Are you looking for cool things to do in Mount Rushmore? Then you’ve come to the right place!
Mount Rushmore National Memorial is a huge sculpture carved into the side of a mountain in the Black Hills of South Dakota.
The Black Hills is a national park in South Dakota that is full of things to do, and one of the most popular attractions is Mount Rushmore.
But, when you’re visiting the famous Mount Rushmore, you’ll want to explore all the other really interesting things to do near Mt. Rushmore.
You’ll find plenty of different attractions and activities near Mount Rushmore that are worth driving to.
To get to these different things to do around Mount Rushmore, you’ll spend anywhere from a few minutes to about 2 hours driving.
However, even if you have to drive a little farther out, you’ll find that it’s totally worth it!
This area in South Dakota is full of scenic hiking trails, beautiful State and National Parks, and even charming small towns.
On this list, I’ve made sure to include a little bit of everything.
So whether you want to go hiking, camping, enjoy a scenic drive, or check out a local town, you’ll find plenty of things to do in Mount Rushmore on this list!
15 Things To Do In Mount Rushmore (And Nearby)
Explore Black Hills National Forest
The Black Hills National Forest is one of the best things to do in South Dakota.
It is a national forest that straddles Wyoming and South Dakota.
When you’re visiting Mount Rushmore, one of the entrances to the Black Hills National Forest is just a short 30-minute drive away.
A lot of the most popular South Dakota landmarks are situated around the Black Hills National Forest.
That means that you can pretty easily access them if you’re staying in South Dakota near the Black Hills.
While you’re there, you can go camping in SD, go boating in the lake or explore the dense forest on one of the many trails.
Hiking Black Elk Peak Is One Of The Best Things To Do In Mount Rushmore
If you enjoy hiking, then you’ll want to hike the Black Elk Peak Trail in South Dakota.
The Black Elk Peak trail takes you to the highest point in South Dakota.
It’s a pretty popular scenic hiking trail in South Dakota, and it’s considered a moderately challenging hike.
The trial is over 7 miles long in a loop, near Custer SD.
When you plan to hike this trail, you’ll want to make sure you’re well prepared.
On average, it takes about 3 and a half hours to complete the full loop.
So, you’ll want to make sure to pack plenty of water and even a few snacks.
However, if you’re up for the challenging hike, you’ll love hiking Mount Rushmore’s popular scenic trail.
Admire The Beautiful Spearfish Falls In South Dakota
You’ll find Spearfish Falls about an hour away from Mount Rushmore.
The waterfall is slightly off the beaten path, in Spearfish Canyon.
There are a few options for viewing the beautiful waterfall though.
You can choose to hike to Spearfish Falls and you’ll find the trail entrance near the Latchstring Inn restaurant.
If you choose to hike to the falls, make sure you wear sturdy footwear. The path can be pretty slippery.
But, if you don’t want to hike to the falls, you can still view them.
On the side of the restaurant, there is an overlook deck that looks down at the falls.
Head To The Jewel Cave National Monument
The Jewel Cave National Monument is about 40 minutes away from Mount Rushmore, in Custer, South Dakota.
Custer is a city in SD where you’ll find tons of different things to do.
One of the most popular Custer attractions is the Jewel Cave National Monument, a national park in South Dakota.
Jewel Cave is the third longest cave in the world, which is why it’s a national monument in SD.
The cave is an incredibly important place for scientific research.
Because of the sheer size of the cave system, many areas inside remain a complete mystery for scientists.
Inside the cave, there are massive lakes, a variety of unique rock formations, and blunt nailhead spar crystals.
The National Park Service offers tours of the cave system, and it’s a really popular activity in Mount Rushmore.
So, you’ll want to get your tickets ahead of time. But it’s totally worth it to experience this super unique thing to do in South Dakota.
Deadwood Is One Of The Best Small Towns In South Dakota
Deadwood is one of the best small towns in South Dakota, and it’s just over an hour away from Mount Rushmore.
If you want to explore the more historic parts of SD, then this is easily one of the best things to do near Mount Rushmore.
When you visit Deadwood, you’ll feel like you’ve stepped onto the set of an old western film.
The town was the epicenter of the gold rush in 1876, and a lot of the original town remains.
In fact, the entire town is a registered National Historic Site.
Throughout the day, you can take guided tours or see live reenactments of classic wild west shootouts.
If that’s not your thing, don’t worry, there are tons of other things to do in the small town too.
You can try your hand at poker in one of the over 80 gaming halls, grab a bite to eat or visit the cemetery where many iconic wild west figures are laid to rest.
When you’re visiting Mount Rushmore, you’ll want to take the time to visit the historic small town of Deadwood.
Badlands National Park Is One Of The Most Popular Things To Do In Mount Rushmore
Badlands National Park is just under an hour and a half outside of Mount Rushmore.
You’ll find plenty of things to do at this South Dakota landmark.
There are gorgeous hiking trails, campsites, and even mountain biking trails.
