Ultimate Denver to Mount Rushmore Road Trip Guide

Planning a Denver to Mount Rushmore road trip and want to see other South Dakota attractions including the Badlands, Custer State Park, and Black Hills?

Mount Rushmore National Memorial is on the bucket list of several visitors.

The four presidents are all larger than life, and watching the sun go down behind them is an awesome experience!

But there are many other attractions near Mt. Rushmore that feature South Dakota’s Gold Rush history, Native American culture, wildlife, and outdoor opportunities.

Here is a detailed guide to planning this route.

Also Read: Denver to Yellowstone Road Trip

Denver to Mt. Rushmore / Rapid City Route

The Denver to Mount Rushmore road trip is one of the most popular drives in the Midwest.

You will be driving through the front ranges of the Rocky Mountains via Loveland, Colorado and Fort Collins before entering south eastern Wyoming.

The route takes you through Wyoming’s capital, Cheyenne, before reaching the Black Hills.

Once in the Black Hills, set up base in Rapid City or Custer and see all the attractions.

Keystone is also a good place to stay near Mt. Rushmore.

For a longer trip, drive along I-90 and see attractions such as Badlands, Mitchell Corn Palace, and Sioux Falls.

Denver to Mount Rushmore Driving Distance

Wondering, how far is Mount Rushmore from Denver by road trip?

The fastest route along I-25 and Us-18 is 375 miles long and takes about 6 hours without stopping.

We recommend taking this most direct route and then spending a few days to explore the many attractions around Mt. Rushmore.

How many day to plan the Denver Badlands Rushmore drive?

If you are short on time, then you can easily see Mt. Rushmore in a weekend.

However, we suggest spending 7 to 10 days in the region and explore its many unique attractions including the breathtaking scenic drives, surreal landscapes, and roadside attractions.

Best Time to Plan Denver to Mount Rushmore Road Trip

Summer is the best time to plan a trip to the South Dakota Black Hills.

This is the peak season and all attractions as well as amenities are open.

Late fall, spring break are also popular though you may encounter snow on the roads.

Several people also plan a winter trip to the region: be prepared for the extreme temperatures and occasional snowstorms which might change your travel plans.

What is there to see between Denver and Mount Rushmore?

There are many amazing attractions on the Denver to Mount Rushmore road trip including Custer State Park, Rapid City, Needles Highway, Badlands National Park, and more.

Here is information about the most popular Denver Rapid City road trip stops.


If you are flying into Denver for the South Dakota road trip, then we recommend spending a few days to see the city.

Most airlines including United Airlines, Delta, and American fly this route.

Rent a car at the airport and then head downtown.

Denver is one of the most beautiful and diverse cities in the United States. 

From the stunning Rocky Mountains to the lively downtown area, there is something for everyone in Denver. 

Whether you’re a nature lover or a city slicker, you’ll find plenty to do in this vibrant city. 

Enjoy the many cultural and entertainment options before beginning your road trip.

Also Read: 10 Days in Colorado Road Trip Itinerary

Rocky Mountains National Park

The Rocky Mountains are a must see attraction, especially if you’re from out of state.

There are fantastic hiking trails, wildlife viewing opportunities, and scenic drives to admire the scenery.

In winter you can enjoy snowshoeing and cross country skiing while in summer there is kayaking and rafting on the rivers.


Boulder is a gorgeous city along the Rocky Mountains that is less than an hour’s drive from Denver.

There are many great restaurants, shops, and entertainment options in this vibrant town. 

If you’re looking for somewhere to stay before your road trip, then set up at one of the hotels near Boulder.

Fort Collins

Driving from Denver to Fort Collins is a pleasant drive that takes about one hour.

There are many things to do in downtown Fort Collins, including walking along the Poudre River and admiring the local breweries.

Colorado State University offers plenty of activities for college students and families alike.

If you have time, spend a few hours at the Fossil Creek Reservoir just outside Fort Collins.


After you reach the border of Wyoming, it is only about 60 miles to Cheyenne, Wyoming’s capital.

There is a lot to see and do in this city including the beautiful State Capitol Building and Plains Indian Museum.

Every July, Cheyenne hosts a rodeo and festival called Frontier Days.

The entire city becomes a rodeo arena as cowboys from across the country compete in events such as barrel racing and calf roping. 

Rapid City

Rapid City is a beautiful city in the Black Hills region of South Dakota.

It is located about 90 miles from Mount Rushmore and has plenty to do for all ages.

There are several lodging options along with excellent restaurants, shops, and entertainment venues.

The city has several family friendly attractions.

While you’re in Rapid City, don’t miss out on the many activities that celebrate the rich Native American history in the Black Hills.

Optionally, you can also fly into Rapid City and begin this road trip.

Custer State Park

Custer State Park is the largest state park in America.

