Mount Rushmore in Keystone, South Dakota

Mount Rushmore road trip itinerary (& things to see on the way)

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And I’m back from my Labor Day Mount Rushmore road trip from Chicago to South Dakota and back! It was quite the whirlwind of adventure! I have to admit that my list of roadside attractions to see on the route was pretty ambitious, but we managed to make it to twenty-nine attractions in four days! (Including two that weren’t on my itinerary and not including the handful that we passed by and saw without being able to stop.)

I DID make it to Mount Rushmore and it was quite a thrill to see it up close. You see, one of my favorite photos that I have is an old black and white picture of the monument that my grandparents took long ago:

Unfinished Mount Rushmore without Theodore Roosevelt - Mount Rushmore Road Trip
Unfinished Mount Rushmore without Theodore Roosevelt

Notice something missing? The photo has George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, and Thomas Jefferson, but Teddy Roosevelt is just framed out. I’m not sure when the photo was taken but it had to have been somewhere between 1934 and 1939, when Roosevelt was dedicated. It was that photo that inspired my road trip to Mount Rushmore. I had to see the monument, completed, for myself!

Since I’d never seen Mount Rushmore in person, and I happened to have a four-day weekend over Labor Day, I decided that it was the perfect time to pack up my car and head on over to South Dakota on a road trip to Mt Rushmore. By Saturday afternoon we were standing in front of the carved Black-Hills Mountain and four complete presidential faces.

Mount Rushmore in Keystone, South Dakota - Mount Rushmore Road Trip
Mount Rushmore in Keystone, South Dakota

While in South Dakota, we also went to see Crazy Horse, which is another monument that’s been in the works for 50 years and still has 50 years to go. Who knows, maybe someday my grandkids will find this photo and be inspired to take off on a road trip of their own.

Chief Crazy Horse Memorial in Crazy Horse, South Dakota - Mount Rushmore Road Trip
Chief Crazy Horse Memorial in Crazy Horse, South Dakota

What is Mount Rushmore?

Mount Rushmore National Memorial is a larger-than-life sculpture of four U.S. presidents carved into the side of a mountain in the Black Hills region of South Dakota. The four giant faces are of George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt and Abraham Lincoln. Each bust spans about 60 feet tall.

Mount Rushmore road trip itinerary

When planning a road trip to Mount Rushmore your itinerary will really be determined on where you are coming from. I drove from Chicago to South Dakota and back and that took me over 2,500 miles through five states over four days.

Our Mount Rushmore trip itinerary took us there on I-90 the whole way, driving through Wisconsin, Minneapolis, and South Dakota. On the way back, we went south through Nebraska (stopping at Carhenge on the way), then took I-80 across Nebraska and Iowa.

Here’s a map full of Mount Rushmore road trip ideas: the pink pins were what to see on the way there and the blue pins were things to see on the way back. We didn’t make it to all of the stops, but we saw quite a few!

Attractions near Mount Rushmore

There are plenty of attractions near Mount Rushmore to add to your itinerary. Make a full day, weekend, or week of tourism by visiting these nearby places on your Mount Rushmore vacation or while driving through the Black Hills.

Badlands National Park

Visit Badlands National Park to experience 244,000 acres of breathtaking landscapes full of rock formations, buttes, canyons and spires. Take a scenic drive through the Badlands Loop Scenic Byway, hike one of the many trails, hunt for fossils, and look for wildlife (like prairie dogs and bison) in the grasslands. Visit their website for more information.

Devils Tower National Monument

Devils Tower is a laccolithic butte that rises 867 feet above the surrounding Wyoming landscape. Made of igneous rocks, this was the first national monument. Climb to the top or admire from afar. Visit their website for more information.

Custer State Park

Custer State Park is a wildlife reserve in the Black Hills. It’s known for its incredible wildlife, including famed bison herds. Visit their website for more information.

Rapid City

The distance from Rapid City to Mount Rushmore is only 23.1 miles, a short 29 min drive via US-16 W. There’s plenty to see in Rapid City, South Dakota. There’s a dinosaur park full of dino sculptures, Bear Country USA (a drive-through wildlife park), and presidential monuments on every corner. Visit their website for more information.

