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Exploring Mount Rushmore, Deadwood & Devil’s Tower With Dogs

Who loves road-trips?!?!?  WE DO!!!  And, if you’re anything like us, you love taking your pooches along for the ride.  This summer, we got to take an EPIC road-trip to gorgeous South Dakota with our two pups, Newton + Maya.  I thought I’d do a little blog series on our adventure and hopefully give you some tips if you’re traveling there with your dogs, too.  This is part II of the two-part series.  Head over here to read and see Part I which features the gorgeous Badlands National Park!

Preparing for Your Road-Trip

So you’re ready to do a road-trip with your dog?! Maybe you’ve done this before (KUDOS to YOU!) But maybe, this is your first, longer-drive, road-trip and you’re a little anxious. Here’s a little info that will hopefully help you prepare. First things first, make a list of things that your doggie(s) need on a daily basis….

  • Food (duh!)
  • Treats (do not forget the treats!)
  • Nalgene bottles / water bowls
  • Fresh water
  • Toys
  • Medications / supplements
  • Dog bed(s) / blankies
  • Leashes, harnesses bandanas, and anything else they might use on a daily basis OR that will help make them more comfortable away from home.

Next, apportion the food and treats your pup gets every day, multiple by the number of days you’re away and put all of that in containers or plastic baggies to help make the transport easy. Count the number of pills / supplements you need for each day and multiply by the number of days and put them in baggies / containers for easy transport. Then, simply pack up the water bowl, toys, dog bed or blankies and whatever else your poochie might need and pack up the car!

Visiting Mount Rushmore

So… sadly, like many of our beautiful national parks, the actual Mount Rushmore monument does not allow dogs unless your poochie is a service dog. Even though that is a mega bummer, we abide by the rules and would hope that others do to. That being said, we saw many doggos inside the “dog-restricted” area, and I’m pretty sure they were not technically service dogs. That seriously irks me, because, listen, if I’m going to leave my dog behind then you should too unless you have legit service papers. But anyway, here’s how you do Mount Rushmore when you have a non-service, regular, pupper with you.

First, pack up the car and your pooch, you’re going on a gorgeous ride on a “mountain highway” that will take you all along and right up to the monument. While you’re at it, head down to Custer State Park (I highly suggest making this a big part of your trip) for a little detour and lots of Bison watching! The mountain road that I’m talking about is called Iron Mountain Road.

Iron Mountain Road is about 17 miles long. With stops for scenic overlooks and photo-ops, it’ll take you maybe about an hour. Iron Mountain Road is a work of art in itself. It connects Custer State Park and Mount Rushmore National Memorial and passes through some of the most beautiful scenery in the Black Hills, including three tunnels that frame Mount Rushmore in the distance. The road is famous for the “Pigtail Bridges” that allow travelers to drop or gain altitude quickly.

The highway was constructed in the 1930s, and as its creator famously said: “this is not meant to be a super highway, to do the scenery justice you should drive no more than 20 mph and to do it full justice you should simply get out and walk.” This is the road that engineers once said couldn’t be built. Enjoy it, because it’ll take your breath away! And best of all, your dog(s) can come with you and enjoy all that beauty with you.

Once you get to Mount Rushmore, you can park your car and head up to the entrance area. This is where non-service dogs will have to stay behind. If you are traveling by yourself, obvi, you’ll be stuck outside too. If you are with a partner or group of friends/family, I suggest taking turns going inside while someone stays outside with the dog. This is what we did. While not ideal, it’s better than nothing and we were at least glad to get to see it. Also, the monument is somewhat visible from the entrance area, so grab the pooches and get a family pic from outside, like we did. See below!


After you’ve traveled Iron Mountain Road and seen Mount Rushmore from afar or up close, you’ll likely be hungry. Head over to the near-by town of Keystone! There you will find ample lunch spots with outside seating where you and your doggos can refuel and lounge. The people watching is great and there are tons of little shops with interesting artifacts and keepsakes along the main drag. I got myself a really cute pair of Minnetonka moccasins!

Take a Trip to Deadwood

The beauty of this part of South Dakota is that everything is relatively close. If you stay in Rapid City, you are within 2 hours of tons of awesome attractions, including the tiny little old west town of Deadwood… fans of the show anyone? Deadwood has all the charm of the old west including gold panning opportunities and saloons with gambling and staff that are dressed in full period-costumes. You’ll seriously be transported back in time. If you are with your dog and want a fun place to eat and have a drink, head over to Saloon No. 10. The downstairs portion is super dog-friendly and you can grab lunch or dinner while hanging out with your best furfriend by your side!

Devil’s Tower, WY

Did I mention how close everything is from Rapid City? Well, Devil’s Tower in Wyoming is only about 1.5 from Rapid City, and only an hour and ten minutes or so from Deadwood. So, while you’re in South Dakota, might as well head over to see it! Again, unfortunately, pets are not allowed on the trails or in the buildings at Devil’s Tower National Monument. So, you’ll have to make sure you have someone with you who can hang out with the doggie while you go explore the Tower quick. We still got cute pics of us and the dogs outside the monument area at Devil’s Tower. If you’d rather save yourself the drive, I would recommend spending more time exploring Custer State Park, where leashed pets are welcome.

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