What Is the Best Time to Travel to Mount Rushmore National Memorial?

The autumn shoulder season is the best time to visit Mount Rushmore National Memorial, but for the most affordable rates you might consider the winter off-season.
Written by Patrick Price
Reviewed by Kathleen Flear
Updated on Oct 31, 2022
Mount Rushmore National Memorial has everything you need to feel more connected to the past, and to the natural world. Take a trip there this summer to see the monument in the full swing of peak season. Or save some money by planning a winter trip.
Nestled within the lush wilderness of Dakota’ Black HIlls is Mount Rushmore, one of the most iconic symbols of the American spirit and human ingenuity ever created. Visiting this larger-than-life attraction is something everyone should do at least once in their life. 
Like most high-profile tourist destinations, Mount Rushmore National Memorial has a peak season and a few slower seasons. It’s important to be familiar with exactly what to expect from each season. That way you can choose the best time of year for your trip. 
To make things simpler for you,
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The best times of year to travel to Mount Rushmore National Memorial

The vast majority of tourists schedule their visits to Mount Rushmore for the summer peak season to coincide with the warm weather. However, the South Dakota summer heat can be just as uncomfortable as the winter chill.
To beat the heat, avoid the crowds, and save money, you might consider visiting Mount Rushmore in the Spring or Fall shoulder seasons. 
If a little cold doesn’t bother you, you might even consider taking a winter trip in the off-season

Peak season: June to August

The good: Warm weather
The bad: Heavier crowds, higher rates, excessive heat, rain and hail storms 
The weather: Low 50s to low 80s
Summer is the peak season in Mount Rushmore National Memorial. Families from all over the country take advantage of summer break and the warm weather to plan trips to the iconic mountain sculpture. 
Many of these visitors simply assume that June through August is the best time for a visit, and then never give it a second thought. In reality, summer offers few real advantages
While the peak season does have warmer weather, the temperatures in the shoulder seasons are often much more pleasant—summers can easily become uncomfortably hot. Not only this, but Rushmore is also beset by frequent rain and/or hail storms during the summer. 
The one genuine draw for a summer visit is the
Evening Lighting Ceremony
. As dusk falls over Mount Rushmore, the massive floodlights come on creating a dazzling spectacle. These ceremonies are held every evening at either 8 pm or 9 pm—but only in the summer. 
Summer is also a good time to participate in one of the park's many
Ranger Programs
. And, of course, no trip to Mount Rushmore (no matter the season) would be complete without a stroll down the iconic
Avenue of Flags
Pro Tip If you do decide to visit the memorial in the summer, try to be there early in the morning before the crowds and the heat have a chance to descend on the park. 

Off-season: November to March

The good: Fewer crowds, lower rates, 
The bad: Chilly, Sculptor's Studio will be closed
The weather: High 10s to mid-40s 
The climate near Mount Rushmore is relatively temperate so it won’t typically get that much colder in the winter. When a cold day does come, though, it can easily get down to the high teens. 
If you’re eager to avoid dealing with other visitors, the Winteroff-season might be the best time for your visit. This is also when the rates for travel and nearby lodging will be the cheapest due to lack of demand. 
Once you’ve finished taking in the sights at Mount Rushmore, you might consider going for a scenic drive along the nearby
Spearfish Canyon
. This 19-mile stretch represents some of the most breathtaking natural beauty in all of the Black Hills. The winter chill does nothing to diminish the grandeur of the limestone canyon walls and roaring waterfalls that you’ll see there. 

Shoulder season: September to October & April to May

The good: Warmer than winter, less crowded, pleasant weather, fall colors
The bad: Can be a bit chilly
The weather: High 30s to mid-60s
The shoulder seasons – especially early fall – are decidedly the best time to visit Mount Rushmore National Monument. The weather is almost always mild and will rarely (if ever) gets either too hot or too cold. 
In mid to late September, the summer crowds will have dispersed and the vibrant autumn colors will have taken hold in the trees.
Hike the Blackberry Trail
or the
President’s Trail
and take in the full splendor of the Black Hills in autumn. If you’re lucky, you’ll catch a glimpse of the region's
diverse wildlife
as well. 
In the early fall, the
Sculptor's Studio
will still be open for the season. Anyone who wants to learn more about the history of Mount Rushmore can stop by and hear a 15-minute presentation by facility staff. 
Key Takeaway If you’re fortunate enough to see some of the wildlife that calls the Black Hills home, make sure to practice caution. For your safety and the safety of the animals, observe and photograph from a safe distance. 

The cheapest time to travel to Mount Rushmore National Monument 

The cheapest time to visit Mount Rushmore National Memorial is the winter season. The cooler weather discourages less stalwart adventures. By November, park attendance will have dwindled almost to nothing. 
As demand for travel and lodging accommodations dropped, the prices will also fall. Prices will typically be at their lowest point of the year during January

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