Things to see on the way to Mount Rushmore

There are so many things to see on the way to Mount Rushmore! My road trip took me from Chicago to Mount Rushmore by car, so these are all the roadside attractions and fun stops we stopped at on our way there and back. Click learn more for each one for more information!

Bessie The Cow

Fiberglass Bessie the Cow in Janesville, Wisconsin

Janesville, Wisconsin

A 16-foot-tall, 20-foot-long, one-ton fiberglass giant cow statue.

MouseHouse Cheesehaus

Mousehouse Cheesehaus in Windsor, Wisconsin -- Roadside Attractions in Wisconsin

 Windsor, Wisconsin

A delicious cheese shop with a fun mouse mascot.

Sissy the Cow

Sissy the Cow - a giant fiberglass cow - in DeForest, Wisconsin

DeForest, Wisconsin

Giant fiberglass cow in front of Ehlenbach’s Cheese Chalet.

Pinkie the Pink Elephant

Pink Elephant in Glasses - a roadside attraction in DeForest, Wisconsin

DeForest, Wisconsin

A beloved Wisconsin roadside attraction, this giant pink fiberglass elephant wearing glasses lives outside of a gas station.

Dr. Evermor’s Forevertron

Forevertron in North Freedom, Wisconsin.

North Freedom, Wisconsin

The “world’s largest scrap metal sculpture.” 

Giant Cowboy Mouse

Giant western mouse in a cowboy hat holds a Welcome to Wisconsin sign in Oakdale, Wisconsin

Oakdale, Wisconsin

A truck stop mouse wearing a big cowboy hat.

FAST Fiberglass Animals, Shapes & Trademarks

Fiberglass Pirate - F.A.S.T. - Fiberglass Animals, Shapes & Trademarks in Sparta, Wisconsin

Sparta, Wisconsin

Workshop and outdoor gallery for the “premier manufacturer of fiberglass statues” and water park attractions.

World’s Largest Bicyclist

Big Ben, Ben Bikin - World's Largest Bicyclist in Sparta, Wisconsin

World’s Largest Six-Pack

The Bicycle Man of Sparta is a thirty-two-feet tall fiberglass sculpture symbolizing the town’s claim as the Bicycling Capital of America.

World’s Largest Six-Pack

World's Largest Six-Pack of Beer, a roadside attraction in La Crosse, Wisconsin

La Crosse, Wisconsin

Dressed up storage tanks for City Brewing Company that hold 688,200 barrels of beer 

Culvert Man

Culvert Man in Nodine, Minnesota

Nodine, Minnesota

A 30 foot giant metal cowboy sculpture made from corrugated steel culvert pipes.

Jolly Green Giant Statue

Jolly Green Giant statue in Blue Earth, Minnesota

Blue Earth, Minnesota

A 55-foot statue of the Green Giant mascot. (Also find Little Green Sprout, another Minnesota roadside attraction, nearby.)

Blue Mound Wayside Chapel

Wayside Chapel - Tiny Church in Luverne, Minnesota

Luverne, Minnesota

A tiny church on the side of the road.

Concrete Outline of USS South Dakota

Concrete Outline of USS South Dakota in Sioux Falls, South Dakota

Sioux Falls, South Dakota

A concrete structure depicting the actual dimensions of the USS South Dakota. 

Mr. Bendo Muffler Man

Sioux Falls Mr. Bendo Muffler Man in South Dakota

Sioux Falls, South Dakota

This muffler man and South Dakota roadside attraction has been around since 1963.

Wall Drug

Wall Drug Store in Wall, South Dakota

Wall, South Dakota

A drug store and gift shop known for its free ice water and can’t miss highway signs.

Men Made from Tires

Men made from tires, a roadside attraction in Rapid City, South Dakota

Rapid City, South Dakota

Red, white, and blue rubber figures standing outside of a tire shop.

Dinosaur Park

Rapid City Dinosaur Park in South Dakota

Rapid City, South Dakota

A hill-top playground for giant green cartoon-like dinosaur sculptures.

Storybook Island

Storybook Island in Rapid City, South Dakota

Rapid City, South Dakota

A children’s play area and family theme park with a fairy tale twist.

