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The Best & Worst Times to Visit Mount Rushmore in 2024

The Best & Worst Times to Visit Mount Rushmore in 2024

What's the best time to visit Mount Rushmore?

The best time to visit Mount Rushmore is in the summer, between May and September, when the park offers extended hours, a variety of activities including an evening lighting ceremony, and the best weather conditions. This season is ideal for exploring the memorial’s history through ranger talks and studio visits, with warm weather and little rain enhancing the outdoor experiences.

Mount Rushmore is one of the most spectacular monuments in the United States. Few other places are as imposing as this view of massive presidents, the founders of our nation, carved into the side of a mountain.

There are plenty of other things to do in the Mount Rushmore area. Explore the spectacular landscapes of South Dakota at Custer State Park or Badlands National Park.

But while there’s much to see and do, picking the best time to visit Mount Rushmore will ensure that you will maximize the time spent on your trip. Let us be your guide!

Overall Best Time to Visit Mount Rushmore

Photo of a small crowd of people standing in front of Mount Rushmore an the many flags that line the walkway to the edge of the park seen on a clear blue-sky day

MOUNT RUSHMORE NATIONAL MONUMENT, USA – JULY 17, 2017: Tourists and visitors at the entrance of Mount Rushmore with its flags of all the states of the USA/SL-Photography/Shutterstock

The overall best time to visit Mount Rushmore is the summer, when there are the most activities in the park and the area has the best weather.

When visiting Mount Rushmore, one of your main concerns is whether or not the National Memorial will be open. The Memorial is open all year round (except for Christmas Day), but its operating hours differ by season.

According to the official website of the Mount Rushmore National Memorial, the longest opening hours for the visitor center and parking lot are between May and September.

During the summer, there are also way more activities planned around the memorial, making it a great time to get the full experience.

The sculpture is illuminated at night all year round, but there is a special 45-minute evening lighting ceremony led by a ranger about the history of the United States in the summer. This lighting ceremony only happens between the end of May and the end of September.

The sculptor studio is also only open during the summer high season. The studio is where sculptor Gutzon Borglum and his team actually worked on the memorial.

If you are interested in how the memorial was built, then you should time your visit so that you can come when the studio is open. The summer is also when the park organizes the most activities for visitors.

Seasonal programs available between May and September include:

  • Ranger Talks
  • Sculptor’s Studio Talk
  • Lakota, Nakota, and Dakota Heritage Village
  • Hoop Dance Performance on Grand View Terrace (only on Thursdays)

Summer is also the best time to come with kids, and not just because they are on vacation. Kids will get more out of the memorial if they get more context from guided tours. Plus, there are special activities geared towards kids available just in the summer, such as the Youth Exploration Area (only open until early August).

Besides the opening hours and activities, another major consideration when visiting Mount Rushmore is the weather. The memorial is located in South Dakota, which can have a harsh climate during certain parts of the year.

According to climate data collected throughout the years for Mount Rushmore, summer brings temperatures that are warm but not too hot, with average high temperatures in July in the low 70s to high 80s.

There is also a fairly low chance of rain in the summer. Since you’ll be spending a lot of time outdoors during this trip, the weather is very important.

Cheapest Time to Visit Mount Rushmore

Unique square tunnel chiseled out of rock and offering a nice view of Mount Rushmore, seen during the fall, the cheapest time to visit


The cheapest time to visit Mount Rushmore is in the spring and fall, before and after the summer rush sets in. Some costs of visiting Mount Rushmore are the same all year round.

The parking fee is the same all year round, about $10 for individual cars. There is no entrance fee for individuals to the memorial itself, so you can get around the parking fee by joining an organized tour, where it will be included in the price of your ticket.

There are other costs associated with visiting Mount Rushmore, such as getting there and finding accommodation. Flights and car rentals tend to be more expensive during the summer, when there is the highest demand.

During the off-season, you can usually find good deals on flights to South Dakota. Car rental businesses also offer discounts during this time.

There are no places to stay within Mount Rushmore National Memorial itself, so you will have to stay in the nearby town of Keystone, in Hill City, or in Custer State Park. Room rates for these places are usually highest during the summer, and you can find discounts in late spring or early fall.

Least Busy Time to Visit Mount Rushmore

Unique view of Mount Rushmore pictured from the top steps of the amphitheater, as seen on a blue-sky day with a few clouds in the sky

Patrick Lansing/Shutterstock

The least busy times to visit Mount Rushmore and still take advantage of good weather are late spring and early fall. Summer is the best time to visit Mount Rushmore, but make no mistake, it does get crowded.

Many families in particular take advantage of school breaks to take their kids on a trip. Although the park is big enough that the crowds don’t feel overwhelming, parking or waiting in line for lunch may be a hassle.

If you visit in May or September, you avoid the worst of the crowds because school is back in session. Plus, the weather is still pleasant during this time of year.

Most programs at the park last until late September, so you can still see the evening lighting ceremony or go on an organized tour. September is also a great time to explore the surrounding areas and go hiking.

During this month, you should also visit nearby Custer State Park to see the annual Buffalo Roundup. Most organized visitor activities within the park only open at the very end of May, so you probably won’t be able to catch a guided tour during this month.

