Mt. Rushmore FactoidsOver the years we've answered a lot of questions about Mt. Rushmore. We think we may have even provided the research for more than one sixth-grade term paper.
Be that as it may, there still seem to be a lot of unanswered questions about Mt. Rushmore. Perhaps with this page we can reduce the number, if only slightly. At least these seem to be the most frequently asked questions.
This list is not "official" so the promotional gloss has been removed and it contains some unpublished information and other things they may not want you to know.
Technically entry to Mt. Rushmore is free. Thus the National Park Pass and other national park programs for seniors and the disabled are not needed (say "valid") at Mt. Rushmore. (This seems ironic because the National Park Pass card for 2005 had a picture of Mt. Rushmore on it.) There is a parking charge, see the next entry, but if you walk or bike in, there's no charge.
The standard parking charge for cars, vans and RVs at Mt. Rushmore is $10. For that you get either a window sticker or a receipt which lets you return and park as often as you like for the rest of the calendar year in which it was purchased. There is no free parking at Mt. Rushmore. If you don't mind walking a quarter mile, there is a highway pullout on SD 244 behind Mt. Rushmore. You can park there and then walk back to the main viewing area on the highway. If you go to Mt. Rushmore early in the morning or in the evening during the off season you can usually drive right in without paying because the parking garage kiosk is not manned. Tour buses are charged $50 a day for parking.
As of this writing (November, 2010) there was no shuttle bus service planned from Keystone to Mt. Rushmore for the 2011 season. In previous seasons, several companies attempted to offer shuttle service to Mt. Rushmore, but none was able to make a go of it. The various tour operators (Grayline, Tours West ... etc.) offer "lighting program tours" with Keystone pickups, but these are mostly for people staying in far away places like Rapid City. Also the bus entry fee of $50 makes the cost for any would-be suttle bus operator prohibitively expensive.
Rushmore Hours of Operation
Mt. Rushmore is open every day of the year except Christmas. The grounds may be entered anytime between 5 a.m. and midnight, however viewing at the visitor center is generally from sunrise to about 10 p.m. No overnight camping is permitted within the Mt. Rushmore boundary. Facilities within Mt Rushmore have various hours depending on the season and some are completely closed in winter.
Every night in the months of May through September the National Park Service presents a lighting program. In summer the program begins as 9 p.m. On September 1st it starts at 8:00 p.m. It lasts about 20 minutes and includes a film, a short talk and the lighting of the monument. There are no fireworks at Mt. Rushmore. For a number of years there were fireworks on July 3, however that has been discontinued. Throughout the summer season various guest programs are presented in the amphitheater, usually in the evening prior to the lighting program.
Viewing Mt. Rushmore:
Mt. Rushmore is best seen from the Grand Terrace at the visitor center. For a close-up look, take the "President's Trail" left from the Grand Terrace. Another good viewpoint is from a viewing patio near the Sculptor's Studio. The carving of George Washington can be seen in profile from SD Highway 244, behind the monument. Mt. Rushmore can also be seen from various points in and around Keystone, but the faces will be at least two miles away. Some motels imply that their property is near the monument or has a good view. In fact, there is no motel or hotel room anywhere with a good view of Mt. Rushmore. Some motels in Keystone are situated at places where the monument can be seen, but views from rooms are poor. The road around Mt Rushmore near the monument has signs prohibiting stopping, standing or parking and the ban is strictly enforced. (Hint: All police enforcement at Mt. Rushmore is vigorous -- including the speed limit. You've been warned!)
Time needed for Mt. Rushmore
Most people spend upwards of one or two hours at Mt. Rushmore. Some more. Some just snap the picture, buy the T-shirt and leave. There is plenty there to keep you busy longer. In addition to the monument itself, there is an excellent interpretive center below the Grand Terrace. If you are interested in the displays, a visit of several hours may be in order. A walk on the President's Trail takes about a half hour. In summer there are ranger programs at the Sculptor's Studio which last about 20 minutes. The evening lighting program is also about 20 minutes but getting in and out takes longer. Visitors can also spend time at the gift shop or in the food court. Tour operators allow two hours for the Mt. Rushmore visit. Take it from there.
Mt. Rushmore lodging:
There are no lodging facilities at Mt. Rushmore. Nor is camping or overnight RV parking permitted. The nearest lodging to Mt. Rushmore is in the town of Keystone which has about a thousand rooms. The National Park Service and its concessionaires do not operate any lodging facilities near Mt. Rushmore, nor do they endorse any. All lodging in the immediate area of Mt. Rushmore is privately owned.
Mt. Rushmore dining:
Dining facilities at Mt Rushmore are provided by Xanterra Resorts, a private concessionaire. (National Park concessionaires submit bids to the park service for the privilege of operating restaurants, stores and other facilities. The concessionaire with the highest bid is granted a contract to operate within the park for a given period of time.) There are more than a dozen restaurants in nearby Keystone.
The presidents (l-r):
George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt and Abraham Lincoln. There are no plans to put any others up there.
When was Mt Rushmore carved:
Work began in 1927 and work was stopped in 1941. The sculptor, Gutzon Borglum, did not live to see it finished. His son Lincoln Borglum supervised the last work on the monument.
Helicopter and other flight operators are no longer permitted to fly close to Mt. Rushmore. Viewing from aircraft will be from some distance away. The exception is Black Hills Balloons, a hot-air balloon operator who may on occasion drift near Mt. Rushmore. The viewing area at the top of Iron Mountain offers a much better view of Mt. Rushmore than you will get from any aircraft and it is much, much -- very much -- cheaper. To say nothing about being more environmentally and esthetically pleasing.
Mt Rushmore Hiking:
The area in the immediate vicinity of the visitor center there are several short and easy trails, the best being the President's Trail which goes up directly below the carving. Off trail hiking is not permitted. Also the Centennial Trail and several Black Elk Wilderness trails cross within parts of the Mt. Rushmore Memorial boundary but they are away from the monument itself. It is possible to walk from Keystone up to Mt. Rushmore, but the walk is two miles -- up hill all the way -- along Highway 244.