Top 10 Attractions Near Mount Rushmore: Must-See Wonders

Mount Rushmore stands as an enduring symbol of American ingenuity and ambition.

However, the allure of this iconic monument is just the beginning of the adventure that awaits visitors to this remarkable region. From awe-inspiring natural wonders to captivating cultural attractions, the area surrounding Mount Rushmore boasts a plethora of must-see destinations. Join us as we embark on a journey to uncover the top 10 attractions near Mount Rushmore, each offering its own unique blend of history, natural beauty, and adventure.

1. Mount Rushmore National Memorial

The Mount Rushmore National Memorial stands as a testament to the nation’s history and the monumental achievements of its leaders. Carved into the granite face of Mount Rushmore are the 60-foot high visages of four esteemed U.S. Presidents: George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt, and Abraham Lincoln. This iconic site attracts millions of visitors each year, eager to gaze upon the grandeur of American democracy personified in stone.

The memorial is not just a work of art, but a symbol of American resilience and ingenuity. It took 14 years and the relentless effort of over 400 workers to complete the sculpture, which has since become an emblem of the country’s rich heritage. Visitors can explore the Lincoln Borglum Visitor Center, walk the Presidential Trail for close-up views, and partake in evening lighting ceremonies that cast a reverent glow on the faces of the presidents.

Mount Rushmore also serves as a hub for the region’s attractions, offering a gateway to the rugged landscapes and vibrant culture that define South Dakota. Whether you’re an adventurer seeking the wild west or a history buff delving into the past, the memorial is a cornerstone of any visit to the state.

  • Lincoln Borglum Visitor Center
  • Presidential Trail
  • Evening Lighting Ceremonies
  • Sculptor’s Studio

As South Dakota commemorates momentous milestones, including the 85th anniversary of Badlands National Park, Mount Rushmore remains a timeless beacon for explorers and a highlight of the state’s monumental moments.

2. Crazy Horse Memorial

Just a short drive from the iconic Mount Rushmore, the Crazy Horse Memorial offers a different, yet equally profound, glimpse into the rich tapestry of American history. This colossal sculpture is dedicated to the Lakota leader Crazy Horse and stands as a symbol of Native American culture and resilience.

The Crazy Horse Memorial is not just a monument, but a cultural center that includes the Indian Museum of North America and the Native American Educational & Cultural Center. Visitors can explore the Welcome Center and Museum to learn about the history and significance of the monument, as well as the Original Lobby and the Mountain Carving Gallery, which detail the ongoing process of carving this massive sculpture.

For those looking to immerse themselves in the experience, here’s what you shouldn’t miss:

  • The nightly Laser Light Show, which illuminates the mountain with vibrant storytelling.
  • The Volksmarch, a bi-annual public hike that allows visitors to walk up to the carving.
  • The expansive collection of Native American art and artifacts housed within the museum.

Whether you’re interested in history, culture, or simply witnessing an extraordinary work in progress, the Crazy Horse Memorial is a must-visit destination in South Dakota.

3. Custer State Park

Custer State Park offers a blend of majestic landscapes, abundant wildlife, and outdoor adventure. As one of the state’s largest and first state parks, it spans over 71,000 acres and is a sanctuary for a diverse range of flora and fauna, including the park’s famous bison herd.

Experience the thrill of the 59th Annual Custer State Park Buffalo Roundup in September 2024, where cowboys and cowgirls work alongside park rangers to corral approximately 1,300 buffalo. This event is not only a spectacle of the Old West but also serves a critical role in the management and conservation of the bison population. The roundup is complemented by a three-day Arts Festival, featuring over 100 vendors showcasing fine arts, crafts, and local South Dakota products.

Custer State Park is a year-round destination with activities to suit every interest. From hiking and horseback riding on the park’s extensive trail network to fishing in its pristine lakes and streams, there’s something for everyone. The park’s clear night skies also make it an ideal spot for stargazing, adding another layer to its natural charm.

To stay updated on events and activities in South Dakota’s attractions, including Custer State Park, sign up for the newsletter. Whether you’re seeking a serene retreat or an action-packed getaway, Custer State Park is a must-see wonder that embodies the spirit of South Dakota’s great outdoors.

4. Badlands National Park

Family Vacation in BadlandsNestled in the rugged beauty of South Dakota, Badlands National Park is a testament to nature’s artistry. Celebrating its 85th anniversary, this park spans over 244,000 acres of canyons, spires, and vast grasslands. It’s a place where the past is etched into the very landscape, with fossilized species that whisper tales of ancient ecosystems.

