Denver To Mount Rushmore Road Trip: The 10 Best Stops

road trip: 10 best stops

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Embark on an unforgettable adventure with a Denver to Mount Rushmore road trip, where you’ll journey through breathtaking landscapes and iconic landmarks. This scenic route offers road trippers a perfect blend of natural beauty and historical significance.

Starting from Denver, Colorado, travelers can choose from multiple route options to reach Mount Rushmore in South Dakota. The most popular route takes you through Cheyenne, Wyoming, and Rapid City, South Dakota, covering approximately 400 miles and taking around 6-7 hours of driving time, depending on traffic conditions.

Along the way, road trippers can make top stops at must-see attractions such as Badlands National Park, Crazy Horse Memorial, and Custer State Park. These destinations offer stunning views, outdoor adventures, and opportunities to learn about the rich history of the region.

While traffic can vary, especially during peak travel seasons, planning your trip during off-peak hours can help you avoid congestion and make the most of your journey. So pack your bags, hit the road, and get ready for an epic Denver to Mount Rushmore road trip filled with unforgettable experiences.

Rocky Mountain National Park

Essential Information

– Route Options: Take US-36 W from Denver to Estes Park entrance.
– Opening Hours: 24/7, some areas may have seasonal closures.
– Fee: $25 per vehicle for a 7-day pass.
– Visit Duration: Half-day to multiple days.
– Ideal for: Nature lovers, hikers, wildlife enthusiasts.

Why is it a must stop

Rocky Mountain National Park is a must-stop on your road trip for its breathtaking scenic drives along Trail Ridge Road, offering panoramic views of the Rockies. Hiking enthusiasts can explore numerous trails like Bear Lake and Emerald Lake, showcasing alpine lakes and diverse wildlife. Don’t miss the chance to spot elk, bighorn sheep, and marmots in their natural habitat. For a memorable experience, drive through Old Fall River Road for a historic journey through the park’s rugged terrain. Whether you’re a photography buff capturing the sunrise over the mountains or a family seeking outdoor adventures, Rocky Mountain National Park offers a perfect blend of nature and exploration for road trippers.

Cheyenne, Wyoming

Essential Information

– Route Options: I-25 N from Denver
– Opening Hours: Varies by attraction
– Fee: Some attractions may have admission fees
– Visit Duration: Half a day to a full day
– Ideal For: History buffs, outdoor enthusiasts

Why is it a must stop

Cheyenne, Wyoming, along the route from Denver to Mount Rushmore, offers a blend of Wild West history and modern charm that makes it a must-stop destination for road trippers. Here are some activities that make Cheyenne a worthwhile detour:

1. Cheyenne Frontier Days: Experience the world’s largest outdoor rodeo and Western celebration held annually in July. Witness thrilling rodeo events, parades, concerts, and more, showcasing the cowboy culture that is deeply rooted in Cheyenne’s history.

2. Wyoming State Capitol: Explore the majestic Capitol building, a symbol of Wyoming’s rich heritage and political significance. Take a guided tour to learn about the state’s governance and admire the stunning architecture of this historic landmark.

3. Terry Bison Ranch: Get up close and personal with bison on a visit to Terry Bison Ranch. Enjoy a bison train tour, horseback riding, fishing, and even stay overnight in a unique accommodation like a train caboose or a yurt.

4. Historic Downtown: Stroll through the charming streets of downtown Cheyenne lined with historic buildings, boutiques, and eateries. Don’t miss the iconic Wrangler Western Wear store for authentic cowboy gear and souvenirs.

5. Cheyenne Botanic Gardens: Take a relaxing break at the Cheyenne Botanic Gardens, featuring a diverse collection of plants, a children’s garden, and seasonal events. Enjoy a leisurely walk amidst nature and learn about local flora.

Cheyenne, Wyoming, offers a perfect blend of Old West charm and contemporary attractions, making it a memorable stop on your road trip adventure. Whether you’re fascinated by cowboy culture, history, or outdoor activities, Cheyenne has something for every traveler passing through this vibrant city.

