The Best Times to Visit Mount Rushmore

Summer is most popular, but you can avoid crowds by visiting early in the day or during certain off-peak months.
Alisha McDarris
By Alisha McDarris 
Edited by Meg Lee

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Located in the Black Hills of South Dakota is one of the United States’ most well-recognized national memorials: Mount Rushmore.

The attraction hosts over two million visitors annually who come to gaze up at the 60-foot-tall heads of Presidents George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt and Abraham Lincoln, all chiseled into the granite cliffs.

If you’ve been thinking about heading there yourself and are trying to find out the best time to visit Mount Rushmore, here are some tips and guidelines to help you get started.

About Mount Rushmore National Memorial

In 1925, the U.S. government authorized the creation of Mount Rushmore as a national memorial. Two years later, sculptor Gutzon Borglum began work on the monument, which was finally finished in 1941 — after 14 years of work.

Now, visitors who venture to the Black Hills can witness the impressive feat of artistry and engineering from the road or walk down the Avenue of Flags, a walkway flanked by 56 U.S. state, district, territory and commonwealth flags that leads to a viewing platform at the base of the carving.

Hiking trails, self-guided tours and ranger-led programs are also available for those who want to explore more of the culture and history around the memorial.

The monument is operated as part of the National Park Service.

Best time of year for visiting Mount Rushmore

The best time to go to Mount Rushmore depends largely on what you hope to accomplish while you’re there.

The park itself is accessible seven days a week, 365 days a year. The only day the park buildings, including the visitor center and bathrooms, are closed is Christmas day (Dec. 25).

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Educational programming and visitor center hours vary depending on the season, so take that into consideration before you arrive.

Most attractions and events are available during the summer months, but not in the winter. So if you’re especially keen to visit attractions like the Sculptor’s Studio or attend ranger-led events, which are typically only available May through September, you should check the park schedule and plan accordingly.

If extracurricular activities are less important to you than avoiding crowds, then it’s important to know that summer is the most popular time to visit. The park will be most congested during the months of June, July and August.

Winter months, though they offer fewer programs and activities, also see fewer visitors, so if you really want a unique experience without crowds, November to April is a good option.

That said, you may have to contend with cold weather, including ice and snow. You should always check road conditions before making the trek as the park may close due to extreme winter conditions.

Late spring and fall may offer the best of both worlds, as there are typically fewer visitors, milder weather and most attractions are still open longer hours. In the fall, you may even be treated to vibrant foliage in the trees around the park.

Best day of the week to visit Mount Rushmore

Like most parks, weekends and holidays tend to be much busier than weekdays, as that’s when most people are off work and able to visit. So if you would rather avoid large numbers of people and your schedule permits, visit during the week.

Attractions and visitor centers have the same hours throughout the week, so you’ll enjoy the same experience, just with fewer people around.

Ranger-led programs also happen throughout the day on weekdays in addition to weekends in the summer, so you won’t be missing out if you decide to explore on Wednesday instead of Saturday.

Best time of day to visit Mount Rushmore

If you’ve picked which season you’d like to visit or have already booked your trip, you can also be strategic about what time of day to check out the monument.

To have more of the place to yourself, get up early or show up late. Before 9 a.m. is usually less busy, as is after 3:30 p.m.

The information center and gift shop opens at 8 a.m. year-round, and the earliest it closes in winter is 5 p.m., so you can still enjoy most of the park’s amenities at those times.

The only event you may want to plan around is the evening lighting of the monument, a program that happens around sunset each day during the summer. A ranger shares a bit about the legacy of the monument, visitors watch a patriotic film in the outdoor amphitheater, and it all ends with the illumination of the memorial.

Whether you show up early or late, you can grab breakfast or dinner at the popular Carver’s Cafe, which offers views of the monument while you eat. Just check operating hours first, as the restaurant closes early from late fall to early spring.

Visiting Mount Rushmore, recapped

The best time to go to Mount Rushmore is whatever time you are able to visit.

But if you’re looking for the very best combination of fewer crowds, informative events and open hours, going in May, September or October are likely the best options.

If visiting in the summer, aim to go on a weekday early in the morning or later in the afternoon to beat crowds. Or, if all you want to do is see the monument and learn a bit about it at the visitor center, all while having the place practically to yourself, drop by in the winter.

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