Tips for visiting Mount Rushmore National Memorial with kids

Posted By Allison on Apr 16, 2012

This post may contain affiliate and sponsored links. We donate 10% of our sales commissions to charity.


We have all seen a million photos and movies and replicas and even parodies of Mount Rushmore National Memorial in South Dakota. For that reason, I did not expect to be as awestruck as I was when I finally stood in front of it.

Mount Rushmore National Memorial is spectacular. It is an impressive feat of art and engineering set in one of the most beautiful parts of our nation.  It stirred feelings of patriotism and reverence in me to a degree that I did not expect.

Are you planning a trip to the Black Hills? Here are my tips for making the most of a visit to Mount Rushmore.

Tips for visiting Mount Rushmore with a family | | South Dakota | Black Hills | summer vacation ideas | family travel | findyourpark

Getting There

Mount Rushmore is located in the Black Hills of South Dakota. It is a rugged and rural area located about 20 miles from Rapid City on a winding mountain road. The road is wide, paved and well-maintained.

Mount Rushmore does not charge admission, but you will need to pay $10 for parking. Your parking pass is good for a full year, so return all you want during your stay in the Black Hills. Mount Rushmore has several parking structures to accommodate large numbers of visitors from across the globe. The lots are a great place to spot hard-to-find plates for the license plate game.

What to Expect

After leaving the parking area, visitors enter a wide long plaza with a view of Mount Rushmore at the end.  A display of flags from every U.S. state flanks both sides of the plaza. Lots of seating can be found just past the gift shop for viewing the monument, or the stage and amphitheater below. Stairs on each side of the plaza lead to the amphitheater.

A loop trail allows visitors to get a closer look at Mount Rushmore. Expect lots of stairs and some distance – about half a mile. Most visitors should not have much trouble with this trail.  On the trail, enjoy the scenery and watch for wildlife. A hands-on Native American exhibit and an artist’s studio can also be found along the way. At the artist’s studio, see the finished product that Mount Rushmore’s sculptor originally intended. There was a working artist talking with visitors on the June day we visited.

Visitors to Mount Rushmore National Memorial can also find an ice cream shop, a cafe and a large gift shop, which was my daughter’s favorite part of our visit. We visited Mount Rushmore twice during our stay and were there for a couple of hours each time.

Tips for visiting Mount Rushmore National Memorial with a family | | South Dakota | Black Hills | summer vacation | Mt Rushmore vacation | Mount Rushmore National Park |

Junior Ranger Program

The ranger desk and visitor center are located below the plaza. We stopped there to get free Junior Ranger information for our children. The Junior Ranger activities helped our children learn about the history, nature and wildlife in the area. When they completed the required number of activities, they took the books back to the ranger who quizzed them on the activities and swore them in as junior rangers. They received a plastic gold Mount Rushmore badge.

Tips for visiting Mount Rushmore National Memorial with a family | | South Dakota | Black Hills | summer vacation | Mt Rushmore vacation | Mount Rushmore National Park |

When to Go

Mount Rushmore National Monument and most of its amenities are open year-round.  It is located in a mountainous area where the road twists and turns and changes elevation frequently. I assume the road is well maintained in the winter, but warmer months are obviously the most popular times to visit.

We visited during the first week of June and it was warm one day and chilly on another. We shared the monument with many other visitors, but not so many that we could not enjoy our stay and get some good photos. This monument is built for crowds.

An evening lighting ceremony is held each night in mid-May through late September. We did not attend this, but I expect that it is a special experience.

Mount Rushmore National Memorial was the highlight of our Black Hills vacation. It is an artistic and engineering feat celebrating four of the United States’ great leaders. Don’t miss an opportunity to see it.

Good to know

Where: Just outside the tourist town of Keystone, South Dakota and about 20 miles from Rapid City.

When: Year-round, but many attractions and visitor services are only open from May-September.

How Much: There is no charge to visit the monument, but parking is $10 per vehicle. Seniors pay $5 and active military park for free. National parks passes do not cover the parking fee. Your parking pass is good for one full year! This information was updated in January 2018.

How Long: 1-4 hours

Amenities: restrooms, gift shop, cafe, ice cream, audio tour


Tips for visiting Mount Rushmore National Memorial with a family | | South Dakota | Black Hills | summer vacation | Mt Rushmore vacation | Mount Rushmore National Park |


How else can we help?