Fort Laramie National Historic Site

Essential Information

– Route Options: Easily accessible from Denver to Mount Rushmore route.
– Opening Hours: 8:00 am to 4:30 pm daily.
– Fee: $7 per person for a 7-day pass.
– Visit Duration: 2-3 hours.
– Ideal for: History enthusiasts and road trippers.

Why is it a must stop

The Fort Laramie National Historic Site is a captivating destination for history buffs and road trippers alike. Steeped in the rich heritage of the American West, this site offers a glimpse into the past with its well-preserved buildings and engaging exhibits. Visitors can explore the historic fort, stroll through the old military quarters, and learn about the interactions between Native American tribes and pioneers.

One of the main attractions at Fort Laramie is the historic barracks, where visitors can step back in time and imagine the daily lives of soldiers stationed at the fort. The site also features a fascinating museum that showcases artifacts and exhibits detailing the role of Fort Laramie in shaping the history of the region.

For those seeking outdoor adventure, the site offers scenic walking trails that provide stunning views of the surrounding landscape. Whether you’re interested in history, nature, or simply looking for a unique stop on your road trip, Fort Laramie National Historic Site is a must-visit destination that promises an enriching and educational experience.

Badlands National Park

Essential Information

– Route options: I-90 E from Denver to SD-240 E to Badlands Loop Road
– Opening hours: 24/7, year-round
– Fee: $30 per vehicle for a 7-day pass
– Visit duration: Half-day to full day
– Ideal for: Nature lovers, photographers, road trippers

Why is it a must stop

When embarking on a road trip from Denver to Mount Rushmore, a stop at Badlands National Park is a must for nature enthusiasts and adventure seekers alike. The unique landscape of rugged rock formations, deep canyons, and expansive prairies offers a one-of-a-kind experience that will leave you in awe.

One of the main attractions at Badlands National Park is the scenic driving along the Badlands Loop Road, where you can witness the dramatic beauty of the park from the comfort of your car. Make sure to stop at the various overlooks along the way to capture breathtaking views of the otherworldly terrain.

For those looking to stretch their legs, the park offers numerous hiking trails that range from easy strolls to more challenging treks. The Notch Trail and Door Trail are popular choices, leading you through narrow canyons and up close to the unique rock formations that make the park so iconic.

Photographers will find endless opportunities to capture stunning shots of the ever-changing light and shadows playing on the rugged landscape. Sunrise and sunset are particularly magical times to visit, as the colors of the rock formations come alive in the soft golden light.

Birdwatchers will also delight in the diverse avian species that call the park home, including eagles, hawks, and prairie falcons. Keep your binoculars handy as you explore the park to spot these majestic creatures in their natural habitat.

Overall, Badlands National Park is a must-stop on your road trip for its unparalleled natural beauty, unique geological formations, and opportunities for outdoor adventure. Whether you’re a nature lover, photographer, or simply seeking a memorable stop along your journey, the Badlands will not disappoint.

Wall Drug Store

Essential Information

– Route Options: From Denver to Mount Rushmore
– Opening Hours: 8:00 AM – 8:00 PM
– Fee: Free to visit, pay for purchases
– Visit Duration: 1-2 hours
– Ideal for: Families, history buffs, souvenir hunters

Why is it a must stop

When embarking on a road trip from Denver to Mount Rushmore, one essential pit stop that should not be missed is the iconic Wall Drug Store. This legendary establishment has been a beacon for travelers since 1931, offering a unique blend of history, culture, and good old-fashioned fun.

At Wall Drug Store, visitors can step back in time and explore the sprawling complex filled with Western memorabilia, quirky displays, and a delightful array of shops. From cowboy boots to Native American crafts, the store is a treasure trove of souvenirs and gifts to commemorate your journey.

One of the main draws of Wall Drug Store is its famous free ice water, a tradition that dates back to the store’s early days when it offered refreshment to weary travelers. Today, visitors can still enjoy a cool drink and browse through the various departments, including a pharmacy, cafĂ©, and even a chapel.

