advance so keep that in mind when planning your trip 

Antler Light
Entrance To Holiday Inn Express in Keystone

Things To Do Nearby

Additional Attractions Within Driving Distance

One of the great things about this area of South Dakota is that you’re so close to other amazing  National Parks and Monuments. We’ve incorporated many of these into a fantastic family road trip! If you’d like to read more about our family itinerary road trip to some of America’s best National Parks and Monuments, click HERE

Final Thoughts

We’ve been lucky enough to have visited Mount Rushmore a few times now and each time has been an amazing experience! We definitely recommend using your time in South Dakota to see not only Mount Rushmore, but all of the fun and beautiful National Parks nearby. 
This is one of those trips that you  and your kids will always remember.

Nicole

This Post Has 21 Comments

  1. Josy A

    I grew up knowing about Mount Rushmore, but I had no idea the whole idea was from a historian who wanted to promote tourism, or that the presidents were not the first idea of candidates to be carved!! This was really interesting, and your lads are great models to show off the sights. 🙂

    p.s. It’s so cool that there is a path to take you up closer!

  2. Ann Plans Travel

    Mount Rushmore is one of my favorite landmarks in the US. I love that it’s a family friendly place and gives a chance to teach the kids about our nations history.

  3. Jennifer Mostert

    Living halfway across the world I know about iconic Mount Rushmore and have often wondered what or who inspired this monumental feat. Great article – thank you.

  4. Stephanie

    I still have never been! This guide has everything I need to know for planning my trip – I really appreciate you putting it together. It looks like your kids had a really great time too. Their pictures are so cute! lol

  5. Megan Lawrence

    I’ve not yet been to Mount Rushmore, so I’ve pinned this for when we plan our trip there. Great info, that will come in very handy.

  6. Hannah

    I’ve always wanted to visit Mount Rushmore, it looks so impressive! Thanks for the great guide, I’m saving it with the hope I’ll get to go someday soon!

    Hannah | https://getlost.blog/

  7. Nina

    This really is the ultimate travel guide to Mount Rushmore! I love all of Junior Ranger information, what kid would not love that! The food options look great and I cannot believe that is a Holiday Inn! This looks like a great trip! Thank you so much for sharing!

  8. Bliss

    Such an interesting history. I did not know that they were planning on doing their bodies as well.

  9. Tanya Taylor

    Thanks for the guide – I’ve wanted to visit Mt. Rushmore and now I know what else to add to the intinerary!

  10. Rachel

    I’m not American and I’ve always been a bit fascinated by Mount Rushmore and its massive faces… definitely seems like it’s something worth visiting in real life should I find myself in the States. Brilliant photos!

  11. Gabby

    Can’t believe Mt Rushmore is nearly 100 years old! Amazing feat of art for the times!

  12. Ashley

    I haven’t made it to Mount Rushmore yet but your post makes me want to go. Thanks for all the details. You made planning my trip a breeze!

  13. Lauren

    Your pictures are great! I love this guide, especially the food recommendations. I can’t wait to make a trip out here with the kids . Pinning for future reference.

  14. Karen

    Mount Rushmore is so high on my bucket list! I really hope we get to visit one day so saving this post for then – looks like you’ve found all the best photo spots!

  15. Jacquie

    This is such a helpful guide. I’ve been curious about Mt Rushmore for such a long time. It’s definitely on our list when we do our US roadtrip!

    1. Nicole Claesen

      Thank you! So glad to hear you found it helpful

  16. Amber Myers

    How cool! I’ve always wanted to go here with my family! I’ll keep your tips in mind. This would be so neat to see in person.

  17. Dani

    What a great family trip. Very educational. Your pictures are wonderful and have so much detail.

  18. Reese Woods

    I have always wanted to visit here! What a wonderful family trip!

  19. Amanda

    One of my favorite road trips as a kid was going to Mt. Rushmore. Great tips–will use them when we plan our family trip in the future!

  20. Mallory

    What a fun trip! I have always wanted to visit. Thanks for the information about the area.

Leave a Reply