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During our crosscountry adventure, Mount Rushmore was one stop we couldn’t miss. The iconic landmark nestled in the Black Hills National Forest needed to be seen on our route. We needed to do some research to figure out the ins and outs of visiting Mount Rushmore.
So, can you drive an RV to Mount Rushmore? The roads to get to Mount Rushmore are fairly steep and windy so take your time and drive with care. Mount Rushmore has parking to accommodate large vehicles up to 45 feet in length. They have about 25 parking spaces for RVs under 30ft and 40 spaces for anything longer, including vehicles with trailers. Overnight parking is not permitted.
Once we found that we could visit Mount Rushmore National Memorial with our RV we checked out the best way to get there, what to do at the monument and places to stay in the Black Hills.
Getting to Mount Rushmore
Mount Rushmore is located on HWY 244 between HWY 16A and HWY 385. It is mainly a 2 lane road, with some passing lanes and has many turns and hills.
Hwy 244 is totally doable in an RV but you’ll want to take your time on the curves and hills. Mount Rushmore visitors center is at an elevation around 5400 ft above sea level.
If you have a tow car then your best option will be to leave the RV at your campground and use your smaller vehicle. You’ll be able to explore the Black Hills Forest much more thoroughly and enjoy some of the trickier spots.
There are two main routes to get to the 244, Hwy 385 and Hwy 16. From the north-east, you’ll come from Rapid City and take the 16. This is the route we took on our journey.
There are some good size hills that we crept up with our 4 ways on. There was also quite the downhill into Keystone, the closest town to Mount Rushmore.
There are multiple pullouts on route that let you catch your first glimpse of Mount Rushmore. Just be aware that these are usually found on a hill so getting back on the road may be a little interesting.
Overall its a fairly easy drive to the monument from Rapid City.
From the north-west and south-west Hwy 385 will be the main route. We took the 385 south from Mount Rushmore towards Custer.
While at Mount Rushmore, we spoke with a ranger about places to go in the area and the best way to get there. He described Hwy 385 as “flat” but I think that is a relative term. Again prepare for some hills.
If you’re coming from the south-east then Hwy 16A is the obvious choice but maybe not the most RV friendly. Also known as the Iron Mountain Road, Hwy 16 is a very windy road with some narrow tunnels. If you look on Google it looks like a squiggly line!
There are three tunnels about 3 miles from Keystone situated on several switchback turns. The smallest tunnel on the Iron Mountain Road is 13’5″ wide and 12’4″ high. Be very careful if you must go through these tunnels or better yet avoid this road.
To avoid this section of Hwy 16A you may need to take a more roundabout route. So plan ahead and map out your path ahead of time.
There are other routes to get around in the Black Hills Forest but I would advise against them in an RV. Hwy 87 to Sylvan, also known as the Needles Highway, is very narrow and winding. There are some EXTREMELY narrow one lane tunnels on the route with the smallest being only 9 feet wide and 12 feet tall.
So, if you know exactly how big your rig is and are very confident in your driving abilities then you could probably navigate them but it’s smarter to not take the risk.
Parking At Mount Rushmore
Now that you have arrived safely in one piece you’ll need to pay for parking. While Mount Rushmore does not have an entrance fee it does have a parking fee.
A parking pass will cost you $10 but it’s good for 1 year. So you can always come back another time within the next year from your date of purchase.
They have recently changed the approach to parking to help alleviate some congestion at the entrance. Most vehicles will use the automated ticket dispenser to get a ticket then pay for parking once in the monument. RV’s will still have a staffed booth to help direct you to the right parking area.
Mount Rushmore can accommodate RVs up to 45 feet in length. There is one parking area for smaller units that includes about 25 parking spaces and about 40 scatter along the edge of the parking complex for longer RVs and buses. Unfortunately, overnight parking is not allowed.
Spending Your Day
You can spend as little or as much time as you want to explore the monument. Leading up the monument you pass through the Avenue of Flags, a walkway lined with flags from all US states and territories.
The flags are arranged alphabetically with the name of the state, territory, district or commonwealth listed on the column below, as well as the date the place became a part of the USA.
You also get a pretty great shot of the presidents heads from the Avenue of Flags. Once you are done gawking at all the flags you will make your way to the Grand View Terrace. Here’s where you can get your money shot with you and the presidents.
There are some great options for how to explore Mount Rushmore. You can rent an audio device and take a self-guided tour along Presidents Trail, a half-mile loop that gets you as close as possible to the base of the carvings.
There are also several free guided tours available during the summer months. The Ranger Walk & Talk is a 30 minute guided walk along Presidential Trail where the ranger will cover some of the history of Mount Rushmore and the Black Hills.