Cosmos Mystery Area

Cosmos Mystery Area in Rapid City, South Dakota

Rapid City, South Dakota

Stand sideways and watch balls roll upwards on this tours full of interactive optical illusions.

Mount Rushmore National Memorial

Mount Rushmore in Keystone, South Dakota

Keystone, South Dakota

Four former president’s busts carved into the side of a mountain in the Black Hills region of South Dakota

Crazy Horse Mountain Memorial

Chief Crazy Horse Memorial in Crazy Horse, South Dakota

Crazy Horse, South Dakota

A perpetually-in construction monument depicting the Oglala Lakota warrior Crazy Horse.

Carhenge

Carhenge, a Stonehenge replica made from cars, in Alliance, Nebraska - Roadside Attractions in Nebraska

Alliance, Nebraska

A replica of England’s Stonehenge made from cars.

World’s Largest Porch Swing

World’s Largest Porch Swing in Hebron, Nebraska

Hebron, Nebraska

Sit on a 32-foot long porch swing that holds up to 18 adults or 24 children.

World’s Largest Time Capsule

World’s Largest Time Capsule in Seward, Nebraska

Seward, Nebraska

The world’s largest time capsule was dedicated on July 4, 1975 and is set to be opened 50 years later on July 4, 2025.

Spider Made Out of a Volkswagen

Giant Spider made from a Volkswagen Beetle car - a roadside attraction in Avoca, Iowa.

Avoca, Iowa

A giant VW beetle spider made from a vintage Volkswagen beetle car sitting on top of eight long, thin, spider legs.

10-Foot-Tall Rotating Ear of Corn

Large Rotating Ear of Corn - a roadside attraction in Coon Rapids, Iowa

Coon Rapids, Iowa

A giant ear of corn that spins and welcomes you to town.

Where to stay when visiting Mount Rushmore

There are a variety of options when deciding where to stay when visiting Mount Rushmore. There are plenty of budget hotels or rustic lodges. Camping in the black hills is also available for tents, cabins, or RVs.

We briefly set up camp at the now defunct Flintstone Bedrock City, but it was really windy so we decided to keep going and find a hotel in Nebraska. See the map below for hotels near Mount Rushmore.

Booking.com

Pin this Mount Rushmore road trip itinerary for later:

Planning a road trip to Mount Rushmore? My Mount Rushmore road trip itinerary from Chicago to South Dakota. Things to see on the way including Rapid City and Chief Crazy Horse Monument, and other roadside attractions.   #SouthDakotaRoadsideAttractions #SouthDakotaRoadsideAttraction #RoadsideAttractions #RoadsideAttraction #RoadTrip #SouthDakotaRoadTrip #SouthDakotaRoadTripMap #ThingsToDoInSouthDakota #SouthDakotaRoadTripItinerary #SouthDakotaRoadTripIdeas #MountRushmore
Planning a road trip to Mount Rushmore? My Mount Rushmore road trip itinerary from Chicago to South Dakota. Things to see on the way including Rapid City and Chief Crazy Horse Monument, and other roadside attractions.
Planning a road trip to Mount Rushmore? My Mount Rushmore road trip itinerary from Chicago to South Dakota. Things to see on the way including Rapid City and Chief Crazy Horse Monument, and other roadside attractions.   #SouthDakotaRoadsideAttractions #SouthDakotaRoadsideAttraction #RoadsideAttractions #RoadsideAttraction #RoadTrip #SouthDakotaRoadTrip #SouthDakotaRoadTripMap #ThingsToDoInSouthDakota #SouthDakotaRoadTripItinerary #SouthDakotaRoadTripIdeas #MountRushmore
Planning a road trip to Mount Rushmore? My Mount Rushmore road trip itinerary from Chicago to South Dakota. Things to see on the way including Rapid City and Chief Crazy Horse Monument, and other roadside attractions.
Val

Val is the founder and head road tripper at Silly America. Having grown up near Berwyn's famed car kabob, The Spindle, and a restaurant with a cow on its roof, her fascination with roadside attractions started early. Today, Val has visited over 300 roadside attractions across 31 states and is constantly on the lookout for the next BIG thing!

Val also blogs about her life, travels, and cats on her personal blog, Choosing Figs.

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