It is home to over 71,000 acres of diverse landscape including grasslands, aspen groves, pine forests, and scenic drives.

Be sure to drive the Custer Wildlife Loop Road, Iron Mountain Road, and the Needles Highway when in Custer.

When you continue driving through Custer and enter Custer State Park, make sure to stop at the visitor center for more information.

Black Hills National Forest

This vast forest covers over 1.2 million acres in western South Dakota and is only a short drive from Custer.

The small town of Hill City is located within the National Forest near several caves, waterfalls, hiking trails, and parks.

Also Read: Best Things to do in the Black Hills, South Dakota

Mount Rushmore National Memorial

The highlight of your trip!

Mount Rushmore National Memorial is one of the most popular attractions in South Dakota.

It is home to the famous presidential sculptures of George Washington, Theodore Roosevelt, Thomas Jefferson, and Abraham Lincoln.

There are many activities in the region that take advantage of Mount Rushmore’s views including horseback riding, hiking trails, scenic drives, paragliding tours, and helicopter tours.

When driving to Mount Rushmore, make sure to stop at the monument’s visitor center for more information about visiting and other nearby attractions.

Also be sure to stop by late and see the evening lighting ceremony.


Keystone, South Dakota is the base for Mount Rushmore.

Keystone is located just 10 miles south of Mount Rushmore and has several hotels, excellent restaurants, shops, and entertainment venues.

It is also a great town to take a stroll on the Main Street.

Crazy Horse Memorial

The world’s largest sculpture is being carved into the side of a mountain just a few miles from Mount Rushmore.

Crazy Horse Memorial is still under construction, but offers guided tours and a visitor center with more information about this incredible project.

Mammoth Site of Hot Springs

Take the kids to see mammoth remains on this road trip!

The Mammoth Site of Hot Springs is a nonprofit museum that shows visitors how mammoths lived and died in South Dakota.

This museum has the only documented discovery of a mammoth nursery.

Located in Hot Springs, it is a fun stop on your way to the Badlands.

Badlands National Park

South Dakota’s most famous national park is a little over an hour from the Mammoth Site of Hot Springs.

Make sure to allow 2-3 hours for your visit as there are many things to see and do in the park.

There are scenic drives, hiking trails, wildlife viewing opportunities, campgrounds, and picnic areas within the park.

Also Read: Best hiking trails in Badlands National Park

Hill City

Less than an hour from Badlands National Park is Hill City.

This town has several family friendly attractions including the Main Street Arts & Antiques District, Fossil Site Interpretive Center, and haunted tours.

There are also many hotels, restaurants, shops, and entertainment venues in this charming town.

When you continue on your road trip from Hill City, be sure to stop along US 18 and admire the scenery.

This two-lane highway travels through rugged terrain and offers views of cactus covered hillsides and yellow grasses that stretch as far as the eye can see.

Wall Drug Store

Located in Wall, South Dakota is the famous Wall Drug Store.

This well-known tourist attraction is home to free ice water, live music, countless exhibits, and the World’s Largest Jackalope!

Wall Drug Store has an incredible gift shop that is worth exploring.

And when you’re in the area between late September to early November, be sure to stop at Wall Drug Store for some pumpkin patches, carnival rides, live entertainment, and of course apple cider donuts!

Wind Cave National Park

Take a self-guided tour and see some of the world’s most unusual limestone formations!

Wind Cave National Park is home to striking underground structures including box work, frostwork, and needlepoint.

There are also many animal species that reside in the park including bison, elk, rattlesnakes, cave spiders, and mule deer.

On the park’s scenic drives, you just might spot deer grazing in fields near the road!

And be sure to stop at the park visitor center to learn more about this national treasure.


Adventurous, historic and exciting describe the town of Deadwood.

This former mining community has a western flair and is home to “The Last Gasp of the Western Frontier.”

In addition to gambling establishments, several museums, live entertainment venues, restaurants, bars, shops, casinos, and festivals all contribute to this unique destination.


Mitchell, South Dakota is a city with a big heart and is home to the Corn Palace!

This landmark building is decorated with a different theme each year since 1892.

Make sure to see the special corn displays in this colorful palace during your next visit to Mitchell.

Aside from the countless things to do in Mitchell, it is also just a short drive from the picturesque Lake Mitchell.

Sioux Falls

Located in the eastern part of the state, Sioux Falls is worth a visit!

Stroll along Falls Park, visit the Washington Pavilion of Arts and Science, or see the beautiful sculptures!

Devils Tower National Monument

If you have more time, stop by Devils Tower National Monument on your Denver South Dakota road trip return route.

Devils Tower is a large rock formation that reaches 1,267 feet into the sky and has long been considered sacred by Native American tribes in the area.

Related South Dakota Travel Guides

South Dakota Road Trip Itinerary Planner

Best Things to do in South Dakota