Blake Walsh

20 Best Things to Do in Keystone, SD

  • Published 2023/04/04

Keystone is a small town in South Dakota that is famous for its richly forested area.

Located near the famous Mount Rushmore, it is the perfect place for enjoying activities like hiking, biking, and snow activities.

This tiny town has its own fancy image around the world, which attracts a lot of visitors to the area.

Apart from the famous Mount Rushmore National Memorial, Keystone has a lot more to offer.

From scenic lakes and ancient gold mines to amusement parks filled with rides that will get your adrenaline pumping, there’s something for everyone in this charming city.

Are you ready to explore Keystone and all its incredible attractions?

Here are the best things to do in Keystone, South Dakota:

Visit the Iconic Mount Rushmore National Memorial

Daytime view of the Mount Rushmore national Memorial

Adventures On Wheels /

Mount Rushmore National Memorial is an international attraction that is known by almost everyone, no matter where they are from.

This world-famous mountain was carved in the year 1941 under the direction of American sculptor Gutzon Borglum and his son.

The area around this monument has been declared a memorial park and covers a total of 1,278.45 acres of land.

Welcome sign of Mount Rushmore National Memorial

Fotografia Torino /

The iconic sculpture is carved into a mountain and depicts four US presidents: George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt, and Abraham Lincoln.

Mount Rushmore is 60 feet high and is composed mostly of granite.

The monument represents the birth of the nation and its growth under the leadership of these four iconic presidents.

The place brings immense glory to the people of Keystone and is definitely a must-visit.

People walking towards Mount Rushmore National Memorial

Tami Freed /

Have Breakfast with a View of Mount Rushmore at Carvers Cafe

Carvers Cafe is a famous restaurant in Keystone that is also the official restaurant on the site of Mount Rushmore.

This cafe allows visitors to admire views of the famous monument while enjoying special meals.

The cafe has a very extensive menu and several stations where all sorts of hot and cold dishes are served.

From simple snacks to full-course meals, the cafe serves everything.

For a tourist restaurant, the meals of this cafe are unbelievably good and priced at very affordable rates.

You can also grab a delicious breakfast and enjoy sunrise views behind Mount Rushmore early in the morning.

Go Back to the Gold Mining Era at Big Thunder Gold Mine

Signage of Big thunder gold mine

Lost_in_the_Midwest /

Anyone visiting Keystone should definitely not miss checking out Big Thunder Gold Mine.

Also famous as Gold Hill Lode, this goldmine was discovered by two German immigrants in the city in 1892.

Now a museum, Big Thunder Gold Mine depicts the life of locals and the mining practices during the gold mining era.

The museum has a copy of a gold mill, different types of rocks found in the mine, and many artifacts that belong to the gold mining era.

Entrance to the Big Thunder Gold Mine

Lost_in_the_Midwest /

You can also choose different tours of the mine based on your preferences and even try your hands at gold panning.

In addition to its exhibitions, the museum has a fully functional gift shop and a full-service restaurant that offers premium-quality service to visitors.

The restaurant is itself a very famous attraction in the town of Keystone.

Both the restaurant and gift shop sell unique and good quality items at affordable prices.

Shop for Unique Souvenirs at Holy Terror Antiques

Holy Terror Antiques is a unique tourist attraction in Keystone.

Located at the foot of Mount Rushmore, it is an antique store that opened in the year 2005.

The store covers a vast area of 6,000 square feet.

This antique store is famous for providing customized replicas and designs of various buildings in the city.

Holy Terror Antiques also offers a very dynamic and exquisite collection of various items such as furniture, pottery, glass decorative, advertising items, and many more.

The store’s owners have been dealing with the business for more than 40 years, which gives them an edge over other stores and designers.

Because of this, Holy Terror Antiques’ collection is unique and cannot be found anywhere else.

It’s the perfect place to shop for unique souvenirs and gifts for your loved ones from the town of Keystone.

Book a Relaxing Stay at the Powder House Lodge

Keystone has a lot of hotels and lodges for guests to choose from, but the Powder House Lodge stands out among the rest.

It is a seasonal lodge with a number of cabins located in a forested area.

The rooms are pretty simple and designed in a very rustic manner to give them a natural vibe.

They are well-furnished with amenities such as ACs, television, microwave, coffee maker, internet access, and more.

Powder House Lodge has a very relaxed and calm setting.

It also has its own restaurant that serves fresh, classic American food.

The lodge is perfect for spending some personal time away from the hustle and bustle of the city.

