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Can You Do Crazy Horse And Mount Rushmore In A Day?

Mount Rushmore

There are so many things to do in the Black Hills of South Dakota, but probably the two most famous attractions in the Black Hills are mountain carvings: Mount Rushmore and the Crazy Horse Memorial.

Many people wonder: can I visit both of these in one day?

Yes, you can easily visit Mount Rushmore and the Crazy Horse Memorial in one day. They are only 30 minutes apart and each one typically requires a few hours to visit. You can spend the morning at one memorial, eat lunch, and spend the afternoon or evening at the other memorial.

I’m Brandi and I live near these memorials in the Black Hills; I’ve visited both memorials multiple times.

Keep reading because I’ll give you some tips for visiting both Mount Rushmore and Crazy Horse to ensure you don’t miss anything and still have plenty of time for a nice lunch in between!

How Much Time Do You Need At Each One?

I would allot 2-3 hours minimum per location but you could spend a lot more time if you wanted and still have plenty of time to do both.

If you hike the Presidential Trail at Mount Rushmore you will easily add 30 minutes to your visit. It’s worth it if you are physically able!

Similarities between Mount Rushmore & Crazy Horse

Large and impressive sculptures carved into granite mountains in the Black Hills of South Dakota.  
Carvings are memorials to historical heroes.
Museum, gallery, gift shop, and restaurant on the premises.
Historical details taught about our nation and/or the history of South Dakota.
Live entertainment during peak season. 

Differences between Mount Rushmore & Crazy Horse

Mount RushmoreCrazy Horse Monument
Optional hike to the Base of the memorial – the Presidential Trail can be hiked during the spring, summer, and fall. Winter access is dependent upon the weather. Optional bus ride (small fee) to the base of the memorial. Visitors can only hike to the face of Crazy Horse twice a year during the Volksmarch – Learn all about my experience here.
Complete. Though the finished product isn’t the full original design, it was declared “complete” in 1941, at the outset of World War II.
Incomplete. Only the face is carved, however, it still offers an impressive display. The memorial is a work in progress.
The faces are about 60 feet tall.The face is 87 feet tall.
“Avenue of Flags” – an attraction in itself.
A spine-tingling walkway of all 50 state flags, and U.S. territories, in alphabetical order.
“Avenue of the Chiefs” – not an attraction. It’s just the road leading into the memorial. Fun Fact: the address of the memorial is 12151 Avenue of the Chiefs, Crazy Horse, SD 57730.
National park site – managed by the National Park Service.Privately-owned – does not accept federal funding.
Up close during the Volksmarch
Up close during the Volksmarch

If You Can Only Choose One?

If you only have time to visit one of these wonderful places, I would suggest Mount Rushmore. Mount Rushmore is iconic. Everyone should visit at least once in their lifetime.

The feeling I got when I drove around the corner and caught my first glimpse of it was indescribable. Everyone has a different experience but I’ve yet to meet someone who has been unimpressed.

For more in depth information on each place, see our articles How Much Time Do You Need to Visit Mount Rushmore and The Complete Guide to Visiting Crazy Horse.

Evening Shows

Both Mount Rushmore and Crazy Horse offer seasonal nighttime events. Both are impressive and unique but if you are visiting both places on the same day then you will obviously not be able to do both of them.  

Rushmore lit up

I loved the patriotism that Mount Rushmore displayed during its lighting ceremony and would suggest everyone check that out. 

The monument is captivating at night. The ranger’s will speak and show a historical movie, which shares background on the presidents that are represented. They honor the veterans in attendance and lead the audience in the pledge of allegiance. Patriotic songs are sung as they take down the flag. It’s really awesome!

Crazy Horse offers a laser show at night. It’s less polished than the more formal Mount Rushmore presentation but it offers some bells and whistles that the National Park Service would never go for. The laser show is actually cast onto Crazy Horse Mountain.

crazy horse light show

Both can be spectacular but if you had to choose one then Rushmore gets my vote!

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Planning your day

If I were your tour guide for the day I would take you for coffee or breakfast in Custer.  We would hit up Calamity Jane’s Coffee Shop or Miners Cup for coffee and a pastry or we would sit down for a quick bite at Hjem A.M. As a backup option, we would have breakfast at the Crazy Horse Memorial where they offer free coffee.

After breakfast, I would take you to the Crazy Horse Memorial. We would spend about 3 hours at the memorial, then when we are ready to leave, it would be about time for lunch.  We could stay and have lunch at the Laughing Water Restaurant or head to Hill City and have lunch at my favorite place, The Alpine Inn. Afterward, maybe do a little bit of shopping in town. Alpine Inn is open year round too!

An alternative suggestion is to head into Keystone for lunch at Cruizzers Pizza which Is my favorite pizza in the hills. My husband would suggest their delicious calzones which are HUGE. Note that they are closed off-season.

Now we’re ready to check out Mount Rushmore. Here we will get our fill of pictures and walk through the museum! Of course, we can’t forget to do the Presidential Trail which is almost a mile in length. It can get strenuous as it has 422 stairs. The trail has lots of picture opportunities so we will really take our time.

Presidential trail
Presidential Trail

If we have timed it all right then we can stick around for the lighting ceremony and close out the day with George, Abraham, Thomas, and Theodore!  

Don’t forget

Always check the official websites for show schedules and hours of operation. Seasonal (May-Sept) will offer more to do but going in the off-season is pleasant and you don’t have the crowds. Both places are open year-round!

Also, before heading out to eat, check in with the local restaurants to make sure they are open. Many shut down for the winter but there will always be options!

And lastly, you can do all this in the reverse. It will be just as great. Both monuments are exceptional and are waiting to be visited, whenever is convenient for you! Enjoy your visit!

Other Things To Do Nearby

Custer State Park

Bison in the park
View of bison in Custer State Park in the Black Hills in South Dakota

One of my favorite things to do in the Black Hills is to drive through the parkCuster State Park has over 71,000 acres featuring lakes, glorious views, wildlife and so much more. 

Once a year, every fall, Custer State park holds a buffalo roundup. Consider attending if you’re visiting in September. It is a sight to behold.

1880 Train

1880 train
1880 Train at the depot

Take a ride on an original steam engine train from Hill City to Keystone and back. You can spend some time shopping, you can even grab a bite to eat while you are at it. 

Is there anything else I should know?

Yes! As you can see, Mount Rushmore and Crazy Horse are just two of the many amazing things to do in the Black Hills. The Black Hills can be confusing because it’s a HUGE area and there are so many things to do! 

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!

Resources

ABOUT US

We’re Matt and Cheryl, and we’re in the Rockies. :) We are both teachers. Cheryl teaches special ed, and Matt teaches American history. We love the American West and the national parks. We want to help you have a great vacation on your next trip to the Rockies.

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