However, May has some other benefits. It also is a good month for hiking weather, although there is a risk of rain. The hills around Mount Rushmore are in bloom with spectacular wildflower fields.

Worst Time to Visit Mount Rushmore

Pictured during the winter, the overall worst time to visit Mount Rushmore, a snow road is pictured running down the middle of a snow-capped valley with green trees lining either side

Dmitry Shlepkin/Shutterstock

The worst time to visit Mount Rushmore is during the winter, as not many attractions within the park are open and the weather makes it difficult to walk around.

The Mount Rushmore National Memorial itself is open all year round, but many areas within the park are only open in the summer. There is also no additional programming such as guided tours or shows offered during the winter.

You can come to just see the memorial statues, but it isn’t the full experience you would get during the summer. The weather is another reason why winter isn’t a great time to visit. Winters in South Dakota are bitterly cold and snowy, with several feet of snow on the ground often well into April.

Mount Rushmore by Month: Climate & Activities

Indoor plaster mockup of the unique bust of the four presidents pictured during the overall best time to visit Mount Rushmore, the summer

Mount Rushmore, South Dakota, USA – 2016: Sculptor’s Studio, on-site studio for sculptor Gutzon Borglum. Plaster models of the four busts were used by mountain carving workers creating the monument/EWY Media/Shutterstock

Still unsure about the best time to visit Mount Rushmore? Take a look at our summary of the weather and climate by month below:


January at Mount Rushmore is cold, with temperatures ranging from 12 to 37°F (-11 to 3°C). This month is ideal for experiencing the monument with fewer crowds, exploring the snow-covered Black Hills, and enjoying the Winter Adventure Weekend in nearby Rapid City.


February continues with chilly weather, perfect for viewing the Presidents’ faces against a backdrop of snow, visiting the nearby Crazy Horse Memorial, and enjoying winter sports in the Black Hills like snowshoeing and cross-country skiing.


As spring approaches, temperatures in Mount Rushmore range from 20 to 44°F (-7 to 7°C). March is great for scenic drives through the Black Hills, visiting the Journey Museum in Rapid City for regional history, and catching the early signs of spring in the area.


Spring temperatures in April range from 28 to 54°F (-2 to 12°C). It’s an ideal time for hiking the Presidential Trail at Mount Rushmore, exploring Custer State Park’s wildlife loop, and attending the Black Hills Film Festival.


May sees warmer temperatures from 38 to 64°F (3 to 18°C). Visit the nearby Wind Cave National Park, explore the historic town of Deadwood, and enjoy the Mount Rushmore evening lighting ceremony which begins late in May.


Summer arrives with temperatures between 48 to 73°F (9 to 23°C). June offers opportunities for participating in the Mount Rushmore Independence Celebration, exploring the Badlands National Park, and enjoying outdoor activities like fishing and boating in the Black Hills.


July maintains warm temperatures from 54 to 79°F (12 to 26°C). It’s a popular month for attending the Fourth of July celebrations, hiking in the Black Hills National Forest, and visiting the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally, held annually in early August.


Temperatures in August range from 53 to 78°F (12 to 26°C). Explore the nearby Spearfish Canyon for its natural beauty, visit the Big Thunder Gold Mine in Keystone, and enjoy the cool evenings at the Mount Rushmore amphitheater for ranger talks


As fall begins, temperatures range from 44 to 70°F (7 to 21°C). September is perfect for attending the annual Buffalo Roundup in Custer State Park, experiencing the autumn colors in the Black Hills, and visiting the Crazy Horse Memorial’s Native American Day celebrations.


October sees cooler temperatures from 32 to 59°F (0 to 15°C). Enjoy the fall foliage in the area, explore the Mammoth Site in Hot Springs, and experience the quieter side of Mount Rushmore without the summer crowds.


Fall temperatures in November range from 23 to 48°F (-5 to 9°C). This month is ideal for visiting the South Dakota Air and Space Museum, exploring the historic sites in Rapid City, and enjoying the beginning of the holiday season in the Black Hills.


Winter brings colder temperatures ranging from 16 to 39°F (-9 to 4°C). December offers a peaceful experience at Mount Rushmore, opportunities for holiday shopping in Keystone, and winter activities like ice fishing and snowmobiling in the Black Hills.

Frequently Asked Questions

Windy road going by Mount Rushmore during the summer, one of the best times to visit the attraction


Here are some of the most common questions people ask about finding the right time to visit Mount Rushmore:

When is the busiest time at Mount Rushmore?

The busiest time at Mount Rushmore is the summer. In June, July, and August, expect plenty of visitors each day.

Is Mount Rushmore better at night or day?

Mount Rushmore is better during the day because it's when you can get the clearest views (and photos) of the monument and surrounding mountain. The nightly illuminations are pretty special, so visit in late afternoon to get a glimpse of both.

What months is Mount Rushmore open?

Mount Rushmore is open all year. However, certain activities and buildings are only open from late May to late September.

What is the best month to travel to South Dakota?

September is the best month to travel to South Dakota because the weather is still warm, the foliage is gorgeous, and the crowds have gone home.

So, What’s the Best Time to Visit Mount Rushmore?

For the full Mount Rushmore experience, the best time to visit is in the summer, when the Memorial is fully open. September allows you to enjoy activities such as the evening lighting show while beating the worst of the crowds.