When is the Best Time of Day to See Mount Rushmore?

Written by Eliana Riley
Published: August 30, 2023
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Key Points

  • Mount Rushmore is found in the Black Hills, which originally belonged to the Lakota people.
  • Summer is the best time to visit Mount Rushmore, particularly between May and September.
  • Crowds, sunlight, and weather differ according to time-of-day tourists visit Mount Rushmore.

Background on Mount Rushmore

Mount Rushmore, being a part of the Black Hills, was originally called Six Grandfathers Mountain by the Lakota tribe. The Black Hills and Six Grandfathers Mountain held deep significance for the Lakota people group, both spiritually and medicinally. However, the United States government began to take over Lakota land, including the Black Hills, by 1877.

Sculptor Gutzon Borglum was commissioned to complete Mount Rushmore by 1925, where he would carve the faces of four presidents. Each president represented an important historical event, and each event signified the expansion of U.S. territory and power. For instance, Thomas Jefferson was chosen for the famous Louisiana Purchase, which almost doubled the size of the United States. By October of the year 1941, the faces of George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt, and Abraham Lincoln were etched into the side of Mount Rushmore forever.

Black Hills

South Dakota’s Black Hills hold a deep significance with the Sioux people, particularly the Lakota tribe.

©iStock.com/John_Brueske

Features of Mount Rushmore

While Mount Rushmore’s main attraction is the monument itself, it also includes several resources and facilities around it. For one, a small restaurant is located on-site. In addition, a visitors center allows tourists to learn more about the monument and to stamp their National Parks Passport. The visitors center also supplies resources for people who speak languages other than English, including Spanish, French, Lakota, and more.

A gift shop is also located close to the monument and includes several mementos and souvenirs for visitors to enjoy. Moreover, Mount Rushmore includes an outdoor amphitheater where tourists can sit and listen to rangers and experts speak on the monument’s history. Finally, the walkway to Mount Rushmore is lined with state and territory flags, which reflect Borglum’s intent that Mount Rushmore pay homage to United States expansion.

Mount Rushmore and Yellowstone - 2018

Mount Rushmore features a walkway lined by state and territory flags.

©BrantleyHighline/iStock via Getty Images

Mount Rushmore in the Morning

During the morning, Mount Rushmore is illuminated by sunrise, which creeps up steadily above the Black Hills of South Dakota. Mount Rushmore parking and facilities open at 5:00 a.m. every day of the year, apart from Christmas Day. Thus, visitors can see this man-made wonder any morning of their choosing.

Mount Rushmore is a great morning visit because crowds of tourists are unlikely to be there early. In addition, visitors receive a stunning view of the presidents’ portraits, as they face southeast for the best sun exposure. This sun exposure is particularly heightened during the morning, as opposed to the evening.

Mount Rushmore National Memorial

Due to Mount Rushmore facing southeast, the presidents’ faces are clearly visible in the morning.

©mcdonojj/iStock via Getty Images

Mount Rushmore at Midday

Around midday and during the afternoon, Mount Rushmore receives increased sun exposure. Therefore, the presidents’ faces are typically most illuminated at this time, making midday a great time to see the monument. Conversely, midday may not be the best time to see Mount Rushmore due to crowds.

Most tourists visit Mount Rushmore at midday, making parking and seating for viewing the monument less available. While the midday sun often offers an incredibly detailed view of the monument, visitors should understand their time there may be limited or prolonged due to waiting for parking, seating, and use of on-site facilities.

Mount Rushmore national Monument Entrance

Crowds are most common at Mount Rushmore at midday.

©DurkTalsma/iStock via Getty Images

Mount Rushmore in the Evening

Mount Rushmore is particularly beautiful during the evening. However, the beauty of Mount Rushmore during the evening comes more from the natural scenery than from the monument itself. At sunset, the black hills are illuminated by rich pink, purple, and orange hues throughout the sky. The ombre shading of the sunset falls lower and lower behind the hills until they are seen no more at night.

The monument, on the other hand, loses sunlight quickly during the evening due to its position facing southeast. The sun sets behind the presidents’ faces, which are difficult to see at night. In addition, the staff may not turn the lights on right at sunset; they may wait to shine light on the presidents’ faces until a certain time. One positive aspect of visiting Mount Rushmore in the evening is that there are no crowds at the site. In addition, the state flags are illuminated down a pathway, shining beautifully in the darkness.

Lit up Rushmore above flags

At night, the details of Mount Rushmore may prove challenging to make out.

©PapaBear/iStock via Getty Images

When is the Best Time of Day to See Mount Rushmore?

The best time of day to visit Mount Rushmore is during the morning. At this time, crowds are low, meaning visitors can easily find parking. In addition, the rising sun fully shows the presidents’ faces. Another benefit of visiting the monument in the morning is that temperatures are often cooler, and a light breeze may relieve tourists of the heat.

When is the Best Season to See Mount Rushmore?

The best season to see Mount Rushmore is during summer, particularly between May and September. During summer, temperatures peak in South Dakota, creating a warm and relaxing atmosphere for tourists. Conversely, winter brings frigid temperatures and possible snowfall.

The drive up to Mount Rushmore can be difficult to navigate when it has snowed, especially since some portions of the drive are steep along a winding road. Therefore, clear roads and warm temperatures are best for viewing the monument, making summer the perfect season for a Mount Rushmore visit.

Mount Rushmore, The United States

Summer is the best season to view Mount Rushmore due to clear skies and warm weather.

©iStock.com/Patrick Jennings

The photo featured at the top of this post is © Exploring and Living/Shutterstock.com


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About the Author

Eliana Riley is a writer at A-Z Animals where her primary focus is on geography, travel, and landmarks. Eliana is a second-year student at Miami University majoring in English Education and Spanish. A resident of Tennessee and Ohio, Eliana enjoys traveling to national and state parks, hiking, kayaking, and camping.

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