Avoiding the Crowds
Mount Rushmore is very popular, with peak visitation during June, July, and August. The best time to visit, though, is September and October, with April and May as alternatives. Although spring months can be wet and cold, the Hills' dry weather patterns make fall visits ideal. The varied mix of trees and plant life found in the high meadows and creek-carved canyons also makes the Black Hills a popular destination for avid "leaf-peepers."
If possible, view the sculpture at daybreak, when the golden orb of the sun crawls out of the morning mist of the badlands. Few vacationers are stirring at sunrise, making it among the best times to enjoy a more contemplative and less crowded experience. And there may be no finer setting for breakfast than the park's Carvers Cafe, which affords a commanding view of the presidents.
Mount Rushmore is open 24 hours a day, year-round. The Information Center, just inside the entrance to the memorial, is open daily (except Christmas) from 8am to 5pm October 1 to May 7, 8am to 10pm May 8 to August 13, and 8am to 9pm August 14 to September 30. The Lincoln Borglum Museum maintains the same hours. This museum contains 5,200 square feet of exhibits, a bookstore operated by the Mount Rushmore History Association, and two 125-seat theaters. One interactive display features the dynamite blasting used to carve the mountain. This is an educational experience not to be missed. The museum also features some of the best views of the sculptures.
Mount Rushmore remains one of the few popular parks that have managed to avoid an entrance fee. However, you will have to pay an $11 fee for an annual parking pass, which funds the parking structure at the memorial. America the Beautiful Annual, Senior, and Access passes are not accepted for the parking fee, but because it's an annual ticket, you can come back later for no extra charge.
Tips from the Park Superintendent
Mount Rushmore has undergone a great many changes recently, according to Superintendent Cheryl Schreier, who says, "The Lincoln Borglum Museum provides an interpretive experience unequaled in Western national park areas." Schreier says that interactive displays depict sculptor Gutzon Borglum and his crew at work. There's also a large mural on the history of the United States that helps visitors understand why these four presidents were selected for the monument.
The Presidential Trail is a favorite of visitors, according to Schreier, who adds, "This trail allows visitors to get close to the carving to better understand the scale of the sculpture." She adds that it also offers extraordinary views. "Our ranger program in the evening, with the lighting of the memorial, is a popular, patriotic experience," Schreier says. "Cultural demonstrations at the Memorial depict the Native American way of life."
Special Regulations & Warnings
Visitor access is prohibited within a restricted area around the Mount Rushmore sculpture. In other areas of the park, rock climbing and hiking are permitted.
The National Park Service has a number of informational pamphlets and other materials at the Information Center as you enter the memorial. A variety of books, maps, and videos are sold in the bookstore inside the Lincoln Borglum Museum.