Need a place to stay? We stayed at Howard Johnson Rapid City, but there are many good options in Rapid City and elsewhere in the Black Hills. Check rates and read reviews at TripAdvisor or

Save money on your Black Hills vacation! Learn more about our Travel Deals Email Club HERE.

Allison on EmailAllison on FacebookAllison on InstagramAllison on Pinterest
Hi there! I am the founder of Tips for Family Trips. I am a married mom of two children, ages 10 and 12, living near Salt Lake City, Utah. We took our first child on a two-week road trip when she was four weeks old and we have been traveling as a family ever since. We love to get out of the house to see and do fun things, both far away and in our own neighborhood.


  1. It always amazes me that someone even had the idea to carve Mount Rushmore – would love to see it for myself someday!

    Post a Reply
    • It is amazing. You don’t realize how big it is until you are there. I hope you see it before too long. The Black Hills is such a great destination for families. It is the great American road trip.

      Post a Reply
  2. Thanks for the info. I am hoping to make a fall colors trip out to South Dakota this fall and plan to spend a little bit of time at Mt. Rushmore. Did you see the Crazy Horse Memorial while you were out there? I just think the engineering for Mt. Rushmore is just remarkable.


    Post a Reply
    • We drove past the Crazy Horse Memorial and were able to see it from the road, but did not go in for a better look. Even from a distance, it is impressive.

      Post a Reply
  3. Just came back from South Dakota. Visited Mt. Rushmore, Custer, Windcave and Badlands. It was an awesome experience. I feel like an American!

    Post a Reply
  4. My wife and I are looking for a nice vacation and I had mention to her about Mt. Rushmore.
    We would have to make it a week vacation because we live in central Connecticut and will be driving out that way. It really looks like a really nice place to visit. We are both in our early 60s and I walk with a cane to help me walk. Thank You for all your info on Mt. Rushmore.

    Post a Reply
    • You are welcome! I hope you have a great trip. I’m sure there will be many wonderful things to see along the drive.

      Post a Reply
  5. Can anyone share a place to stay about halfway between mount rushmore and Branson, MO . Looking for a city and accommodations. Thanks

    Post a Reply
    • Omaha, Nebraska or Sioux City, Iowa are both about halfway in between Rapid City, South Dakota and Branson, Missouri. Unfortunately, we don’t have any specific recommendations, but they should both have a lot of good lodging options.

      Post a Reply
  6. Thanks for the info. I will look into both

    Post a Reply
  7. We will be heading to Mt. Rushmore Labor day weekend. We are looking for a place to camp and atv near there? Any suggestions. Would love to be able to set up camp then drive truck to Mt. Rushmore, Then be able to atv somewhere close by.

    Post a Reply
    • I did not camp, but I know that there must be many options. It’s a beautiful, rural area. Try in or near Custer State Park or the city of Custer. If any readers have recommendations, please share!

      Post a Reply
    • Custer State Park has several very nice camping areas but they may be booked up for this year. Go to for information. It is $20 to get into the park for a week. The camping fee will be additional.

      Post a Reply
  8. Thanks for all the info.
    How good is it to visit during the thanksgiving weekend? How is the weather at this time?

    Post a Reply
    • I have not visited during Thanksgiving. According to, it looks like the weather is cool and a little warmer than average this year. The roads will be paved, and presumably well maintained, but the terrain is mountainous, so beware of rain and snow. The monument is open year round, but hours and services will be reduced. Check the official website for details. Some local services and attractions may be closed for the season. It will be a great time to enjoy Mount Rushmore without the crowds!

      Post a Reply
  9. We were there this past weekend and it is awe inspiring. They charged us $10, and the pass is good until December 31 if this year. We also went to the evening ceremony and lighting and if you ever get the opportunity, you should do it!

    Post a Reply


  1. Custer State Park, South Dakota - [...] Mount Rushmore [...]
  2. Review of Storybook Island in Rapid City - [...] is one of the best parks for families I’ve ever seen. If your family is planning a trip to…
  3. The best hotel amenities for families | Tips For Family Trips - […] doesn’t matter whether we travel to Mount Rushmore, the beach or Disneyland, because what matters most to my children…

Leave a Reply