Coming face to face with former U.S. Presidents on a road trip to Mount Rushmore is an adventure you won’t forget. The Black Hills of South Dakota, that are home to Mount Rushmore National Memorial, are filled with natural wonders and wildlife waiting to be discovered. Whether you visit nearby national parks or indulge in South Dakota wineries or breweries, you will be surprised by how much there is to see and do while you’re there. When you stay at Under Canvas Mount Rushmore, you’ll enjoy upscale outdoor accommodations and a one-of-a-kind home base for your Mount Rushmore weekend getaway. This itinerary will help you hit some of the “Great 8” adventures unique to the area and discover activities everyone will enjoy during your visit to Mount Rushmore.
Day One: Mount Rushmore National Monument, Crazy Horse Memorial, Prairie Berry Winery, Miner Brewing Company
Morning: After a restful night’s sleep in your safari-inspired canvas tent, you’ll be eager to explore the surrounding natural landscape and visit Mount Rushmore National Memorial. Hit the road to see the iconic 60-foot-tall mountainside sculpture of George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt and Abraham Lincoln, just 10 minutes from Under Canvas Mount Rushmore. Surrounded by the Black Hills National Forest, this granite masterpiece and monumental tribute tell the story of birth, growth, development and preservation in its towering glory. Be sure to stroll down the Avenue of Flags, take in the sights from the Grand View Terrace and hike the family-friendly Presidential Trail for a half-mile observation loop with plenty of photo ops. You can visit the free Lincoln Borglum Visitor Center to enjoy interactive museum exhibits and learn about the history and construction of Mount Rushmore. Before heading out, don’t forget to grab a treat at the Memorial Team Ice Cream station, named after the baseball team formed by the Mount Rushmore carvers. Try the original vanilla ice cream recipe courtesy of Thomas Jefferson who is credited with bringing the first written recipe to the U.S. in 1780.
Afternoon: Head back to camp to enjoy a freshly prepared lunch from Embers or pick up your boxed lunch to take with you on your next adventure.
The next stop is the Crazy Horse Memorial, a 40-minute drive from Mount Rushmore. Considered the ‘Eighth Wonder of the World in progress’, Crazy Horse Memorial draws millions of visitors each year who want to see history being made. This enormous mountain carving of a legendary leader represents commitment, legacy and a proud future for Native Americans. The Crazy Horse Memorial area has an on-site restaurant, gift shop, Museum and Native American Educational and Cultural Center.
Evening: After a day of sightseeing, stop at Prairie Berry Winery where you can enjoy a free tasting of handcrafted, award-winning wines with views of the Black Hills and tasty bites to eat. Make sure to try the most popular wine, Red Ass Rhubarb. If you prefer beer, you’re in luck. Next door you’ll find the Miner Brewing Company with a beautiful grass lawn to enjoy the views and let the kids play.
Head back to Under Canvas Mount Rushmore to enjoy live music, open-air dining and indulge in complimentary s’mores around the campfire before cozying up in your plush bedding for the night.
Day Two: Custer State Park, Downtown Custer
Morning: Make the most of your time by enjoying locally-sourced breakfast options at Under Canvas to fuel your second day of adventure. Only a 25-minute drive from camp, there are so many things to do in Custer State Park, a must see attraction when in the Black Hills of South Dakota. Custer State Park has been named one of the World’s Top 10 Wildlife Destinations and is one of the few truly wild places that remain in the U.S. It’s even home to a famous herd of 1,400 free-roaming bison that you might spot as you drive the 18-mile Wildlife Loop Road. The park boasts granite peaks, rolling plains and clear mountain waters. Here, your crew can run wild with activities like hiking, biking, swimming, stand up paddling and kayaking. The solitude of a mountain lake can be yours at Lake Sylvan, the crown jewel of Custer State Park, where you can stand up paddleboard along its impressive rock formations and ponderosa pines. Plan to spend some time here, as you won’t want to leave once you see it.
If you’re looking to explore on foot, consider hiking to Black Elk Peak for a 3-4 hour trek beginning at Lake Sylvan. At 7,242 feet, Black Elk Peak is South Dakota’s highest point. This is an easy hike that becomes moderate in parts, but there are plenty of spots to stop for a drink of water and pictures. Choose from different routes – Little Devils Tower route, where hikers can see the famous Cathedral Spires or Black Elk Peak’s fire tower to see the back-side of Mount Rushmore.