Visitors can immerse themselves in the park’s splendor by traversing the Badlands Loop Scenic Byway, which offers 16 designated scenic overlooks. Each vantage point presents a unique perspective of the park’s striking geological formations and the native grasslands that sweep across the horizon. For those with an adventurous spirit, the park’s numerous hiking trails beckon, promising up-close encounters with the raw and untamed wilderness.

As part of South Dakota’s Great 8, the Badlands are not just a stop on a trip; they’re a bucket-list experience. Whether you’re seeking solitude in the backcountry or looking to capture that perfect sunset, the park’s diverse landscapes offer something for every type of explorer. And with special offerings like the Badlands Sunset and Wildlife Adventure or the Self-Guided Audio Driving Tour, your visit can be as structured or as free-spirited as you desire.

5. Wind Cave National Park

Wind Cave National Park is a sanctuary of diverse ecosystems and rich history. Established in 1903, it’s not only one of America’s oldest national parks but also home to one of the world’s most complex cave systems. The park’s surface is a blend of rolling prairie and ponderosa pine forests, providing a habitat for bison, elk, and other wildlife.

Explore the underground wonders of Wind Cave with its intricate boxwork formations, rare in the world. Above ground, the park offers over 30 miles of hiking trails where visitors can immerse themselves in the natural environment. Whether you’re looking to hike, witness wildlife, or delve into the depths of the cave, Wind Cave National Park offers an array of activities for nature enthusiasts.

  • Guided Cave Tours: Discover the unique geology and history on a ranger-led tour.
  • Hiking: Traverse diverse trails with varying difficulty levels.
  • Wildlife Viewing: Spot bison, elk, pronghorns, and other native species.
  • Ranger Programs: Participate in educational talks and walks to learn more about the park’s natural and cultural resources.

Remember to check the park’s website for the latest information on tour schedules and trail conditions before planning your visit. Wind Cave National Park is a testament to the natural beauty and geological significance that South Dakota has to offer.

6. Jewel Cave National Monument

Jewel Cave National Monument is a hidden gem that offers an underground tapestry of calcite crystals and intricate rock formations. As the third-longest cave in the world, it provides a unique subterranean adventure for visitors of all ages.

Plan your visit to Jewel Cave to discover the wonders that lie beneath the surface. Each year, visitors arrive on-site to experience a ranger-guided cave tour or to take part in nature hikes, interpretive patio talks, special events, and off-trail caving adventures. The cave’s complex system of passages stretches over 200 miles, with more being discovered regularly by dedicated explorers.

To make the most of your visit, consider the following tips:

  • Reserve your tour tickets in advance, especially during peak season.
  • Wear comfortable walking shoes and bring a light jacket, as the cave temperature remains a constant 49 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • Explore the visitor center exhibits to learn about the cave’s geology and the history of its exploration.
  • Check the National Park Service website for the latest information on tour schedules and any special events happening during your visit.

7. Black Hills National Forest

The Black Hills National Forest is an expanse of rugged beauty that beckons outdoor enthusiasts and nature lovers alike. The forest is not just another vacation destination; it’s a bucket-list experience. With its granite spires and pine-covered hills rising from the prairie, the Black Hills offer a serene escape from the hustle and bustle of daily life.

The Black Hills and Badlands region is renowned for its rich history and abundant recreational opportunities. Visitors can explore numerous trails, delve into the underground world at the Black Hills Mining Museum, or enjoy the winter sports at two local ski areas. The forest surrounds the town of Lead, which is a hub for outdoor activities and historical exploration.

Here are some top things to do in the Black Hills National Forest:

  • Hiking and biking on the extensive trail network
  • Wildlife viewing, with the chance to see bison, elk, and other native species
  • Visiting historical sites, including old mines and pioneer towns
  • Skiing and snowboarding at the nearby ski areas during the winter months

The Black Hills & Badlands Tourism Association provides resources such as maps, vacation guides, and motorized trail permits to help plan your visit. Remember, once you visit, you’ll want to come back again and again.

8. Deadwood Historic District

Stepping into the Deadwood Historic District is like walking onto the set of a classic Western film, but this town is as real as it gets. Nestled in the Black Hills of South Dakota, Deadwood is steeped in a rich history that dates back to the Gold Rush era. Visitors can immerse themselves in the past while enjoying the comforts and excitement of the present.

One of the most anticipated events in Deadwood is the Days of ’76 Parade & Rodeo, a tribute to the town’s original settlers. This event has evolved into a legendary celebration, complete with a historic parade and an award-winning PRCA rodeo. For those with a penchant for motorcycles, the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally in August is an absolute must-see, drawing crowds from all over the country.