An evening program is available, similar to the Ranger Walk & Talk but includes a film and the lighting of the monument.
At the start of the Presidential Trail, you can find information about the American Indian tribes of the area as well as a kid-specific spot.
At the Youth Exploration area, kids can participate in interactive programs to discover the interesting aspects of Mount Rushmore.
The Lakota, Nakota and Dakota Heritage Village provides an opportunity to explore the history of the Indian tribes who populated the Black Hills and surrounding areas.
You’ll want to check out the Information Center when you get to the monument to find out times and hours of operation for the programs available during your visit.
It’s a good idea to check out the Mount Rushmore website prior to your visit to check for alerts and weather conditions. The Black Hills do get snow so if you are visiting early in the season trails may be closed due to weather or for maintenance.
Don’t forget to hit up the visitors center for your Mount Rushmore stamp in your National Park Passport.
Places to Stay
It’s definitely worth staying the Black Hills a few days to explore Mount Rushmore and the national forest. There are many places to stay in the area ranging from rustic to full hookup. We tend to prefer rustic and be closer to nature.
There are 30 forest service campgrounds available in the Black Hills National Forest totaling more than 682 sites. Some of the sites have an on-site host but none have any sort of hook ups. Reservation can be online or by phone, though, some sites don’t take reservations. Per night fees are around $14-$26/night.
The sites are broken up into four geographical areas: Central Hills in the central portion of the forest, Northern Hills – Spearfish in the northern area on the South Dakota side, Northern Hills – Sundance in the north on the Wyoming side and Southern Hills in the southern portion of the forest.
The closest campground to Mount Rushmore is Horsetheif Lake Campground.
- Black Fox Campground – 9 sites – up to 45′ – Not reservable
- Castle Peak Campground – 9 sites – up to 45′ – Not reservable
- Custer Trails Campground – 16 sites – up to 50′ – Not reservable
- Dutchman Lake Campground – 44 sites – up to 50′ – Reservable
- Whitetail Campground – 17 sites – up to 50′ – Reservable
- Ditch Creek Campground – 13 sites – up to 50′ – Not reservable
- Bear Gulch Campground – group camping – up to 45′
- Pactola Campground – 83 sites – up to 50′ – Reservable
- Sheridan Lake North Group Campground – group camping – up to 60′
- Sheridan Lake South Shore Campground – 126 sites – up to 67′ – Reservable
- Boxelder Forks Campground – 14 sites – up to 45′ – Not reservable
- Dalton Lake Campground – 10 sites – up to 45′ – Not reservable
- Hanna Campground – 13 sites – up to 55′ – Not reservable
- Rod & Gun Campground – 7 sites – up to 50′ – Not reservable
- Roubaix Lake Campground – 56 sites – up to 45′ – Reservable
- Timon Campground – 7 sites – up to 60′ – Not reservable
- Bearlodge Campground – 8 sites – up to 25′ – Not reservable
- Cook Lake Recreation Area – 32 sites – up to 45′ – Reservable
- Reuter Campground – 24 sites – up to 30′ – Reservable
- Sundance Horse Camp – 10 sites – up to 50′ – Specifically for horses
- Beaver Creek Campground – 8 sites – up to 45′ – Not reservable
- Bismarck Lake Campground – 23 sites – up to 55′ – Reservable
- Comanche Park Campground – 24 sites – up to 30′ – Reservable
- Grizzly Bear Campground – 20 sites – size max unknown – Not reservable
- Horsethief Lake Campground – 36 sites – up to 50′ – Reservable
- Iron Creek Horse Camp – 9 sites – up to 50′ – Specifically for horses
- Oreville Campground – 24 sites – up to 50′ – Reservable
- Redbank Spring Campground – 4 sites – up to 40′ – Not reservable
- Willow Creek Horse Camp – 8 sites – up to 50′ – Specifially for horses
If you want a spot with a little more luxury there are many RV parks in the area. It’ll just depend on how far you want to travel to get to Mount Rushmore.
One of the closest is Mount Rushmore KOA. Fully kitted out with 50amps, a pool, hot tub and sauna you may not want to leave. Fortunately, they also offer a shuttle to Mount Rushmore. Rates are around $70 for the night and they can accommodate large rigs and have pull through sites.
What is the to do in the Black Hills National Forest? Aside from Mount Rushmore National Memorial, the Black Hills National Forest boasts Jewel Cave National Park, Wind Cave National Park, Crazy Horse Memorial (still unfinished) as well as a plethora of outdoor activities like Hiking and fishing.
What is the National Park Passport? The “Passport to Your National Parks” is a tourist booklet where you collect cancellations and stamps for all the national parks you visit.