Best Time To See Mt. Rushmore-Keystone, South Dakota

With the day crowds being what they are at our nations National Parks it often makes the park experience less than desirable. Too many people in too small of a space =grumpy, shoving, tired and hot adults who are in desperate need of deodorant. Not exactly what one thinks of when they envision a trip of a life time. That is why the Evening Lighting Ceremony at Mt. Rushmore is the perfect time to visit one of our most beloved parks.

The first time I visited Mt. Rushmore was when I was about 8 years old. I didn’t remember much about it because the only thing an 7 year-old would take away from the experience is wondering how much kleenex it would take to blow Washington’s nose. So this year as we caravanned across the country we sought activities that would be enjoyable for our children. Now Mt. Rushmore is questionable at best for kids (they look for all of 1 minute and then want to spend the next 20 minutes in the gift shop) but what better way to see it than at night when the sizzling sun has disappeared and temperature has dropped a good 25 degrees. Yes, this is the perfect time to visit.


From the end of May until Near the end of May until the end of September Mt. Rushmore comes alive at night. At 8 or 9 p.m., depending on the month, your first glimpse of the area is the Avenue of Flags and it is a sight to behold when its lit up. The 56 flags are arranged in alphabetical order which include the 50 states, one district, three territories and two commonwealths of the United States of America. Bold colors with interesting stories line the promenade which will enthrall even the youngest child.

From there you proceed to the outside theatre where visitors watch a 20 minute film about the presidents whose faces grace the granite…George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln, and Theodore Roosevelt. Their faces are a remarkable 60 ft high and a combined 185 ft long. Begun in 1927 by sculptor Gutzon Borglum his Shrine of Democracy Sculpture shines as a beacon for democracy throughout the world since its completion in 1941.

After the film, visitors join in the singing of a patriotic song and veterans are invited to the stage where they give their name and their branch of service. If you are into military patriotism this is a treat as you see the last of the WWII vets slowly make their way forward… frail but proud. Spend some time with them after the show and ask them about their experiences. You will be glad that you did.


Then, finally, when things just couldn’t get anymore emotional the mountain is illuminated and a hush falls over the crowd. The beauty and the enormity of the sculpture fills the dark as the lights shine into every nook and cranny so you see items which escape you in the daylight and all of a sudden everyone lets out a collective sigh of delight and awe. It really is just that magical!

So if you are planning a trip to Mt. Rushmore remember the best part of the day to visit the monument is really at night!

For more information visit the park service website at: