The Mount Rushmore National Memorial is one of those classic American landmarks that everyone should see in person instead of in photos.
It’s located in Keystone, South Dakota, and you’d like to get to the monument from Los Angeles. What do you need to know before you go?
Driving from Los Angeles to Mount Rushmore will take you through California, Nevada, Utah, and Wyoming before you arrive in South Dakota. It’s a straight drive diagonally across the United States and takes about 20 hours. Plan for several overnight stays.
If you’re ready to make your travel dreams a reality, this guide will tell you everything you need to know.
I’ll present a driving route to Mount Rushmore from LA, describe how long you’ll be on the road, and present lots of must-see destinations and attractions too.
The best route from Los Angeles to Mount Rushmore
Woohoo! It’s time to get this trip underway.
You’ll get to take a nice voyage through the southeastern part of the US as you depart California and briefly explore Nevada, Wyoming, and Utah.
The drive is going to be a long one, and so to keep up everyone’s spirits, I recommend splitting it up into at least two or three days, maybe even four.
Here is the route you can take to Mount Rushmore.
Los Angeles to Barstow
Leaving sunny Los Angeles bright and early, you’ll drive for two hours northeast until you reach Barstow.
LA is synonymous with traffic, so you might expect some slow going as you get the trip underway. Make sure the kids are well-fed and entertained so they don’t get cranky.
Barstow is located in San Bernadino County, right in the Mojave Desert. It’s an arid but fascinating region known for its museums dedicated to everything from the history of railroading to Route 66.
Barstow to Las Vegas
Barstow is your only Cali stop, as you’ll next cross state lines into Las Vegas.
The drive will continue northeast and should take about two and a half hours. If California traffic follows you from Barstow, you might be in for a longer ride still.
Las Vegas truly needs no introduction. It’s one of the most popular cities in the entire world, let alone the US.
As I’ve written about before on the blog, there are more kid-friendly activities and attractions in Vegas than you might initially think. It doesn’t all have to be about the drinking and gambling here!
Since you’ve been on the road for a while at this point, you should consider stopping at a hotel in Vegas for the night. There is certainly no shortage of them.
Las Vegas to Zion National Park
As you greet the day in sweltering Las Vegas, you and the kids can spend your morning catching up on whatever attractions you couldn’t fit into the day before.
When you’re ready to move on, your next stop is Zion National Park in Utah.
The drive to the park from Vegas is still a northeast trek, and it will take you about two and a half hours to reach your destination. That’s without traffic, by the way.
I’ve written about Zion National Park elsewhere on the blog, so I’ll keep this section brief.
Zion National Park is a nature preserve in southwest Utah that features the stunning Virgin River.
Nearby, you can explore a hanging garden and waterfalls in an area called the Emerald Pools.
The Zion Narrows wading hiking trail is within the vicinity as well, although it’s hidden among a series of chasms.
The park is an excellent place for camping, and you might decide to stay put and entertain the family here until tomorrow. I would certainly say that’s a great choice!
Zion National Park to Provo
You want to be refreshed considering the next part of your drive is rather long. You’ll drive approximately four hours from Zion National Park to Provo despite that the two are both in Utah.
The drive is northward. Hopefully, you won’t run into too much traffic to delay your arrival even further.
Provo is a city known for its museums, including the BYU Museum of Art, the BYU Museum of Paleontology, the Crandall Historical Printing Museum, and the Monte L. Bean Life Science Museum.
BYU stands for Brigham Young University, a college in Provo.
If you didn’t stay overnight at Zion National Park, I would recommend finding a hotel for the night in Provo. You will certainly need the rest at this point on your journey.
Provo to Rock Springs
The next day, you can continue to Rock Springs in Wyoming, the next state on your tour.
The drive from Provo will take about three hours, so try to leave early to avoid traffic as best you can.
You’re once again driving northeast to reach Rock Springs.
This Wyoming city in Sweetwater County offers plenty of beautiful natural landscapes to enjoy with the kids if you can get out of the car for a bit.
Rock Springs to Casper
From Rock Springs, you’ll continue your jaunt through Wyoming to Casper. You’ll have crossed most of the state by the time you reach this city, but it takes some time.
You’ll drive for three and a half hours northeast.
The central Wyoming city of Casper houses many sights and attractions, among them the Nicolaysen Art Museum, the National Historic Trails Interpretive Center, and the historical Fort Casper.
You might feel like taking an overnight siesta after driving for more than six hours.
Even though you’re on the cusp of Mount Rushmore, the monument is still over three hours away, so rest up and refresh for your adventure the next day.
Casper to Mount Rushmore
Casper was the last stop in Wyoming on your route.
When you wake up feeling ready to go the next morning, you’ll drive northeast from this part of Wyoming for three and a half hours until you get to Mount Rushmore.
