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When Is The Best Time To Visit Mount Rushmore?

Avenue of flags
Avenue of Flags

About 2 million people visit Mount Rushmore every year. However, when is the best time to visit Mount Rushmore?.

The best time to visit Mount Rushmore is during peak season, which is from June through August. The weather is quite warm during these months. However, most people visit the monument during peak season. Many people also visit Mount Rushmore in May and September.

To learn more about why the best time to visit Mount Rushmore is from May to September, keep reading.

Peak Season

Peak season is May through September and this is when you can get the most bang for your buck at Mount Rushmore. Even though Mt. Rushmore is open year-round, not everything within the monument is available. The perks of peak season are being able to see and do everything that is offered at the monument. Museums, films, Sculptors Studio, Presidential Trail hike, Jr. Ranger program, lighting ceremony, and more!

Now that I think about it, Mount Rushmore is virtually free, save for parking. You really get a lot out of those $10-ish dollars you spend to park.

You will notice a very different feel as you walk the Avenue of Flags. There will be crowds of spectators taking pictures and videos: some walking backward, blocking the way, and photobombing your pictures. I personally love visiting places when the hustle and bustle of visitors are abundant. If you do not, then I advise you to visit in the winter when you can enjoy the quiet solitude of the monument.

Lastly, peak season offers a whole host of other things to do and see in the Black Hills as well as much more options for lodging and food.

The Best of Mt Rushmore & the Black Hills: 21 things to do including Custer State Park and more

When Does it Open?

Mount Rushmore opens daily at 5:00 am. This may seem early but it is an opportunity to beat crowds and watch the sunrise in a unique way.  I’ll touch more on that later!

What Months is it Open?

Mount Rushmore does not close for winter like many places across the U.S. and in our great state of South Dakota. They keep the monument open year-round, 7 days a week.

Christmas Day is the only exception. The parking structure and grounds will be open but the buildings and gift shop will be closed in observance of Christmas.

When is the Best Time of Day to See Mount Rushmore?

What I find most spectacular about Mount Rushmore is when the sun is high and the faces are brightened by the sun on a clear blue day.  The monument itself is crystal clear and looks best in pictures when the backdrop of blue contrasts the granite faces.

The other thing about a clear blue day is the views of the Black Hills from the National Monument location.  Even the views in the parking lot are stunning.  You’ll get to enjoy the beauty of the Hills as you drive to and from Mount Rushmore as well.  I think it’s a brilliant time to go and it may be because my first-ever visit was a day such as this. 

Any time after the sun starts to recede, the shadows begin to creep in on the faces and obstruct some of the detail. This isn’t the end of the world. It still looks impressive no matter what but if I had my choice I’d make sure to visit early rather than later in the day.

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Mount Rushmore in Winter

Mount Rushmore in winter

As far as looks, Mount Rushmore in winter looks very similar to Mount Rushmore in the Summer.  However, some of the exhibits may close due to weather and roads may get icy, hindering your journey up to the facility. Snow and ice can be a large factor when traveling in South Dakota so keep that in mind.

The Presidential Trail, which is a hike that loops around just under the noses of the presidents, offers some interesting views of the monument along the way. It is very likely to be closed during any extreme weather or icy conditions. We visited in February one year and the trail was open so it’s fully dependent on the weather.

Is Mount Rushmore Better at Night?

There is something quite magical about seeing the presidential faces illuminated in the dark that I can’t describe. The darkness of the hills gives the appearance of their heads floating in the sky. I can’t say it’s better at night but it is certainly something I would recommend, should you have time to do both.

Mount Rushmore at night

During peak season there is a nightly lighting ceremony, just before dark, and it’s spectacular. You don’t even have to even be inside the facilities to witness the lit-up monument. If you are staying in the area, you can take a drive and park along the viewing areas off the side of the road.

Sunrise at Mount Rushmore

With the presidents facing East, Mount Rushmore would be the perfect place to witness a sunrise. The glow of the morning sun would blaze on the monument.

As I mentioned above, the Memorial opens at 5:00 am daily. Being a morning person, I think I need to make this happen, as I’ve yet to experience it.

Mount Rushmore at sunrise

Sunset at Mount Rushmore

With the sun shining on the monument all day and setting behind it, I know firsthand that this isn’t the best time to visit as the monument is shadowed.  It still looks impressive of course but if you want to take great pictures, I suggest coming earlier in the day.

Lighting Ceremony

The evening program during the peak season is spectacular but doesn’t start until almost dark, which as I stated above isn’t my favorite time to see the monument. With this in mind, I might suggest visiting the monument in the morning; catching the sunrise, and returning later in the evening for the lighting ceremony.

Parking is the only fee the facility charges. As an added bonus, you are able to save your parking pass and reuse it for up to a whole year.

Hours of Operation

There are so many variables on hours of operation that I would simply direct you to The Mount Rushmore Memorial website for up-to-date hours of operation, schedules, and directions.

Is There Anything Else I Should Know?

Yes! Mount Rushmore is just one of the many amazing things to do in the Black Hills. Other great things to do include: riding the 1880 train, Mount Moriah Cemetery, Spearfish Canyon, hiking the beautiful Black Elk Peak, and much more! The Black Hills can be confusing because it is a HUGE area.

Most travelers want to visit the most popular sites, yet still avoid crowds. We have a detailed itinerary that gives you a step-by-step game plan so you can get to all the best places at the right times!

But that’s not all! Our itinerary includes a free audio guide to listen to while driving, with over 2 hours of stories about the park!

MORE INFORMATION FOR YOUR TRIP TO THE BLACK HILLS

BLACK HILLS TRIP PLANNER: To read or watch all of our content about the Grand Canyon, check out our Black Hills Homepage

AREAS: The Black Hills is home to some amazing national parks and monuments: Mt. Rushmore, Wind Cave and Jewel Cave National Parks, Badlands, and Crazy Horse.  Plus, the amazing Custer State Park

THINGS TO DO: There is much more to do than hike and look at Mt. Rushmore.  Explore the 1880 train, Reptile Gardens, slip down a natural waterslide, or go on a scenic drive

GREAT CITIES TO STAY OR CHECK OUT: Explore some amazing mountain towns including Deadwood, Keystone, Hill City, and Rapid City.

GET QUIRKY: Want something REALLY different? Check out Devil’s Tower and Wall Drug

WHERE TO EAT: Check out the best places to eat in and around Mt. Rushmore plus where to eat in each city

WATCH: Enjoy videos of the amazing Black Hills while learning our best tips for visiting by watching our Black Hills YouTube Playlist

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