This post is a part of my Black Hills Road Trip Series
After spending the morning admiring the boys set in stone, you might be wondering about other things to do near Mount Rushmore.
The Black Hills and surrounding areas are filled with fun things to see and do. Sure, you can get your fill of kitschy tourist traps, but there’s a reason all those places are there — the natural and historical wonders. You don’t want to miss out!
- Mount Rushmore Movie Scene: Films Made in South Dakota
- Spring Break: the Best Time To Visit Mount Rushmore
- Paleontology and Presidents: Things To Do in Rapid City South Dakota
- 9 Reasons To Visit Mount Rushmore: A Snapshot of America
7 Things To Do Near Mount Rushmore
I visited all 7 of these attractions during my trip to Mount Rushmore and can personally attest to how fun (and accessible!) they all are.
Cost: $12 per person OR $30 for cars with 3+ people
Distance from Mount Rushmore: 16 miles / 28 minutes
Crazy Horse: the privately held answer to Mount Rushmore’s public offering. The folks who run Crazy Horse are proud to have never accepted any federal tax dollars for their work. It’s probably why the sculpture, began in 1948, is far from finished.
Admission also includes attractions like the Indian Museum of North America, the Mountain Carving Room, and the Native American Educational and Cultural Center, so visitors have the opportunity to learn more about the Lakota tribe, the culture of Native Americans as whole, and the history behind the monument. It one of the coolest things to do near Mount Rushmore, as many guests do both in one day.
Cost: $20 per vehicle — valid for 7 days.
Distance from Mount Rushmore: 84 miles / 1 hour 30 minutes
Aside from the many bad pun opportunities (see what I did there y’all), Badlands National Park boats cute little gophers, mind blowing rock formations, and one of the world’s richest fossil beds! While visiting, you can go for a hike up into the heart of the Badlands Formations or across flatter stretches of land to peer into the canyons below.
- Bad Puns Alert: 5 Bad Things To Do in the Badlands
- 10 Bad Reasons To Visit Badlands National Park South Dakota
Cost: Guided tour $6 for adults / $4 for children — reserve in advance.
Distance from Mount Rushmore: 97 miles / 1 hour 36 minutes
“Hours of boredom punctuated by seconds of sheer panic,” is how our tour guide described the lives of the soldiers working on the missile silos.
During the Cold War, America’s missile stockpile was not locked in a vault in Washington, but rather sprinkled throughout the Great Plains, hiding in plain sight (I’m really on a role with the puns today, y’all). The Minuteman Missile National Historic Site is one of the best things to do near Mount Rushmore because of the special look you get into the every day “fighting” of the Cold War.
Cost:$20 per vehicle — valid for 7 days.
Distance from Mount Rushmore: 130 miles / 2 hours 13 minutes
Devils Tower likes to stand out. Not only does it rise in dramatic opposition to its surrounding topography, but it was also the very first United States Monument, ever. Teddy Roosevelt did the honors in 1906.
While many visitors (myself included), choose to simply wander around the base of Devil’s Tower and admire its ridged edges (given to it by a giant bear as he scampered up the side, legend has it), about 1% of the 400,000 annual tourists decide to make the arduous climb to the very top, just like the bear.
Will you be one of them?
- The Legend of Devils Tower: America’s First National Monument
- Belle Fourche South Dakota: The Geographic Center of the United States
Cost: Varies based on season and age from $7 – $10 for kids and $10 – $18 for adults.
Distance from Mount Rushmore: 16 miles / 24 minutes
My sister and I actually only went to the Reptile Gardens because our flight out of Rapid City was delayed and we had two hours to kill, but they turned out to be two of the most fun hours of our trip! The Gardens has it all — snakes, turtles, crocodiles, birds, and more! We went to the snake show and actually has a blast learning about all the different kinds of snakes and their abilities.
I personally hate snakes, but will say I felt rather impressed by the employee who gave the snake show, as she handled and spoke to the reptiles in much the same way you might act towards a puppy you adore. Her job was obviously a great fit for her.
Cost: Free to explore — various prices for food and souvenirs
Distance from Mount Rushmore: 76 miles / 1 hour 20 minutes
Famous for its free ice water (not as appealing when my sister and I visited during a chilly March), Wall Drug is the quintessential South Dakota Road Trip stop and one of the best things to do near Mount Rushmore simply because of its donuts.
Yes, it might try to lure travelers off of I-90 with promises of ice cold refreshment, the real kicker is the cake-y deliciousness of the donuts made fresh every day in house. I’ve never had anything like them!
Cost: $12 for basic tour — tends to sell out
Distance from Mount Rushmore: 32 miles / 46 minutes
Jewel Cave National Park is awesome because there are rocks inside side it that look like massive strands of bacon. Not even joking around, y’all. I left the tour starving.
The Park Ranger who gave us our tour looked suspiciously like Chief Hopper (from Stranger Things for those of you who live under a rock…omg another great pun…cause we were in a cave….get it, y’all) and although the tour is underground, it’s not an actual spelunking expedition. There’s plenty of room inside the cave and you walk on railed pathways, so there’s no need to worry about feeling trapped.