The famous four faces are South Dakota’s most iconic landmark. But all too often, visitors stop by just to check it off the bucket list and are gone in half an hour. There is so much more to do at Mount Rushmore! With history, culture, goats, and (most importantly) great ice cream, you’re going to enjoy getting the most out of your visit!
Websites will tell you that admission to Mount Rushmore is free, and technically it is. But parking is $11, so be prepared to pay. Don’t worry, it is worth the fee!
- The Presidential Trail takes you as close to the faces as physically possible. It is a ½ mile paved trail that winds up closer than other trails. There are no tours to the top, but the Presidential Trail is the next best thing!
- In the Sculptor’s Studio, visitors can see the tools and models used when constructing Mount Rushmore. Some exhibits even show the technique that carvers used. The building itself was constructed in 1939 as one of Gutzon Borglum’s onsite studios.
- Tour the Lincoln Borglum Visitor Center and see exhibits about the history and development of Mount Rushmore. The center also has two 125-seat theaters that play “The Shrine”, a short film about the memorial.
- Cool down after a long day of exploring the four faces by having some chilly treats at Memorial Team Ice Cream. Started in honor of the baseball team formed by early carvers at the memorial, the ice cream shop offers “TJ’s Vanilla Ice Cream”, made using Thomas Jefferson’s vanilla ice cream recipe! Add even more “South Dakota” to your dessert by adding wojapi toppings. Wojapi is a Native American dessert dipping sauce made by berries. Yum!
- Learn about the history of the native people of the Black Hills at the Lakota, Nakota, and Dakota Heritage Village located along a section of the Presidential Trail. There is a free ranger-led tour of the area that lasts 10 to 30 minutes and is full of interesting information! This tour is only available during the summer season from early June through mid-August.
- Take a break before the evening lighting ceremony and spend some time at Sylvan Lake. In the Nicolas Cage movie National Treasure: Book of Secrets, this lake was shown behind Mount Rushmore and contained the lost Native American city of gold, Cíbola. While there is no lake behind Mount Rushmore, Sylvan Lake is located in Custer State Park and is only about 15 miles from the monument. Taking a dip in the lake is a great way to cool off after an afternoon of hiking at the four faces!
- The evening lighting ceremony of the monument is offered during the tourist season from mid-May through September. There is a speech presented by a ranger and an informative video about the monument as the faces are illuminated.
- There are several restaurants at Mount Rushmore including Black Hills Harvest, Rushmore Roasters, Dakota Kitchen, Memorial Grill, and Memorial Team Ice Cream. The best restaurants for vegetarian options are Black Hills Harvest and Memorial Grill. Gluten-free options are available and denoted on each restaurant’s menus.
When visiting during the tourism season (late May through early September), try to visit early in the day before it gets really crowded.
Many people are surprised to hear this, but mountain goats are not native to the Black Hills. In the 1920s, six goats were imported from Alberta, Canada to a zoo in Custer State Park. Within weeks, they had escaped. By the 1970s, the population had grown from six to about 400. The herd around Mount Rushmore are the descendants of these daring escape goats. When at the park, keep an eye out for the herd of mountain goats that live in the area around Mount Rushmore. It isn’t uncommon to see the goats climbing near the four faces! (read more here!)
Keystone, the closest town to Mount Rushmore, has tons of fun family attractions including Big Thunder Gold Mine, Rush Mountain Adventure Park, Horsethief Lake, and Halley’s 1880 Store. Also located in Keystone is the Rushmore Borglum Story Museum, which gives visitors an inside look into the life of the legendary sculptor.
Grab a bite in Keystone at one of the many delicious and diverse restaurant choices including Teddy’s Deli, home of the famous one pound reuben; Grizzly Creek Restaurants, which has several buffalo meat options and vegetarian and gluten-free menus; and Ruby House Restaurant, which has iconic South Dakota cuisine like indian tacos, walleye, buffalo stew, buffalo steak, and buffalo ribs.
Have a sweet tooth? Stop in at Keystone’s TurtleTown or Grapes & Grinds.