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Mount Rushmore at Night

One of the major National Park locations to visit in South Dakota is Mount Rushmore National Memorial. It is certainly the most popular in the state with over 2.4 million visits last year. If you want to a unique experience, you have got to try and visit the monument at night. We decided to do just that on our first visit, and we want to share all the details.

Table of Contents

Where is Mount Rushmore National Memorial?

  • Operating Hours:  Call or visit NPS Website ahead of your visit as times vary depending on time of year.
  • Lincoln Borglum Visitor Center: 13000 SD-244, Keystone SD 57751
  • Entrance Fees: No Entrance fee is required, but there is a fee to park $10 per car, more for larger vehicles.
  • Activities: Hiking, Sculptor’s Studio, Evening Ceremony, Heritage Village

We stayed in Rapid City and the drive is an easy thirty minutes. When you drive to the monument from Rapid City, you will get to drive through Keystone and an amazing display of consumerism. The town has done its best to optimize its proximity to the monument.

What is so special about Mount Rushmore at Night?

First off, the view! The backdrop of the Memorial against a stark black sky is pretty amazing.

Secondly, if you are going in the summer going to the Memorial at night removes the heat from the equation. You might even get a breeze.

Next, the crowds will have mostly diminished. This means you can move around the site more easily, get the view and photo that you want, and also less people at the gift shop and museum.

Mount Rushmore sculpture with a black night sky background

Evening Lighting Ceremony

Before they ‘illuminate’ the memorial, there is a 45-minute ceremony that honors our country and focuses on the Presidents, their role in the nation’s history and patriotism. They show a short film and then light the memorial. It can be a little long and may not be for everyone, especially if you have a lot of little ones.

Note, this night program is available from May to September.


Did I mention less people? This also translates into less cars. During the busy summer visits, going into the evening will make it easier to find a parking spot. They do have a lot of spots in the parking structures, but you can find a spot easily after hours.


Some areas that you would normally visit during the day are closed during the evening.

Visitors Centers and Museum are open but there isn’t a lot of time after the lighting ceremony to peruse before they close.

If you want to check out some of the other ranger programs that will require you to visit during the day. For example, there is a neat talk (15-20min) in the Sculptor’s Studio where you can learn about Gutzon Borglum and his methods.

Visitor Centers

Information center at Mount Rushmore

Entrance Information Center

When you first enter the memorial, there is a small information center and shop to the right of the walkway toward the Memorial. This is a great place to stop and get your information brochure/map and even a passport stamp (more on that later.)

Lincoln Borglum Visitor Center/Shop

The main Visitor Center if on the lower terrace downstairs from the amphitheater. It has a museum, bookstore, restrooms and a theater. 

Man smiling in front of avenue of flags at Mount Rushmore

Gift Shop

To the left before walking through the Avenue of Flags you will find the main gift shop.

This place is huge, and I think has every possible souvenir you can imagine that is associated with Mount Rushmore. I was in such awe I forgot to take a picture. If you can’t find something to buy, it’s probable because the choices are so vast. Plan accordingly!

National Park Passport Cancellation Stamps at Mount Rushmore

There are actually a couple of places to get a cancellation stamp at the memorial.

  1. Information Center: Near the entrance to the memorial there is an information center on the right-hand side.  They have the standard stamp as well as a cool bonus stamp image of the memorial.
  2. Sculpture’s Studio Museum has their own stamp as well.

<source: https://npmaps.com/wp-content/uploads/mount-rushmore-detail-map.jpg>

Reasons to consider coming back during the day

While the visit of the memorial in the evening is special and gives a unique view of this iconic place, there are several reasons to check out the site during the day.

Sculpture’s Studio Museum

The sculptor’s studio is unique stop and can provide some context on the immense effort that went into crafting this colossal memorial. There is a park ranger talk that last 15-20min which takes your through the methods of the process by Borglum and the other craftsmen.

Hiking Trails

Presidential trail

  • Length: 0.9 Miles
  • Elevation Gain: 131 ft
  • Type of Route: Loop

This is the main trail around the monument and can be very, very crowded as it is found withing the memorial. Be aware that there are a number of stairs. There are a number of informational signs all around this boardwalk trail. This is also where you can find the Heritage Village.

Blackberry Trail

  • Length: 1 Mile
  • Type: Out and Back

This gravel trail connects to the longer Centennial Trail which takes you through the Black Hills National Forest. The trailhead is across Highway 244 from the parking facility.

Lakota, Nakota, Dakota Heritage Village

During your walk around the Presidential Trail, make sure to a lot 10-30 minutes to visit the Heritage Village to learn about the history and customs of the local Native American tribes. There are a large number of tribes in the region that have a cultural relationship with the Black Hills.

Check out the other National Park sites in South Dakota

Mount Rushmore – FAQ

Can I fly my drone around the memorial?

No, it is illegal to fly a drone in any National Park site.

What are the hours at Mount Rushmore?

The best thing to do is check the National Park Service website for the time of your visit. During the summer the operating hours can range as wide as 5am to 11pm, but they begin to pull back the hours to 10pm and then 9pm during the late summer.

The operating hours for the gift shops and Visitor Centers are also different than the park times, so make sure you check!

Is there a fee to enter Mount Rushmore?

No, there is not an entrance fee, but you do need to pay for parking.

How long did it take to carve Mount Rushmore?

It took 14 years to complete, starting in 1927 and ending in 1941.

Did anyone die during the construction of the memorial?

Amazingly no. While the work was inherently dangerous, no one perished during the project.

Who paid for Mount Rushmore and how much did it cost?

The project was paid for through a partnership between the Federal Government, the state of South Dakota and private donations. All told, it cost about $1 Million. Adjusting for inflation, that would translate to about $20 million today.

Wind Cave National Park Entrance Sign blue sky

Other things to do and see around Mount Rushmore

After your visit, you may wonder what other there are to check out in the area. Don’t worry, there is plenty! 

Visit the other Giant Sculpture in South Dakota at the Crazy Horse Memorial.

Only about a 30-minute drive from Mount Rushmore, this is an ongoing project that is absolutely massive!  You will be impressed by the work. Note, there is an entrance fee

JewelCave entrance sign hung on fence

Go on a cave tour and see cave bacon in Jewel Cave National Monument.

About 50 minutes southwest, you will find an awesome and very unique cave system at Jewel Cave National Monument. If you plan to go, make sure to reserve your tour before your visit.

Check out the prairie dogs, bison and maybe a cave tour in Wind Cave National Park.

About an hour south of the memorial, Wind Cave is more than just a cave. It has one of the few remaining open prairies along with Bison, prairie dogs, and pronghorn sheep.

make standing in front of rock feature Custer State Park
Custer State Park – South Dakota

Drive the Needle Highway in Custer State Park

Going about 20 minutes west, you can start a drive through the scenic Custer state park along the Needle Highway. There is a state park entrance fee, but it is well worth it for the views and fun drive through single lane tunnels.

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