For those with a sweet tooth, the homemade donuts at Wall Drug Store are a must-try, freshly baked and irresistibly delicious. And don’t forget to strike a pose with the larger-than-life jackalope statue outside, a whimsical photo opportunity that captures the spirit of the Wild West.

Whether you’re looking for a break from the road, a taste of nostalgia, or simply a fun and quirky experience, Wall Drug Store is a must-stop destination on your road trip adventure. So fuel up, grab a donut, and immerse yourself in the charm and history of this iconic roadside attraction.

Custer State Park

Essential Information

– Route options: Take US-385 N from Denver to SD-87 S to reach Custer State Park.
– Opening hours: Open year-round, 24 hours a day.
– Fee: $20 per vehicle for a 7-day pass.
– Visit duration: Half-day to full-day.
– Ideal for: Nature lovers, wildlife enthusiasts, outdoor adventurers.

Why is it a must stop

Custer State Park is a must-stop on your road trip from Denver to Mount Rushmore for its stunning natural beauty and diverse outdoor activities. The park offers scenic drives, hiking trails, and wildlife viewing opportunities that will make your road trip unforgettable.

One of the main attractions in Custer State Park is the Wildlife Loop Road, where you can spot bison herds, pronghorn antelope, and bighorn sheep roaming freely in their natural habitat. Make sure to have your camera ready for some incredible wildlife sightings.

For outdoor enthusiasts, the park boasts several hiking trails that lead to picturesque vistas and hidden gems. The Cathedral Spires Trail and the Sylvan Lake Shore Trail are popular choices for those looking to stretch their legs and immerse themselves in the park’s beauty.

If you’re a fan of scenic drives, don’t miss the Needles Highway, a winding road that meanders through towering granite spires and lush forests. The Iron Mountain Road is another must-do drive, with its pigtail bridges and tunnels offering breathtaking views of the surrounding landscape.

Whether you’re looking to reconnect with nature, spot wildlife, or simply enjoy the great outdoors, Custer State Park is a road trip stop that should not be missed. Plan to spend a few hours exploring this natural gem on your journey to Mount Rushmore.

Crazy Horse Memorial

Essential Information

– Route Options: Take US-385 N from Denver towards Mount Rushmore.
– Opening Hours: 8:00 AM – 6:00 PM daily.
– Fee: $12 per person, children under 6 free.
– Visit Duration: 2-3 hours.
– Ideal For: Families, history buffs, and road trip enthusiasts.

Why is it a must stop

When embarking on a road trip from Denver to Mount Rushmore, a visit to the Crazy Horse Memorial is a must for those seeking a deeper understanding of Native American culture and history. The monumental sculpture in progress, depicting the legendary Lakota leader Crazy Horse, is a sight to behold. Visitors can witness the ongoing work on the sculpture, which is set to be the largest in the world once completed.

Aside from the impressive sculpture, the Crazy Horse Memorial offers a range of activities that appeal to road trippers. Explore the Indian Museum of North America to learn about the heritage and traditions of Native American tribes. Take a guided tour to gain insights into the history and significance of the memorial. Enjoy cultural performances and demonstrations that showcase Native American art, dance, and music.

For those looking to immerse themselves in nature, the surrounding Black Hills provide ample opportunities for hiking, wildlife viewing, and scenic drives. The Crazy Horse Memorial serves as a gateway to the beauty of the region, making it an ideal stop for nature lovers and outdoor enthusiasts.

Overall, the Crazy Horse Memorial is a unique and educational stop on your road trip itinerary, offering a blend of history, culture, and natural beauty that is sure to enrich your journey from Denver to Mount Rushmore.

Wind Cave National Park

Essential Information

– Route Options: Take US-385 N from Denver towards Mount Rushmore.
– Opening Hours: Park is open year-round, check website for specific hours.
– Fee: Entrance fee required, check website for current rates.
– Visit Duration: 2-4 hours.
– Ideal For: Nature lovers, outdoor enthusiasts, families.

Why is it a must stop

When embarking on a road trip from Denver to Mount Rushmore, a stop at Wind Cave National Park is a must for nature enthusiasts and adventure seekers alike. The park offers a unique experience with its vast underground cave system, making it a fascinating destination to explore.