Deadwood isn’t just about annual events; it’s a year-round destination with something for everyone. From the world’s oldest continuously operating gold mine to over 80 gambling halls, the town offers a unique blend of history and entertainment. Whether you’re looking to explore the Wild West or try your luck at the casinos, Deadwood’s vibrant atmosphere won’t disappoint.

Here are some notable attractions and activities in Deadwood:

  • Days of ’76 Parade & Rodeo
  • Sturgis Motorcycle Rally
  • Historic gaming halls
  • Old West Shootout on the 1880 Train
  • Deadwood’s Craft Beer Fest: Hops and Hogs

Remember to check the dates for these events as they may change from year to year, but the spirit of adventure in Deadwood remains timeless.

9. Spearfish Canyon Scenic Byway

Roughlock FallsNestled within the heart of the Black Hills, the Spearfish Canyon Scenic Byway offers a spectacular drive through towering limestone cliffs, dense spruce forests, and cascading waterfalls. This 22-mile journey is not just a drive but an experience that showcases the natural beauty of South Dakota.

The byway follows the serpentine path of Spearfish Creek and is lined with numerous hiking trails and picnic spots, making it perfect for an afternoon of exploration or a leisurely drive. Each turn reveals a new vista, with highlights including the majestic Bridal Veil Falls and the enchanting Roughlock Falls. The byway is a year-round destination, with lush greenery in the spring and summer, a kaleidoscope of colors in the fall, and a frosty wonderland in the winter.

For those interested in the geological and historical aspects, the byway is a treasure trove of information. The canyon walls tell a story of the earth’s ancient past, and the area’s history is rich with tales of the gold rush and early settlers. Visitors are encouraged to stop by the D.C. Booth Historic National Fish Hatchery for a glimpse into the region’s fishery heritage.

Whether you’re seeking a scenic drive, a hiking adventure, or a historical journey, the Spearfish Canyon Scenic Byway is a must-visit attraction that embodies the spirit of South Dakota’s great outdoors.

10. Needles Highway

As you approach the end of your journey through the wonders near Mount Rushmore, the Needles Highway (SD Highway 87) offers a fitting finale. This 14-mile stretch is a marvel of engineering, winding through the granite spires and pinnacles that give the road its name. The drive is a visual feast, with every turn presenting a new, breathtaking view.

The Needles Highway is more than just a road; it’s an experience that encapsulates the natural beauty of South Dakota’s Black Hills. Here are some highlights to look out for:

  • Cathedral Spires: These towering granite formations are a climber’s paradise and a photographer’s dream.
  • Tunnels: Carved through sheer rock, the narrow tunnels along the highway frame the scenery like natural picture windows.
  • Wildlife: Keep an eye out for bighorn sheep, deer, and other wildlife that call this area home.

Whether you’re a nature enthusiast, a photography buff, or simply someone who appreciates the grandeur of the great outdoors, the Needles Highway is a must-see. Remember to drive carefully; the road’s sharp turns and narrow tunnels require your full attention but promise an unforgettable adventure.

Exploring the Depths: A Guide to Caves Near Mount Rushmore

Exploring the Depths: A Guide to Caves Near Mount Rushmore

Unearthing Hidden Gems: Cave Tours Around the Presidential Faces Just a short drive from the iconic Mount Rushmore, lies an underground wonderland waiting to be explored. The caves near Mount Rushmore, notably Wind Cave and Jewel Cave, offer visitors an opportunity to...

Discover the Wild West: Must-Visit Spots Around Deadwood

Discover the Wild West: Must-Visit Spots Around Deadwood

Beyond its rich history, Deadwood offers a wealth of modern amenities, from live entertainment and fine dining to outdoor adventures amidst the stunning natural beauty of the surrounding landscape. Whether strolling the historic Main Street or trying your luck at the...

Mount Rushmore: A Monument Carved in Stone and History

Mount Rushmore: A Monument Carved in Stone and History

Mount Rushmore, a colossal sculpture nestled in the Black Hills of South Dakota, stands as a testament to both American ingenuity and the nation's rich history. Carved into the granite face of the mountain are the likenesses of four revered presidents: George...

Great Faces. Great Places.

South Dakota is an incredibly unique state in that each region offers a completely different experience then the others. Check out each of the regions to see what each has to offer!

Badlands

Western South Dakota

Featuring the Black Hills, Badlands, the Sturgis Rally. This region tends to be the most popular.

CENTRAL REGION

This region of South Dakota offers some of the best hunting and fishing in the entire central US. 

Eastern Region

The eastern region is home to the largest city in the state and provides visitors with a true "prairie" experience.