You did it!
How long does it take to reach Mount Rushmore from Los Angeles?
Are you readier than ever to plan your road trip to Mount Rushmore? If so, then you’ll naturally wonder how long it will take you to arrive.
When departing from Los Angeles, the drive to Mount Rushmore takes 19 hours and 18 minutes.
That drivetime does assume that you won’t run into any heavy traffic.
As I made clear in the last section, California is known for its congestion. You also won’t be able to wholly avoid it as you leave Cali’s borders.
Plan to add extra time to your route for the time you’ll spend sitting in traffic.
Family-friendly destinations on the way to Mount Rushmore
Taking a more slowed-down approach to reaching your destination will also serve you well throughout your drive.
You won’t mind staying overnight for three or four nights before reaching Mount Rushmore, and you’ll also set aside time for you and the kids to explore all the cities and towns along your route.
There are many fun family moments awaiting you if you do!
- Western American Railroad Museum
The Western American Railroad Museum documents Pacific Southwest railroading in all its glorious history.
Run by a nonprofit organization, the museum by the Harvey House Railroad Depot opened its doors in 2001.
You and the children can witness all sorts of railroad memorabilia and items, including tools, uniforms, timetables, artwork, and artifacts.
Don’t miss the displays on railroad equipment and rolling stock as well as the trains on display, which include the Union Pacific EMD SD40-2 #9950.
- Peggy Sue’s 50’s Diner
Take a step back through time at Peggy Sue’s 50’s Diner.
Construction of the restaurant was completed in the mid-1950s. The restaurant still holds onto those classic stylings to this day.
So what’s on the menu? You and the kids can nosh on a 50’s-style cheeseburger with real angus beef, cheesesteaks, patty melts, meatloaf, chicken fried steak, southern fried chicken, and salads.
For dessert, there are authentic malts and shakes, root beer floats, and old-fashioned ice cream sodas. You can also order a slice of cherry pie, a banana split, or an ice cream sundae.
Diner-Saur Park, which features dinosaur sculptures, is in the vicinity as well.
- Rotary Centennial Park
Truly experience the desert atmosphere of Barstow at Rotary Centennial Park, a desert-laden park with gravel and greenery.
Don’t miss the tank replica!
Las Vegas Destinations
- M&M’s Las Vegas
As a reward to the kids for being well-behaved in the car, take them to M&M’s Las Vegas once you reach Nevada.
This candy store is a whopping 28,000 square feet and features four levels in all.
Besides the sheer variety of M&M’s available for purchase here, you and the kids can also print custom M&M’s in a matter of minutes using the store’s available candy printer.
Up to 16 candy colors are available.
- Vegas Indoor Skydiving
Take flight at Vegas Indoor Skydiving!
Kids must weigh at least 40 pounds to fly. A legal guardian or parent must be there to sign a waiver for the child as well.
Once you and the kids are all suited up, you’ll go into the flight zone. There, a 1,000-horsepower motor sends you into the air and keeps you propelled.
The wind will increase to 120 miles per hour, further augmenting the feeling of really flying!
This is a can’t-miss attraction in Vegas, as a stop at Vegas Indoor Skydiving will surely make your kids’ whole trip!
- The Adventuredome Indoor Theme Park
It’s warm in Las Vegas no matter the time of year you visit, but the weather isn’t always sunny. Fortunately, you can always fall back on the Adventuredome.
This indoor theme park on the Vegas Strip is five acres of fun.
The amusements include junior rides, family rides, 4D rides, and thrill rides like indoor coasters for teens and older kiddos.
That’s not all! The Adventuredome is also home to some phenomenal attractions, including an arcade, an 18-hole golf course called Pirates Bounty, a VR room with up to 10 rides, indoor bungee jumping and rock climbing in the Xtreme Zone, and two escape rooms.
- Madame Tussauds Las Vegas
Fun for the whole family, the Madame Tussauds in Las Vegas is way more than just a wax museum.
While you can see wax replicas of your favorite celebrities and pop culture icons, the Vegas destination also offers 4D films.
The displays are divided into the following zones:
- Club Tussauds
- Music Icons
- Viva Las Vegas
- Monte L. Bean Life Science Museum
BYU’s Monte L. Bean Life Science Museum features a variety of exhibits on creatures of all shapes and sizes.
You and the family can check out more than 10,000 bird specimens, see over 150,000 fish specimens, learn about arachnids and insects, discover bryophytes and lichens, and witness more than 41,000 mammal specimens.
The Bean Life Science Museum also features exhibits on mollusks (42,000+ specimens on display), amphibians and reptiles (almost 40,000 specimens on display), and vascular plants (more than 600,000 specimens on display).
