Mount Rushmore National Memorial

Mount Rushmore National Memorial

Mount Rushmore National Memorial is a giant sculpture carved into the mountains of the Black Hills region of South Dakota.  Completed in 1941, this massive icon took 14 years to complete.

Under the direction of Gutzon Borglum and his son Lincoln, the sculpture is roughly 60-feet high and depicts the faces of US presidents George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt, and Abraham Lincoln.

When To Visit

Over 2 million people visit Mount Rushmore each year. Busiest months are June, July, and August. While less busy, May, September, and October are also popular months to visit.

To avoid crowds, visit before 9am or after 3:30pm.  Depending on the time of year, parking and memorial grounds are open as early as 5am and close at 11pm.  There are times during the year when the grounds close at 9pm, so be sure to check times before you go!

To check times for parking, grounds, and buildings, click here.

Visitor facilities at Mount Rushmore are open all year, 7 days a week, with the only exception being December 25th.  On this day, weather permitting, the parking structure and grounds are open, but all buildings are closed.

The National Memorial

Four presidents, each chosen for specific reasons, were to be sculpted.  They were chosen based on their contributions to the founding, expansion, preservation, and unification of the country.

  • George Washington-Borglum chose Washington to be the most prominent figure on the sculpture.  Washington led the colonists in the American Revolutionary War to win independence from Great Britain.  He was the 1st president and father of the new country, and he represents the birth of the United States
  • Thomas Jefferson-Jefferson was the 3rd president and primary author of the Declaration of Independence. He also purchased the Louisiana Territory from France.  Borglum chose Jefferson to represent the growth of the United States
  • Theodore Roosevelt-Roosevelt was the 26th president and he provided leadership in economic growth.  He was instrumental in negotiating the construction of the Panama Canal, linking the east and west.  He was also known for his work to end large corporate monopolies and ensure the rights of the common working man.  Borglum chose Roosevelt to represent the development of the United States
  • Abraham Lincoln-was the 16th president during the Civil War and he was adamant that slavery must be abolished.  Borglum chose Lincoln to represent the preservation of the United States

Entry and Parking at Mount Rushmore

There is no entrance fee to Mount Rushmore National Memorial, but there are parking fees!  A parking ticket entitles a non-commercial vehicle unlimited entry to the memorial for one year from the date of purchase.

No reservations are needed to visit Mount Rushmore.  The fee for a non-commercial vehicle is $10 per vehicle, $5 for seniors (62+), and free for active-duty military.  To read about other parking fees, click here.

The America the Beautiful National Park Pass cannot be used for parking fees at Mount Rushmore National Memorial.  This pass covers entrance fees but not parking, and since Mount Rushmore does not charge an entrance fee, The America the Beautiful Park Pass is not accepted here.

Parking is easy at Mount Rushmore.  There are several parking lots for non-commercial cars. There are also lots for buses, RVs, trailers, and commercial vehicles.  Overnight parking is not allowed at Mount Rushmore.

As you enter the parking area, take a parking ticket to open the gate.  If you already have a ticket, follow the directions on the machine to scan your ticket.

There are a few different locations where you can pay for your ticket:

  • Pay-on-foot stations located on parking levels 1, 2, 4, and 5
  • At the memorial entrance pergola
  • Outside the Carvers’ Café and Gift Shop
  • At any checkout in the Carvers’ Café and Gift Shop
  • At the parking facility exit gates (machines only accept credit cards)

After you pay for your ticket, be sure to keep it for exiting the park.  Paid parking must be validated at the exit gate to be valid for one year.

In order to use your ticket for parking the next time, you must have inserted your ticket at exit to validate it and open the gate.  Before driving away, be sure to take your validated ticket out of the machine.

If the exit gate is open as you drive out and you do not insert your ticket to the machine, it will not be validated, and you will not be allowed to re-enter the parking facility for free.

What to do at Mount Rushmore

  • Visit the Lincoln Borglum Visitor Center and view the exhibits and a 14-minute film about the reasons for and methods used in carving Mount Rushmore
  • Visit the Sculptor’s Studio and learn about the carving process and the lives of the workers
  • Walk the Presidential Trail (.6 miles long and 422 stairs)
  • Dine in the Carvers’ Café
  • Enjoy a treat at the Ice Cream Shop
  • Shop in the gift store
  • Hike the Blackberry or Centennial Trail (or both!)
  • Take a self-guided tour (audio or multimedia tour)

Interesting Facts About Mount Rushmore

  • Construction started October 4, 1927, and lasted 14 years
  • The memorial opened October 31, 1941
  • Elevation is 5,725 feet
  • Each of the heads are about 60 feet tall, each eye is 11 feet long, and each mouth is 18 feet across
  • Mount Rushmore should last about 2.4 million years (it is granite, which erodes roughly 1 inch every 10,000 years)
  • Washington’s face was completed in 1934
  • Jefferson’s face was completed in 1936
  • Lincoln’s face was completed in 1937
  • Roosevelt’s face was completed in 1938
  • 90% of the mountain was carved with dynamite
  • More than 450,000 tons of rock was removed from the site
  • Sculptor Gutzon Borglum died in March of 1941, leaving the completion of the monument to his son Lincoln
  • The carving was originally going to include the bodies of the presidents down to their waists
  • Charles E. Rushmore donated $5,000 towards the sculpting of the mountain that bore his name

Visiting Mount Rushmore National Memorial

Mount Rushmore is beautiful to visit at any time of the day. However, we recommend a night visit!  This is truly a magical, patriotic, and moving experience!

Sculpture illumination is each evening at sunset.  If you are there between May and September, you can join a park ranger in the outdoor amphitheater for an inspirational 45-minute program that focuses on the presidents, patriotism, and the nation’s history.

After the ranger speaks, there is a film, “Freedom: America’s Lasting Legacy”. After the film, the lighting ceremony begins.

The ranger also invites all veterans or family members of veterans up to the stage. Once on stage, the lowering of the flag ceremony begins.  This is a very moving ceremony, set against the four presidents faces lit up in the rocks!

We highly recommend being there for the ceremony and illumination!

Our Visit to Mount Rushmore National Memorial

We visited during the day and went back at night for the illumination ceremony.  We loved our visit here and really enjoyed learning all about the building and construction of this amazing memorial!

Mount Rushmore is one of those amazing icons that you have on your bucket list of “must see” places.  That was the same for us, and it didn’t disappoint.

Although we see many images of Mount Rushmore, seeing it in person is still magical!  The sculpture can be seen from the road, the parking area, and inside the park.

The view from the parking lot is amazing and the sculpture looks huge.  However, the close you get to it, the smaller it appears. The surrounding scenery is also beautiful, and that adds to the experience.

You start by walking down the Avenue of Flags, straight ahead to the amphitheater, and the sculpture!

Mount Rushmore truly is a beautiful sight to see!

Other Points of Interest in the Area

There is so much to see and do in South Dakota. Here are a few of our favorite things:

If you’d like more information on any of these places, please feel free to send us an email!

Have you been to Mount Rushmore National Memorial or any of the other places listed above?  Leave us a comment, we’d love to hear from you!

Mount Rushmore National Memorial

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2 thoughts on “Mount Rushmore National Memorial

  1. This landmark attraction is on the bucket list of every single traveler to the United States. The Mount Rushmore looks beautiful at any time of the day, but looking at it in the lights is a different feeling.

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