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Mount Rushmore Monumental Day

A Monumental Day at Mount Rushmore Itinerary

Planning your Mount Rushmore vacation is easy with this Rapid City Monumental Day Itinerary. Below is our suggestion for how you can spend a day visiting our nation’s Shrine of Democracy, Mount Rushmore National Memorial, celebrating the 75th Anniversary of its Completion in 2016.      


Dawn at Mount Rushmore

Picture Perfect Mornings

Morning is one of the best times of the day to see the faces of Mount Rushmore.  The rising sun casts a golden glow on the memorial and the lack of large crowds gives you uninhibited views. 
  • Expert photographers will also tell you to get to the memorial early for the best pictures of Mount Rushmore. The faces are fully lit by the sun and you won’t find the shadows you do later in the day.  On a clear day, the ideal time to capture a picture of Mount Rushmore is between 9:00-11:00 a.m.
  • Morning is also a great time to browse the Avenue of Flags, which features flags from all 50 states and 6 U.S. Territories.  
  • After making your way through the Avenue of Flags, use the viewfinders on the main viewing plaza to see the faces’ finest details.


Have Breakfast with the Presidents

The Carver’s Café at Mount Rushmore is open year-round (winter and summer hours may vary). Here you can enjoy hot breakfast, coffee and espresso, smoothies or a sweet roll from the Bosun Chair Bakery as you experience the presidential views of the Grand Terrace.

Hike the Presidential Trail at Mount Rushmore

A Mid-Morning Hike—The Presidential Trail at Mount Rushmore

See a different view of the presidents as you take a walk along the Presidential Trail. This half-mile walk has many different vantage points that give you an up-close view of the sculpture. The trail has two sides—one with steps and one that is wheelchair accessible.  
  • Make your presidential stroll even more memorable by participating in one of the free Ranger Walks on the trail. Park Rangers and volunteer tour guides highlight the history, nature and stories of Mount Rushmore as you meander along the trail.  Programs are offered throughout the summer and a schedule can be found at the Lincoln Borglum Visitor Center or at the memorial’s Information Center.
  • Another way to experience Mount Rushmore is to rent the Audio Tour. This award-winning tour includes historic recordings, interviews and narration of the memorial’s highlights and history.  The Audio Tour can be rented for a small fee in a building across from the Information Center.

A Giant Vision—The Sculptor’s Studio

After walking the trail, stop into the Sculptor’s Studio (open seasonally, May-September) and see sculptor Gutzon Borglum’s true vision for Mount Rushmore. Inside the studio, you’ll find plaster models and many of the tools the carvers used for the fine detailing of the faces.

  • During the summer months, Park Rangers lead small programs and explain the different exhibits.


The parking pass you purchase for Mount Rushmore is good for an entire year so take the opportunity to leave the park and head back to Rapid City for a quiet lunch and tour of the City of Presidents in downtown Rapid City.

  • The City of Presidents is a free attraction in Rapid City that features life-sized sculptures and historic plaques of all of the Mount Rushmore presidents, as well as every past president of the United States.


Lighting Ceremony at Mount Rushmore

  After recharging in Rapid City, head back to Mount Rushmore for more patriotic fun.    

Cool Down with the Memorial Team

  • Enjoy a cool treat at the Memorial Team Ice Cream shop, which is named in honor of the Mount Rushmore baseball team and carvers.  Memorial Team Ice Cream features soft-serve and hand-dipped cones, as well as fountain drinks, floats and snacks.

Bring Home a Memory—The Mount Rushmore Gift Shop

  • After enjoying your sweet treat, head to the Mount Rushmore Gift Shop to browse the variety of souvenirs, gifts and clothing.  You’ll also find books and videos that feature Mount Rushmore, Black Hills and Native American history. 


More to Rushmore—Lincoln Borglum Visitor Center and Museum

  • Your visit to Mount Rushmore is not complete until you’ve toured the Lincoln Borglum Visitor Center and Museum.  Here you’ll find unique exhibits about each president, hands-on history displays and a theater that features a short film about the carving and the people instrumental in creating Mount Rushmore.  There is also an extensive bookstore at the museum.


A Moving Tribute—Memorial Lighting Ceremony (seasonal only)

  • At dusk, head to the Mount Rushmore amphitheater for a moving patriotic tribute and memorial lighting ceremony.  Throughout the summer months, Park Rangers play a historic film and recognize military personnel and veterans before a dramatic lighting of the faces.  The patriotic lighting ceremony is the perfect way to end your monumental day at Mount Rushmore National Memorial.