The Best Tips for Visiting Mount Rushmore

I did a recent poll on my Instagram stories to ask people what they wanted to read first about Mount Rushmore. Turns out, people want the tips! So, here you go everyone. Here are all the things you need to know to have the BEST trip to Mount Rushmore!

Parking is $10 and good for a year.

This is an absolute bargain. Admission to the monument is FREE, but you do have to pay $10 per car to park. Honestly, if parking was free and access to the monument was $10 per person, I wouldn’t bat an eyelash, so I had no problem with that. The parking pass is good for one year from the date you visit, so keep it, just in case you are inspired to go back!

Pro tip: If you have anyone age 62 or over in your car, parking is just $5!

Come back in the next year, and bring friends!
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The Best Photo-op is from the Avenue of Flags.

This is that classic shot. You will want to get here early in high season to get the shot with no other people in it, but the people only make the photo more true to life, right? You can get this photo when you come in, or when you leave (or both), since there is only one way in and out. It’s also ideally located to the north, so you will always have good light. You won’t have to worry too much about time of day or shadows.

Don’t miss a chance to get this view!
Essential info: The Ultimate USA Bucket List

But there are cool shots everywhere!

Don’t stop there, however! There are impressive shots of the monument from multiple places all around it, especially from the Presidential Trail. The monument is massive, so you will be able to see those famous faces from just about anywhere.

Get this from a cave along the trail!
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The Presidential Trail is only 0.6 miles, but…

…the trail includes a lot of stairs! We were not prepared for this. You know I don’t mind some stairs, but when we saw a sign about 1/3 of the way into the trail that stated, “425 stairs ahead,” we were surprised! The trail had even more stairs than this in total, so you will want to be ready, and plan to take some rest stops on the benches along the way.

Pro tip: As you look at the monument upon entry, take the trail where it picks up to the left if you want more “down” stairs than “up” stairs.

Luckily, there are some flat parts, too!
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Don’t miss the Ranger Talk in the Sculptor’s Studio.

This was very informative, and I’m glad we stayed for it! The talk is only about 15 minutes, but the park ranger did a great job of making it concise, easy to understand, and entertaining. He talked about the making of the monument, the symbolism of the choices for each president, and the sculptors. In fact, the talk happens indoors (thankfully!) in the sculptor’s studio.

Don’t miss the ranger talk!
More here: What to Do and See at Mount Rushmore and Beyond

They have the best gift shops.

I like to do some Christmas and birthday gift shopping when I travel, so we stopped into an awful lot of gift shops at a great many sites throughout southwest South Dakota on this trip. We both agreed that Mount Rushmore had the best! Let’s just say most of my family’s gifts are now taken care of for this year!

There are four located throughout the property. The best books are in the gift shop in the visitor center next to the main exhibit. The best of everything (including locally-sourced, American-made products) is in the largest gift shop by the entrance/exit. I recommend them all!

Get the best souvenirs and local products at their gift shops!
More tips: How to Shop Local in Your Travels

You should also visit nearby sites while you’re there.

Speaking of a great many sites around southwest South Dakota, there are more than you think! Our main reason for visiting the area was for Mount Rushmore, but we also checked off the Crazy Horse Memorial, Custer State Park, Badlands National Park, feeding prairie dogs at a roadside stand, seeing bison at the Buffalo Gap National Grassland, scenic driving in the Black Hills, and even a Norwegian Stave Church in nearby Rapid City!

All that, and not to mention opportunities to try out local coffee shops, the South Dakota state dessert (kuchen), and buffalo multiple ways (plus elk, wild boar, and more). There is so much more that South Dakota has to offer!

Badlands National Park has some of the most epic landscapes in the world!
Keep eating: Where to Eat on Your Trip to Mount Rushmore and Beyond

Want more? Get all my best South Dakota info on my dedicated United States Page!

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