One of the main attractions at Wind Cave National Park is, of course, the cave itself. Visitors can take guided tours through the intricate passageways, marveling at the stunning formations such as boxwork and flowstone. The cave’s natural beauty and geological significance make it a must-see stop on your road trip.

In addition to the cave tours, the park also boasts scenic hiking trails that wind through the picturesque Black Hills landscape. Hikers can enjoy the fresh mountain air while spotting wildlife such as bison, elk, and prairie dogs along the way. The park’s diverse ecosystem provides a rich opportunity for nature lovers to observe and appreciate the beauty of the great outdoors.

For those seeking a more leisurely experience, Wind Cave National Park offers picnic areas where visitors can relax and enjoy a meal surrounded by the park’s natural beauty. Whether you’re looking for adventure or a peaceful retreat, Wind Cave National Park has something to offer every traveler passing through on their road trip adventure.

Deadwood, South Dakota

Essential Information

– Route Options: Easily accessible from Denver to Mount Rushmore route.
– Opening Hours: Varies by attraction, generally open year-round.
– Fee: Some attractions may have admission fees.
– Visit Duration: Half a day to a full day.
– Ideal For: History buffs, fans of the Wild West, road trippers.

Why is it a must stop

When embarking on a road trip from Denver to Mount Rushmore, a stop in Deadwood, South Dakota is a must for history enthusiasts and those seeking a taste of the Wild West. This iconic town, known for its rich history and vibrant atmosphere, offers a range of activities that are sure to captivate visitors.

One of the main draws of Deadwood is its historic Main Street, lined with charming buildings that transport you back to the days of the Gold Rush. Stroll along the wooden boardwalks and explore the various shops, saloons, and casinos that still retain their old-world charm.

For a deeper dive into the town’s past, don’t miss a visit to the Adams Museum, where you can learn about Deadwood’s fascinating history through exhibits showcasing artifacts from the Gold Rush era. The nearby Mount Moriah Cemetery, the final resting place of Wild West legends such as Wild Bill Hickok and Calamity Jane, offers a poignant glimpse into the town’s storied past.

If you’re feeling lucky, try your hand at one of the many casinos in Deadwood, where you can test your skills at the gaming tables or enjoy live entertainment. For outdoor enthusiasts, the surrounding Black Hills National Forest provides ample opportunities for hiking, biking, and wildlife viewing.

Whether you’re intrigued by the town’s history, eager to try your luck at the casinos, or simply looking to soak in the unique atmosphere of the Wild West, Deadwood, South Dakota is a road trip stop that promises a memorable experience.

Mount Rushmore National Memorial

Essential Information

– Route options: From Denver, take I-25 N to I-90 E towards Mount Rushmore.
– Opening hours: 5:00 AM to 11:00 PM daily.
– Fee: $10 per vehicle.
– Visit duration: 2-3 hours.
– Ideal for: Families, history buffs, nature lovers.

Why is it a must stop

Mount Rushmore National Memorial is a must-stop on your road trip for its iconic presidential sculptures, rich history, and stunning views. Start your visit by marveling at the massive granite faces of Presidents Washington, Jefferson, Roosevelt, and Lincoln. Snap photos against the backdrop of this American symbol.

Explore the Presidential Trail to get up close to the sculptures and learn about the intricate carving process. Don’t miss the informative exhibits at the Visitor Center, offering insights into the monument’s creation and significance. Enjoy a ranger-led program to deepen your understanding of the site’s historical importance.

For outdoor enthusiasts, Mount Rushmore offers hiking trails with panoramic views of the Black Hills. Take a leisurely stroll around the Avenue of Flags or attend the evening lighting ceremony for a patriotic experience. Grab a bite at the on-site cafe and shop for souvenirs to commemorate your visit.

Whether you’re a history buff, nature lover, or simply seeking a unique stop on your road trip, Mount Rushmore National Memorial promises a memorable experience that celebrates American heritage and craftsmanship.

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