Try Ice Fishing at Horse Thief Lake

The waters of Horse Thief Lake

Barnes Ian /

Horse Thief Lake is located near Mount Rushmore and is perfect for enjoying some beautiful views.

The lake got its name from the number of horse thief gangs that used to operate in this area.

Horse Thief Lake is a very famous lake for fishing, especially ice fishing.

The lake also has grounds where guests may enjoy overnight camping.

It is surrounded by enjoyable trails that are well-managed and perfect for hiking.

Horse Thief Lake is a perfect recreational area in the small town of Keystone and never fails to amaze the visitors with its beautiful, far-stretching waters.

Enjoy a Night of Live Entertainment at Red Garter Saloon

Red Garter Saloon is a family-owned business that opened almost 40 years ago on a dirt road.

At present, it is one of the town’s most famous tourist attractions during the months of April to October.

This place welcomes visitors for some exotic drinks, quaint views, delicious food, and other entertainment activities.

With its different seating plans indoors and outdoors, this bar and grill is perfect for all visitors.

Red Garter Saloon also arranges a large number of entertainment shows, live music, stand-up comedy, and other events in order to keep visitors engaged.

Inspired by wild taverns, this place is the real deal and will definitely be one of your favorite places in Keystone.

Check Out the Wax Figures at The National Presidential Wax Museum

Exterior of the National Presidential Wax Museum

Jllm06, CC0, via Wikimedia Commons

The National Presidential Wax Museum is a famous tourist attraction in the small town of Keystone.

This museum showcases more than a hundred wax figures that are sculpted in a very expert and flawless manner.

Out of all the wax figures, the most famous is the replica of Mount Rushmore and the four US presidents.

Apart from that, the museum also displays wax structures of 41 more presidents.

The museum offers audio and visual tours.

The provided audio helps visitors understand the story behind each structure and its historical importance.

Apart from the audio, a detailed video also allows visitors to understand the entire process of creating cultures using wax.

The museum also recognizes the most famous wax artists who helped create the artifacts on display.

Apart from the wax artists, the museum also acknowledges the efforts of other illustrators and artists like Harvey Dunn.

In addition to the famous wax sculptures, The National President Wax Museum also exhibits other artifacts like the death mask of presidents, voting booths from various presidential elections, and many more.

This place is bliss for all art lovers.

Schedule a Day of Family Fun at Rush Mountain Adventure Park

Rush Mountain Adventure Park is a famous amusement and theme park in Keystone.

It allows visitors to explore the natural wonders of Keystone.

Located near Mount Rushmore, the facility offers exploration and educational cave tours.

The place is also home to various amusement rides such as a 7D-interactive ride, zip lines, mountain coasters, wing walker challenging courses, sky tykes, and more.

It is an ideal attraction for all the young and adventurous visitors who want to enjoy some great and affordable fun with their families.

This facility and Rushmore Cave are always open to visitors.

The place is thrilling and offers a very comfortable space for enjoyment.

Get Your Heart Pumping at Rushmore Tramway Adventures

Rushmore Tramway Adventures is a fun and exciting adventure park that offers incredible facilities at affordable rates.

The place is a stress buster and allows visitors to relax on various rides.

The scenic chairlift ride allows you to enjoy the rush as you come down the alpine slide.

You can also enjoy the beautiful views of the entire Mount Rushmore area using their zip line facilities or downhill tubing.

The adventure company has also added an aerial park that allows visitors to enjoy rope climbing under expert supervision.

This place has been voted the town’s best tourist attraction after Mount Rushmore National Memorial.

Rushmore Tramway Adventures is definitely worth visiting as it offers something for visitors of all ages and allows them to enjoy the beautiful and scenic views around the area.

Have Coffee and Wine at Grapes & Grinds

Grapes & Grinds is the only coffee and wine bar in Keystone in the Black Hills area.

This beautifully designed coffee shop has been open since 2012.

It is famous for serving specially crafted coffees, locally produced wines, and homemade gelato.

The shop also has unique gifts and souvenirs available for purchase.

Grapes & Grinds’ winery offers free wine tastings to visitors almost every day.

It has a large patio and a lawn area where diners can enjoy their time, along with a vast playground for kids.

You can also enjoy chess and corn hole games while waiting for your drinks.

The place also organizes live music performances and musical nights for more enjoyment.

