Don’t make the mistake of only visiting Mount Rushmore while traveling in South Dakota. There are a ton of things to do near Mount Rushmore that you should plan on seeing when on a South Dakota road trip.
If you only saw Mount Rushmore you’d really be missing out on some of the best things to see in South Dakota. 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 each attraction and Mount Rushmore to show you how close they really are. Trust us, they are all worth the drive!
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 the largest state park with 71,000 acres of land and is 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
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
Where To Stay Near Mount Rushmore
It’s best to spend a few nights near Mount Rushmore so you have to check out all the nearby attractions. The area really deserves a few days. Here are some of the best places to stay near Mount Rushmore.
- Top Pick: Under Canvas – Glamping tents only a 15-minute walk to Mount Rushmore
- Sylvan Lodge near Custer State Park
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 from 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 is still in progress. Crazy Horse is the Oglala Lakota Native American warrior.
When it is finished he will be riding a horse and pointing 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
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
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.
- 62 miles/ 80 minutes
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
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 dates 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 is the 140+ miles of the 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
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 is 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 us to explore your amazing state. As always all of our opinions are our own.