Under Canvas Mount Rushmore Travel Guide

Journeying to Mount Rushmore and the Black Hills of South Dakota is an adventure steeped in American history and natural beauty. Whether you’re a history buff, nature lover, or searching for a national park getaway, this iconic landmark and its surrounding landscapes offer an unforgettable experience. Here’s your ultimate guide to making the most of your trip to Mount Rushmore, answering trip planning questions from the best time to visit to where to eat, stay, and explore.

How Many Days Do I Need for Mount Rushmore?

To fully appreciate Mount Rushmore and the Black Hills, plan for at least a three to four-day visit. This allows ample time to explore the monument, attractions, and nearby Badlands National Park, while enjoying some leisure time amidst the area’s natural beauty. Check out our guide to the Perfect 72 Hours in Mount Rushmore to inspire a three-day itinerary. But if you’re short on time, you can definitely see the main sights in two days.

Best Time of Year to Visit Mount Rushmore

The peak season for visiting Mount Rushmore spans June through August when the weather is warm, and the monument draws its largest crowds. However, for those seeking to explore with fewer people, the months of May and September are ideal. Late spring to early fall ensures pleasant weather, perfect for taking in the sights and sounds of Mount Rushmore and its surrounding attractions.

Getting to Mount Rushmore

Rapid City Regional Airport (RAP) is the closest airport to Mount Rushmore, about a 35-minute drive. Renting a car is the most convenient way to reach the monument and explore South Dakota’s Great Eight Destinations. 

Things to See in The Black Hills

Mount Rushmore National Monument

Explore the majesty of Mount Rushmore National Monument, featuring the 60-foot granite carvings of four U.S. presidents. Delve into its history with ranger-led talks and exhibits, wander the Avenue of Flags, and discover sculptor Gutzon Borglum’s legacy. Enjoy Thomas Jefferson’s ice cream, trek the half-mile Presidential Trail for a memorable selfie, and experience the patriotic evening lighting ceremony, capturing the essence of Mount Rushmore.

Crazy Horse Memorial

Discover the Crazy Horse Memorial, a monumental mountain carving honoring Lakota leader Crazy Horse and Native American tribes. Known as the “Eighth Wonder of the World” in progress, this site 17 miles southeast of Mount Rushmore symbolizes Native American resilience and spirit. Visitors can explore the educational center, enjoy a close-up bus tour, and experience the “Legends in Light” laser show, running nightly from Memorial Day to the end of September.

Custer State Park

Explore the rugged beauty of Custer State Park, with its abundant wildlife, scenic drives, picturesque hikes, and tranquil lakes. Take advantage of driving the 18-mile Wildlife Loop Road to see bison herds, elk, and prairie dogs up close and look for trailheads for hiking. Cool off with a refreshing stop at Sylvan and Legion Lake, which offer fishing, boating, and swimming opportunities.

Wind Cave National Park

Located just an hour from Mount Rushmore, Wind Cave National Park offers a journey into one of the world’s oldest and most intricate caves, showcasing rare formations such as boxwork and frostwork. Through guided tours, explore its underground marvels or venture above to traverse the prairies and forests for hiking and wildlife spotting. The Rankin Ridge Nature Trail presents sweeping views of the Black Hills and opportunities to see bison, elk, and pronghorn antelope.

Jewel Cave National Monument

Less than an hour from Mount Rushmore, Jewel Cave invites visitors to explore one of the world’s longest caves through guided tours. The Scenic Tour, ideal for most, takes you on a 1.5-hour exploration along a paved, lighted path to view spectacular formations and delve into the cave’s geology and history. For adventurers, the Wild Caving Tour offers an immersive experience, navigating undeveloped sections by crawling, climbing, and squeezing, emphasizing cave conservation and exploration.

Wall Drug

Wall Drug in Wall, South Dakota, has grown from a humble 1931 drugstore into a famed roadside attraction renowned for offering free ice water to travelers heading to the Badlands and Mount Rushmore. Now spanning over 76,000 square feet, Wall Drug offers shopping, dining, and entertainment, including quirky photo ops like a giant jackalope. Its mix of history, kitsch, and hospitality captures the essence of the American road trip, making it an essential stop for those exploring South Dakota.

Top Things to Do Near Mount Rushmore

Hiking and Biking

The Black Hills offers countless trails for all skill levels, from the leisurely Sylvan Lake Shore Trail to the challenging Black Elk Peak hike, the highest summit east of the Rockies.

Rock Climbing

The Black Hills are a climber’s paradise with its granite peaks and spires. Popular spots include the Needles and the Rushmore climbing area.

Fishing and Boating

Enjoy fishing, kayaking, and paddleboarding in the serene waters of Sylvan Lake in Custer State Park or Pactola Reservoir near Rapid City.

Gold Panning

Try your hand at gold panning in streams around the historic mining towns of the Black Hills, a nod to the region’s gold rush heritage.

Where to Eat and Drink in Mount Rushmore

Powder House Lodge Restaurant

Savor the local flavors of game meats and traditional American cuisine in a rustic setting just minutes from Mount Rushmore.

Prairie Berry Winery

Indulge in a tasting of award-winning South Dakota wines paired with stunning views of the Black Hills.

Lost Cabin Beer Co.

Sample some of the finest craft beers in the region, from hearty stouts to refreshing ales, in a cozy taproom setting in Rapid City.

Mount Rushmore Brewing Company

Enjoy a diverse selection of brews and a hearty meal in this brewpub that celebrates the spirit of the Black Hills.

Under Canvas Mount Rushmore

Savor al fresco dining that combines local flavors with breathtaking views of the Mount Rushmore National Memorial. Start your day with complimentary coffee and tea from Smith Teamaker, and enjoy café-style dining that offers seasonal breakfast and dinner selections. For those on the go, grab ‘n go options like sandwiches, salads, parfaits, and snacks are readily available. Each evening is made special, with complimentary s’mores served under the stars paired with a selection of wine and locally crafted beers.

Where to Stay in Mount Rushmore

Stay at Under Canvas Mount Rushmore for a unique lodging experience just four miles from the iconic monument. Located on a historic gold mining settlement among ponderosa pines and juniper, Under Canvas offers luxury safari-inspired tents with breathtaking views of Mount Rushmore and the Black Hills. Ideal for exploring South Dakota’s natural wonders, this exclusive accommodation combines outdoor adventure with comfort and style, open from May through September.


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