- Seven Peaks Water Park Provo
If you’re visiting Mount Rushmore in the summer, then don’t miss the Seven Peaks Water Park in Provo on your route.
The park offers three swimming pools: Cascade Falls, Rocky Mountain Beach, and Canyon River.
Mudslide Gorge is a thrilling water slide, Sky Breaker is a tunnel slide, and Vortex is a circular slide. Adventure Bay is a children’s shallow pool that’s perfect for the little ones!
- Provo Beach
Despite the name, Provo Beach isn’t a beach at all but rather, an amusement center.
Open seasonally, Provo Beach offers enough attractions and entertainment for an entire afternoon of smiles.
The kids can select from laser tag, Flow Rider surfing, bowling, carousel rides, a mega playground, a ropes course, miniature croquet, and an arcade.
Besides the arcade, each attraction has a separate admission fee.
Ike’s Creamery is the perfect place to lick a few ice cream cones and fuel up for more fun!
- BYU Museum of Paleontology
If you’re looking for a quiet activity to do in Provo, the BYU Museum of Paleontology is certainly it.
Museum entry is free, but you’re welcome to donate if you can.
The BYU Museum of Paleontology features real fossils recovered in Wyoming, Montana, Colorado, and Utah.
Rock Springs Destinations
- Pilot Butte
Pilot Butte in nearby Bend is a lava dome that developed from a now-extinct volcano.
The area offers three trails that pass through lovely sage and juniper trees.
No matter which trail you take, you’ll reach the summit of Pointe Butte, where you can witness almost the entirety of the desert from this very special vantage point.
You might even be able to spot Mount Hood, Black Butte, Mount Jefferson, and Three Sisters depending on the season and the weather.
- White Mountain
Near Green River and Rock Springs is White Mountain, a mountain within the Green River Formation.
Pilot Butte and White Mountain are adjoining, so if you see one, you might as well plan to see the other!
Also worth witnessing here is the White Mountain Petroglyph site with carved sandstone figures that might date as far back as 1,000 years.
- Edness Kimball Wilkins State Park
How about a state park during your stay in Casper?
The Edness Kimball Wilkins State Park on the North Platte River is only six miles away from Casper, so you wouldn’t go too far out of your way to visit.
The park is the premier spot for wildlife viewing, volleyball, horseback riding, hiking, geocaching, fishing, boating, and biking.
There’s a beach on the premises as well as a playground, so the kiddos will surely be entertained!
- Fort Caspar Museum
Caspar Collins was a US Army officer who gave his life in the Battle of the Platte Bridge Station in 1865.
Today, the military post Fort Caspar continues in his honor.
The museum on the grounds will teach your family about Casper’s history, the evolution of the energy industry, ranching in the day, and the fascinating lives of the Plains Indians.
- Casper Planetarium
Explore the expanses of space at the Casper Planetarium.
Here are some of the films that might be playing during your visit!
- Adrenaline Universe
- Amp’s Amazing Night Flight
- Back to the Moon for Good
- CAPCOM Go! The Apollo Story
- The Case of the Disappearing Planet
- Cell! Cell! Cell!
- Dinosaur Passage to Pangea
- Earth, Moon and Sun
- Hot and Energetic Universe
What can you do with the kids around Mount Rushmore?
While Mount Rushmore is the premier destination in Keystone, South Dakota, it’s not the only attraction around. You and the children can also explore the following wonderful destinations.
Rushmore Tramway Adventures
Family fun is the name of the game at Rushmore Tramway Adventures, an outdoor adventure park that features a heart-pounding alpine slide, thrilling downhill tubing, chairlift rides, and incredible ziplines.
The park also offers rope climbing at the Aerial Park, which is a new addition.
If you and the kids have rumbling tummies, the Grille & Gardens is a great place to grab a bite to eat without leaving the park.
Big Thunder Gold Mine
Take a trip through a gold mill dating back to the late 1890s at the Big Thunder Gold Mine.
Your family will go on a guided tour to learn about the rich history of mining in this part of South Dakota.
The kids can also pan for gold onsite!
Even if they don’t get lucky and strike rich, you can still end your trip on a good note by stopping by the onsite Big Thunder Bar & Grill.
The restaurant whips up fresh hot dogs, sandwiches, burgers, and desserts daily.
The National Presidential Wax Museum
A quirky but fun spot to visit, The National Presidential Wax Museum features wax figures of the biggest figures in presidential history.
From modern presidents to those that predate visitors by hundreds of years, this museum is a fun glimpse into the presidential history of our nation.
Driving from Los Angeles to Mount Rushmore in South Dakota is indeed an undertaking, but it sure makes for one fun road trip! You and the family can enjoy time in Las Vegas, Wyoming, and finally, Mount Rushmore. I hope you take the trip soon.