Part of South Dakota’s allure is its seemingly endless backcountry terrain en route to head-turning mountain towns, jaw-dropping monuments, and can’t-miss tourist traps. Of course, every Black Hills bucket list should include a lengthy explorative visit to Mount Rushmore National Memorial, one of the country’s most-visited human-made marvels. But then what? Piecing together a multi-day itinerary is no simplistic endeavor, mainly because there are so many awe-inspiring visual masterpieces within minutes of Rushmore Express, a quintessential, family-friendly Keystone motel. Thus, we’ve collated five unique day trips from Mount Rushmore, all of which are undeniably meritorious and feasible. Let’s start just over the Wyoming border.
1. Devil’s Tower National Monument – 130 Miles
Most day trips from Mount Rushmore are within 85 miles, but the two-plus-hour journey to Wyoming’s Devil’s Tower National Monument is unquestionably worth the trip. It’s hard to describe just how spellbinding this laccolithic butte is, especially when you first stand amid its staggering presence. We highly recommend hopping onto the Red Beds Trail (traversed clockwise) as it features the best vantage points of the Tower and less foot traffic. Don’t forget to picnic in the easterly grass field (as pictured)!
2. Badlands National Park – 84 Miles
Very few natural attractions rival the Badlands, a geological anomaly approximately 85 miles east of Keystone. Unlike the four other day trips from Mount Rushmore on this list, the Badlands require a healthy amount of exercise. For experienced hikers, we recommend climbing Saddle Pass and heading eastward on the Castle Trail (as pictured). Don’t be afraid to go off-trail to get a bird’s-eye view of the valley. Shorter jaunts that we also love are Notch Trail and Door Trail.
3. Hot Springs – 51 Miles
Think of this day trip as a wholistic exploration of Hot Springs and its many surrounding attractions, including Wind Cave National Park, The Mammoth Site, Cascade Falls (and swimming hole), and Evans Plunge, “the oldest attraction in the Black Hills.” Before or after your journey down to Hot Springs, make sure to circle the always breathtaking Custer State Park Wildlife Loop.
4. Wall Drug Store – 76 Miles
Wall’s 76,000-square-foot drug store, gift shop emporium, and eatery is a once-in-a-lifetime experience for the kiddos. This eye-popping roadside attraction boasts extra-large animal sculptures, an arcade, gold mining opportunities, over 1,000 old-time photographs, countless souvenir shops, and even a roaring T-Rex. Don’t leave without sipping on a five-cent cup of coffee and devouring a world-famous donut.
5. Deadwood – 49 Miles
Deadwood, HBO’s Golden Globe-winning series set in the late 1800s, led to an influx in tourists that hasn’t subsided since it first aired in 2004. Not only is this old gold rush town set marvelously in a low valley, surrounded by rolling mountains and dense forestry, but Main Street is chock-full of entertainment. Enjoy a live mystery dinner theater, pull on one of the world’s largest slot machines, brave an escape room, slip into a couple of museums, and pan for gold.
Family-Friendly Mount Rushmore Hotels
After embarking on one of these day trips from Mount Rushmore, return to Keystone for an evening to remember. Enjoy a hearty meal in town, visit Mount Rushmore after dark, and cap off an unforgettable day of adventure beside your gas fireplace in the comfort of your Rushmore Express suite. Other in-room or on-site amenities include high-speed Wi-Fi, queen beds, flat-screen televisions, private whirlpools, and complimentary breakfast. We also have ample lot space for vehicles of all shapes and sizes, ranging from RVs to motorcycles.
To book a well-deserved spring or summertime escape to South Dakota’s Black Hills, please check availability online.