The Badlands National Park is over 200,000 acres and you’re free to explore as much of it as you can.
Within the park, you’ll find a variety of different landscapes.
From beautiful South Dakota prairies, deep canyons, and rugged mountains.
It’s one of the best places in SD to see a bit of just about every major landscape the state has to offer.
Along with the scenic views, you may also get the chance to see wild bison, bighorn sheep, elk, and prairie dogs!
If you’re visiting Mount Rushmore, I highly suggest taking a drive to Badlands National Park.
Drive The Peter Norbeck Scenic Byway
The Peter Norbeck Scenic Byway is located in southern South Dakota, near the Black Hills National Forest.
That means that parts of the scenic byway are near Mount Rushmore.
In fact, part of the scenic byway takes you directly to the Mount Rushmore visitor center.
The entire byway is just over 70 miles long and loops through some of the most iconic South Dakota landmarks.
As you drive along the byway, you’ll drive through Custer State Park, pass by Mount Rushmore, and drive through portions of Black Elk National Wilderness Area.
There are several overlook spots along the scenic byway that you can stop at.
You’ll be able to get out of your car at these overlooks and get a really good look at some beautiful landscapes.
No matter how much of the scenic byway you choose to drive, it’s one of the best activities near Mount Rushmore.
Head To Wyoming To See The Devil’s Tower National Monument
The Devil’s Tower National Monument is just over 2 hours away from Mount Rushmore.
However, if you have the time, it’s worth taking the drive to just over the border, in Wyoming.
It’s in the Wyoming area of the Black Hills National Park, and it’s a pretty iconic rock formation.
Many people recognize it as the mysterious mountain in the Steven Spielberg movie Close Encounters of the Third Kind.
It was used as a filming location for the movie, but that’s not the only reason people drive out to Wyoming to see it.
The 867-foot rock formation is unique because it’s a huge rock formation that juts out of a prairie.
All around it, there are grassy fields and not many other rock formations.
Scientists enjoy studying it, and it’s actually a sacred site for the local Northern Plain Indians and indigenous people.
It’s one of the most unique things to do in the Black Hills, and worth the 2-hour drive to see.
Visit The Crazy Horse Memorial
The Crazy Horse Memorial is about 30 minutes away from Mount Rushmore, SD.
If you’re visiting Mount Rushmore, I suggest also visiting the Crazy Horse Memorial.
The local indigenous nations in South Dakota believe that the mountain known as Mount Rushmore is a sacred site.
Because of this, the carvings on Mount Rushmore are offensive for a variety of reasons to them.
So, as a response to this, the local indigenous people have begun carving a monument in honor of Crazy Horse, a powerful Native American chief.
The monument is still being built, but you can visit it.
There is an admission fee to view the monument. But the admission fee goes to the continual efforts to build the memorial and teach people about the local indigenous population.
At the monument, there is also the Indian Museum of North America, which aims to teach visitors about the Native American people.
This is one of the best things to do in the Black Hills.
Explore Custer State Park
One of the best state parks in South Dakota is Custer State Park.
Custer State Park is about 40 minutes away from Mount Rushmore, in Custer SD.
There are plenty of things to do in Custer, SD, but the most popular attraction is the state park.
In fact, Custer State Park is the most popular State Park in South Dakota.
So, you may experience some crowds when you visit, but you’ll still enjoy exploring the park.
Included in the acreage of Custer State Park is about 71,000 acres of the Black Hills.
At the park, you’ll find plenty of hiking trails, and opportunities for watersports, plus you’ll even get to see plenty of native wildlife.
That’s because Custer State Park is home to elk, bison, and more.
It’s easily one of the best things to do near Mount Rushmore!
Wind Cave National Park Is One Of The Best Things To Do Near Mount Rushmore
Another epic National Park in SD that’s near Mount Rushmore is the Wind Cave National Park.
You’ll need to drive about 45 minutes to get to Wind Cave National Park from Mount Rushmore.
Wind Cave National Park is one of the oldest national parks in the US and it’s a really beautiful place to explore.
Above the cave that gives the park its name, you’ll find beautiful sweeping prairies that go on for miles.
Roaming on the prairies you’ll often see bison and elk.
Underneath the prairies is one of the longest and most complex cave systems in the world.
You can tour the cave system with the National Park Service. But you can also walk into the only known natural entrance of the cave without being on a tour.
However, it is very dangerous to explore the cave system on your own. So if you do visit the natural entrance, do not go further into the caves.
Wind Cave National Park is one of the coolest places to visit on your Mount Rushmore trip.
Hike The Notch Trail In Badlands National Park
When you’re planning to visit places nearby Mount Rushmore, you’ll definitely want to go to Badlands National Park.
There are tons of reasons to visit Badlands National Park, but one of the most popular attractions there are the many amazing hiking trails.
The Notch Trail is one of the most scenic hiking trails in South Dakota.
You’ll find the Notch Trail trailhead about an hour and 45 minutes away from Mount Rushmore.
The trail is very popular and it’s rated as fairly easy.
Round trip, the trail is about 1.5 miles long and you’ll ascend about 180 feet.
If you hike this trail, you’ll want to wear sturdy shoes.
There are stairs and some rocky portions which you’ll be able to hike better if you’re wearing the right footwear.
I definitely suggest hiking the Notch Trail during your Mount Rushmore trip.
The Minuteman Missile National Historic Site Is One Of The Coolest Things To Do Near Mount Rushmore
If you want to see a unique part of American history on your Mount Rushmore trip, then you’ll want to head to the Minuteman Missile National Historic Site.
The historic site is home to a Cold War-era missile silo in western South Dakota.
At the time it was built and operating, the people of South Dakota had no idea it existed.
You’ll find this newer National Park just over an hour and a half away from Mount Rushmore.
There are three underground missile silos and you can tour them along with the mission control room and other facilities.
It’s the only National Park in the US that is completely dedicated to the Cold War, so it’s a really unique thing to do in South Dakota.
Visit The Mammoth Site
You’ll find the Mammoth Site in the city of Hot Springs, SD, which is about an hour away from Mount Rushmore.
It’s one of the coolest things to do near Mount Rushmore, especially if you’re traveling with kids.
The site was accidentally discovered in the 1970s when a bulldozer started digging up an area to build a home.
Construction quickly stopped when the huge mammoth fossils were revealed.
Instead of continuing to build the homes that were planned for the land, the landowner brought in scientists to excavate the area.
It turns out that the fossils are in an ancient sinkhole, and it’s the largest concentration of mammoth fossils in the world.
So, it was obvious that homes couldn’t be built on the property. Instead, it became a historic site with a museum where you can learn about the ancient mammoth fossils.
You can tour the dig site and explore the museum and it’s just a really unique stop to add to your Mount Rushmore trip.
Take A Short Drive To Sylvan Lake
Within Custer State Park, you’ll find Sylvan Lake. Sylvan Lake is just under 30 minutes away from Mount Rushmore, so it’s really easy to get to.
It’s one of the most popular things to do around Mount Rushmore, simply because it’s so pretty.
Sylvan Lake is actually man-made, and not a natural lake within Custer State Park.
However, it’s a pristine clear lake that is surrounded by rock formations and looming trees.
Around the shoreline, there is an easy hiking trail and you’ll be able to walk and admire the view of Sylvan Lake from just about every angle.
If you’re visiting during one of the warmer months, you can even go swimming, kayaking, and boating on the lake.
When you’re visiting Mount Rushmore, it’s a beautiful attraction, no matter what time of year you visit. But you will be especially impressed if you visited South Dakota in the Fall!
Packing List When Searching For Things To Do In Mount Rushmore
If you are searching, here are some tips on how to pack lightly when packing when heading to attractions in Mount Rushmore SD.
A concealed travel pouch may be one of the most important items you bring along when visiting the SD Black Hills. It is always important to protect your personal information. Identity thieves are everywhere.
This unisex RFID blocking concealed travel pouch is lightweight and comes in several colors. It has lots of organization to give you peace of mind. You can place it under your clothes next to your body to carry your ID safely.
If you have a pouch already that does not come with the RFID protection, as I do, these RFID sleeves are the perfect solution.
If you are planning on taking a lot of pictures with your phone you will definitely want to consider an external charging battery. This Anker high-speed phone charging battery is the exact one I carry with me on all of my trips.
I like that it holds its charging capabilities for several uses so I do not have to worry about it while out and about, and if I forget to recharge it at night, it will still be good to go the next day.
My daughter gifted me with this FugeTek selfie stick and tripod setup for my birthday. I absolutely love it! It is made of lightweight aluminum and is so easy to use.
It has Bluetooth connectivity and is a breeze to use for taking Insta-worthy selfies at all the cool places at Mount Rushmore that you explore.
I never much believed in using packing cubes when traveling. That is until I tried them. Now I am hooked. These are the exact cubes I use to stay organized when I pack for a trip!
You will want to bring your own refillable water bottle with you.
I never leave home on a trip without my Bobble filtration bottle. The 18.5-ounce size is perfect for your adventures and it fits nicely in the pocket of a backpack.
Perhaps you are traveling a long distance and packing space is a premium in your suitcase, or in your car. Then this set of collapsible silicone foldable water bottles would work well for you. Would not take up much space at all.
You will want a backpack or daypack with you to store snacks, your water bottle, phone, extra clothes, etc.. . No matter the time of day or evening.
This foldable water-resistant backpack would be great. And it comes in many different colors!
There are so many fun and unique things to do in Mount Rushmore!
Whether you are up for a 2-hour drive or want to stay near Mount Rushmore, you’ll have a great time exploring the area.
It is one of the best places to visit in the Midwest!
Have you had the opportunity to visit Mount Rushmore South Dakota?
If so, I’d love to hear about your favorite things to do around Mount Rushmore in the comments!