This Glamping Retreat Is the Best Way to Stay at Mount Rushmore

Campfires, hiking, and plush tents set the stage at Under Canvas Mount Rushmore, a property close to the iconic monument.

Mount Rushmore camping
Photo: Dave and Les Jacobs/Getty Images

Summer calls for a road trip, and I was excited for a long weekend exploring the great outdoors of South Dakota's Black Hills, a small mountain range in the state's scenic western corner — and the home of the Mount Rushmore National Memorial.

Some 2.5 million visitors come to Mount Rushmore every year, and many of them stay in the bustling town of Keystone. It offers plenty of hotels and motels (with giant buses parked right out front) and tourist shops hawking Mount Rushmore T-shirts and other souvenirs. I, however, was looking for a property that would provide an experience more in keeping with the area's wild open spaces.

I've never been one for roughing it, so I was excited to learn that Under Canvas — a company that operates high-end "glamping" tents at popular National Parks including Moab, Grand Canyon, and the Great Smoky Mountains — has a Mount Rushmore location. I could enjoy starry nights, pine-scented air, and s'mores around the campfire, but still have the luxury of a plush bed, high thread-count sheets, and a hot shower.

Living Space, Under Canvas Mount Rushmore
Dreamtown Co.

Inspired by luxurious safari camps, the Under Canvas founders, Sarah and Jacob Dusek, believe that ethically experiencing the outdoors doesn't mean you have to sacrifice the creature comforts. Amenities include an in-room wood-burning stove, organic bath products, and — for our tent — an en-suite bathroom. We enjoyed the high-backed wood chairs on the private deck overlooking the dark, dense national forest as well as the natural butterfly chairs near the wood-burning stove inside when the night grew chillier.

Bedroom, Under Canvas, Mount Rushmore
Dreamtown Co.

In the main tent, which houses the restaurant, the staff offered everything from hot cocoa to a full breakfast menu, picnic lunches as well as smoked, grilled, and roasted entrees for dinner. Guests could participate in sunset yoga, if they wished, on the adjoining deck. One night, while enjoying Mount Rushmore's evening lighting ceremony from the property's main tent, we sampled the house-smoked chicken and grilled vegetables, followed by s'mores on the open fire. We took in the massive sculpture of the four presidents from the Under Canvas grounds and closer up, after a short 10-minute drive along the twisty and scenic Iron Mountain Road.

Tent, Exterior, Mount Rushmore, Under Canvas
Dreamtown Co.

Under Canvas is also environmentally conscious. All of their camps use low-flow toilets, faucets that automatically turn off, and showers that run only when guests pull a chain. (This keeps the water flowing but the shower itself quick.) And, to minimize waste, Under Canvas uses no plastics and recycles and repurposes wherever possible.

Under Canvas Mount Rushmore
Dreamtown Co.

The Under Canvas staff are enthusiastic and wonderful brand ambassadors. After I asked Alex, the assistant manager and a nature-loving Chicago native, a couple of questions, he invited me to hop into a golf cart to give me a tour, including his favorite tents and vistas along with plans for development. This is his fifth Under Canvas; he helped open this property summer 2018, after working at those in Moab, Zion, Glacier, and Yellowstone National Parks.

The final verdict? For those looking for a unique way to see one of America's most famous attractions, Under Canvas Mount Rushmore is a game-changer. It has a remarkable, ends-of-the-earth setting in the lush Black Hills, and all the conveniences you could imagine.

Rates start at $199. Under Canvas Mount Rushmore is open for 2022 from May 5 to September 26.

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