For a short hike with rewarding views, take the Cathedral Spires Trail for a 3-mile round trip hike with a gradual ascent and 500-foot elevation gain. You’ll enjoy an awe-inspiring walk through “the Spires” where you might see rock climbers scaling the granite needles that extend to the sky.
Afternoon: By now surely you’ve worked up an appetite. If you didn’t pack a camp-prepared picnic lunch for an all-day hike, we recommend you visit downtown Custer described as a hidden foodie haven. Enjoy comfort food and craft beer at The Custer Wolf Food & Drink or a fresh ground buffalo burger at Black Hills Burger & Bun. Once you’ve had your fill, check out the unique stores and quaint gift shops. You’ll find art galleries, mountain outfitters, candy shops and local trading posts to browse in search of the perfect souvenir.
If you’re in search of adventure, there are plenty of attractions offered here that are unique to South Dakota. Soar over the Black Hills in a hot air balloon, ride a steam-powered train from the 1880s or take a drive through Bear Country USA where bear cubs, lynx, badger and other small animals roam free.
Evening: After two full days of activity, enjoy dinner and then kick-back under the stars on your tent deck or around the campfire. There’s no better way to connect with nature and recharge for the next day.
Day Three: Badlands National Park or Wind Cave National Park and The Mammoth Site
Morning: Rise with the sun and gourmet coffee, lattes or cappuccinos from our lobby coffee cart. Before returning home, you might want to visit one of the nearby National Parks. Both Badlands National Park and Wind Cave National Park are about 1-1.5 hours from Under Canvas Mount Rushmore. Choosing one of these adventures will fill your day with sightseeing and exploring. If you’re looking for something closer, check out the on-site nature trail at Under Canvas Mount Rushmore before grabbing breakfast from the restaurant. No need to check-out just grab your bags and head out when you are ready, we will take care of the rest.
Option 1: Badlands National Park
Known as the land of stone and light, Badlands National Park has dramatic layered rock formations and steep canyons you must see to believe. From sharply eroded buttes and pinnacles to the largest undisturbed mixed grass prairie in the U.S., there is a lot of rugged beauty to behold. It’s even home to one of the world’s richest fossil beds where ancient horses and rhinos once roamed. Today, you can spot bison, bighorn sheep, prairie dogs and black-footed ferrets that call the Badlands home. Before you set out, stop by the Visitor Center for a trail map or learn about the Junior Ranger Program for kids. There are several hikes of varying distances, multiple overlooks and scenic drives you can take. Plan to spend 1.5-2.5 hours here, but you could easily spend the entire day.
Option 2: Wind Cave National Park and The Mammoth Site
With over 150 miles of passages, Wind Cave is the sixth-longest cave and the first cave in the world to be designated as a National Park. It is thought to be one of the world’s oldest caves and is regarded as sacred by Native Americans. Inside, you’ll see an outstanding display of boxwork, an unusual cave formation that resembles a honeycomb. The best time to visit is in the early morning. Tickets are sold on a first-come, first-served basis. You can spend anywhere from 1-2 hours exploring the cave. You’ll also be able to enjoy 30-miles of hiking trails, some pet-friendly, set in the ponderosa pine forest where you’re sure to spot wildlife and scenic vistas.
A short 13-minute drive from Wind Cave you’ll find The Mammoth Site. More than 26,000 years ago, woolly mammoths and other prehistoric animals roamed what is now Hot Springs. The excavation site is preserved as an active dig site with self-guided tours and a public museum where Ice Age fossils can be seen. Children can get their hands dirty with a hands-on dig experience and guides can provide a fun and educational experience for the entire family. This experience can take 1-2 hours.
Under Canvas Mount Rushmore is located on an original gold mining settlement less than 4 miles from Mount Rushmore National Monument and was recognized by Condé Nast Traveler as a ‘Best Resort in the World’, ‘Top 10 Resort in the United States’ and #2 in ‘Top Resorts in the US – Midwest & West’. If you’re looking for more tips or activities, our on-site Guest Experience Coordinators are here to help you plan a memorable trip. Your upscale accommodations beneath the stars in the Old West await you.