Top 10 Things To Do Near Mount Rushmore

Don’t make the mistake of only visiting Mount Rushmore while in South Dakota. There are a ton of things to do near Mount Rushmore that you should plan a South Dakota road trip. If you only saw Mount Rushmore you’d really be missing out on some of the best things in the state. Here are 10 things to see near Mount Rushmore that are all within a 90-minute drive.

10 Things To Do Near Mount Rushmore

There are actually even more than these 10 things to do near Mount Rushmore, but here are our favorites attractions near Mount Rushmore. We’ve also listed the distance between them and Mount Rushmore to show you how close they really are.

Custer State park in south dakota - road trip itinerary
1. Custer State Park

If you only have time to visit one of the many things to do near Mount Rushmore make it to Custer State Park. The park is largest state park with 71,000 acres of land and home to over 1,300 bison.  The park is full of scenic drives and great hiking trails. Make sure to make it to Black Elk Peak which is 7,242 feet and the highest point in the U.S. east of the Rocky Mountains.

  • 14 miles/25 minutes

Sylvan Lake is a top thing to do near mount rushmore - long exposure photo in custer state park

2. Sylvan Lake

Sylvan Lake is often referred to as the “crown jewel” of Custer State Park. It’s a great place to have a picnic, go for a swim, or hit the trails. If you plan on driving Needles Highway you’ll go right by the lake. If you are camping consider spending the night at the Sylvan Lake campground and for those wanting a nice soft bed, the Sylvan Lake Lodge has one of the best views of the lake. Staying close to the lake will let you spend more time enjoying the park or watching sunset and sunrise along the shores.

  • 15 miles/28 minutes

Needles highway in south dakota on a road trip near Mt Rushmore

3. Needles Highway

Driving down the 14 mile long Needles Highway you won’t believe you are still in South Dakota. The highway goes through one-way tunnels and passes by massive granite walls. The most iconic is the Needles Eye Tunnel. Needles Highway is located inside Custer State Park you can enter from one side of the park and drive out to the other end. Needles Highway closes for the season depending on the snow, but expect it to be closed November till April.

  • 16 miles/32 minutes

Related Article: Driving South Dakota’s Needle Highway

4. Crazy Horse

Crazy Horse is the world’s largest mountain carving in progress. The carving started in 1948 and still in progress. Crazy Horse is the Oglala Lakota Native America warrior. When it is finished he will be riding a horse and point off into the distance. When completed he is said to be 641 feet wide and 563 feet tall. His head will be 87 feet high, while the heads of the presidents at Mount Rushmore are only 60 feet high.

  • 15 miles/20 minutes

Aerial photo of the Black Hills National Forest near Mt. Rushmore in South Dakota

5. Blackhills National Forest

Home to the highest point east of the Rocky Mountains, the Black Hills National Forest should not be missed when traveling near Mt. Rushmore. This massive reserve takes up the majority of the southwestern corner of the state. Inside the boundaries are several amazing scenic drives, over 1,000 miles of rivers and streams, and more than 45 miles of trails. The name “Black Hills” comes from the translated Lakota native people who have called this area the Black Hills for centuries.

  • 18 miles/40 minutes

Aerial Photo of Spearfish canyon - a highlight of a south Dakota Road trip Things to do near Mt Rushmore

6. Spearfish Canyon Scenic Byway

When visiting the Blackhills National Forest make sure to drive down the Spearfish Canyon Scenic Byway. Have your GoPro attached to the windshield for this 22-mile scenic byway.  No matter what time of year it’s a scenic drive. Weave your way through the 19-mile gorge with 1,000-foot limestone rocks on both sides. If you’re a waterfall chaser you can’t miss Bridalveil Falls and Roughlock Falls both of which are accessible within a few minutes walk from the road.

7. Deadwood, South Dakota

Located in the Black Hills the entire town of Deadwood is registered as a National Historic Landmark. The town got its name from all the dead trees that lined the canyon walls when it was established in 1876 during the gold rush. If you are going to drive the Spearfish Canyon Scenic Byway coming from Mt Rushmore it’s worth stopping in Deadwood. Stop in at one of the casinos and see if it’s your lucky day.

  • 50 miles/ 65 minutes
Woman ride large jackalope in the backyard of Wall Drug in Wall South Dakota - A must on any road trip
Don’t just visit Mt. Rushmore – make sure to ride the giant Jackalope at nearby Wall Drug

8. Wall Drug

It would be hard to miss Wall Drug while in South Dakota near Mt. Rushmore because there is literally a sign every mile (or maybe more) along I-90. Wall Drug is pretty much the ultimate kitsch destination in all of South Dakota, or possibly the entire country. Find souvenirs or western inspired jewelry and clothing – or at least one of their famous bumper stickers here at Wall Drug in Wall, South Dakota.

  • 52 miles/ 60 minutes

9. Wind Cave National Park

The seventh National Park and first cave to have this designation dating back to 1903. Most don’t realize but this cave is among the longest in the entire world, coming 6th. Just a short drive from Mt. Rushmore are the 140+ miles of cave to explore at Wind Cave. One of the preferred ways to experience the cave is to join a cave tour with a park ranger – reserve a tour in advance online here.

  • 37 miles/45 minutes

sunrise at badlands national park from the window trail - Things to do near Mt Rushmore

10. Badlands National Park

Don’t let the 80-minute drive stop you from visiting the Badlands National Park! The drive is totally worth it. The Badlands was our favorite part of our South Dakota road trip. The park has over 242,000 acres of land and full of scenic views. Make sure to get out of the car and hit some of the epic trails. Some of the best views are only a 5-minute walk from the parking lot. Just go to the Badlands and thank us later.

  • 83 miles/ 80 minutes

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What are your favorite things to do near Mount Rushmore? 

This post was sponsored by Travel South Dakota. Thanks to Travel South Dakota for inviting to explore your amazing state. As always all of our opinions are our own. 

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22 thoughts on “Top 10 Things To Do Near Mount Rushmore”

  1. South Dakota was one of the first stops on a mega road trip we took a few summers ago and we were blown away! Custer State Park is exceptional and I tell everyone they NEED to go there at least once. It has a little bit of everything and is a perfect trip for a family. The only thing we did not do on this list was Wind Cave since we went to Jewel Cave instead. I wish we made time for both, especially since Wind Cave is under the national park system. Oh well, I guess it’s just another reason to go back! Where did you stay when you were there? Did you camp or hotel it?

    • You should be able to find sites that stay open most of the year but the facilities will be more basic than the summer. I would check the South Dakota State Park’s website or see if there are [rivate campgrounds that are open. Have a great trip!

  2. Was lucky enough to be stationed at Ellsworth AFB twice, so got to visit a lot a neat places in South Dakota. Some of my favorites were, the Corn Palace in Mitchell, SD; the Mammoth Dig (and Hot Springs Pool) in Hot Spring, SD; and while you are at Wall Drug, make sure to at least visit the Badlands/National Buffalo Grasslands Visitors Center! Oh! And have a Buffalo Burger and some Ice cream while at Wall Drug. Take time to look for all the snapshots of all the different places people have found “Wall Drug” stickers and signs!

  3. You missed my favorite part of South Dakota: the scenic, friendly little town of Hot Springs and its amazing Evans Plunge mineral bath. No time to enjoy their Mammoth Site this trip. A bit of a drive from the spots you listed and well worth it.

  4. We loved South Dakota, spent a week there and did most of the things on your list so great trip down memory lane and I would agree with all the great places in your list. I would love to add one more – bear country USA. It was fsntastic to drive through and view the bears and wildlife.

  5. The ICBM silos and national park visitor center around them was our highlight of or trip. It was very interesting.

    • We went to visit the silos, but got to the intimidating and heavily fenced gates and weren’t sure how to get in – We would have tried hard but only had a few minutes on the way back to the airport. They did look cool, I am sure we will be back near Mount Rushmore soon and we’ll try again.

  6. Travel is a very great gift from god and that is what we have learned from your blog. Thanks for such a good write up. Truly an amazing piece of writing.

  7. Good stuff, guys South Dakota is so underrated. Deadwood and its old wooden-floored gambling halls is definitely a great place to party for a night or two. Looking forward to catching up on the road trip.

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