Shop for Gifts and Take Fun Photos at Dahl’s Chainsaw Art

Dahl’s Chainsaw Art is a must-visit place if you want to enjoy Keystone’s craftsmanship and local artist traditions.

This art store has tons of artworks ranging from miniatures to huge sculptures and other decorative pieces.

The owner allows shoppers to witness the process of crafting these art pieces.

Don’t forget to bring your cameras, as you will surely want to spend some time taking pictures for your social media accounts.

The place has carved buffalo replicas that visitors can climb.

If you are looking for some fun gifts from the town of Keystone, you should definitely make a stop at Dahl’s Chainsaw Art.

Enjoy Aerial Views of Keystone with Black Hills Helicopters

View of Mount Rushmore from inside a helicopter

Benny Marty /

Are you up for a little adventure?

Black Hills Helicopters provides one of the most exciting and unique ways to explore Keystone.

If you are interested in enjoying aerial views of Keystone’s famous monuments and uncanny rock formations, Black Hills Helicopters offers the most exciting and affordable ways to do so.

The pilots are well-trained and familiar with the local areas.

Go Horseback Riding with Holy Smoke Resort Horse Rides

There is no shortage of ways to explore Keystone and its natural attractions.

Holy Smoke Resort Horse Rides is a facility that provides the opportunity of enjoying horseback riding on the natural trails of Keystone.

The service providers have very well-trained and gentle horses that will make your experience both comfortable and memorable.

Their horseback riding services are available at very affordable rates.

Purchase Local Handmade Crafts at The Rock Shed

Traveling to a new place is never complete without shopping for souvenirs.

The Rock Shed is another specialty gift store in the small town of Keystone.

This gift shop is famous for its handcrafted and specially made items.

The store offers various types of gift items.

The products available at the store range from gemstones, fossils, minerals, gemstone lamps, candleholders, and accessories to decorative glasses, crushed rocks, garden rocks, tumblers, plastic items, display stands, wrapping, tools, and the like.

The place is a one-stop destination for items that are used in day-to-day life.

Ride in a True Piece of American History

A 1880 steam train at Black Hills Central

Jim Parkin /

A trip back in time to ride an 1880 train is a special South Dakota adventure and only a 20-mile round trip from Hill City to Keystone and vice versa.

With an incredible narrated tour of the gorgeous Black Hills, you’ll go back and experience what the pioneers used to do in the beautiful state, as well as see several vistas including Harney Peak.

The Black Hills Central train travels along the original route laid down nearly 130 years ago by the Chicago Burlington and Quincy Railroad to service the mines and mills between Keystone and Hill City.

Close details of a Black Hills Central train

Jim Parkin /

The Black Hills Central train travels along the original route laid down nearly 130 years ago by the Chicago Burlington and Quincy Railroad to service the mines and mills between Keystone and Hill City.

America deemed the Black Hills Central Railroad to be the nation’s oldest continuous tour railroad, operating four steam engines and two diesel engines throughout the summer and fall seasons.

The Black Hills Central Railroad is among the most popular and unique tourist attractions in the country.

A Black Hills Central train on its way to Keystone

Drew Jacksich from San Jose, CA, California Republic, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Enjoy Camping at Kemp’s Kamp

Kemp’s Kamp is an exquisite campground brimming with amenities and boasts one unrivaled vantage into the majestic beauty of the Black Hills.

You’ll find this wonderful campground just a mile and a half west of the Battle Creek Canyon National Park and directly off of Old Hill City Road.

It won’t take you more than 5 miles to reach Kemp’s Kamp from Mount Rushmore National Monument.

This campground isn’t only within walking distance from Crazy Horse Memorial, Sylvan Lake, Custer State Park, and Peter Norbeck Scenic Byway but is also packed full of lots of nature-surrounding excitement.

First-time campers, old hands, and glampers alike will find peace of mind at Kemp’s Kamp.

Clean and modern cabins along with complete RV facilities are just a few of its amenities that make it a great campsite.I

Soak in the Sights along Iron Mountain Road

Circular loop of Iron Mountain Road

Joseph Sohm /

Also called 16A, the Iron Mountain Road is one of the most unforgettable driving experiences in America.

This scenic highway is 17 miles of intense beauty from one side to the next.

On any given day, you will see cars stopped on each side, trying to capture a great shot of this tremendous beauty.

A rock tunnel along Iron Mountain Road

Jill Battaglia /

Iron Mountain Road presents stunning vistas of mountains and valleys.

The road features a range of curves, including the famous switchbacks, particularly to Western South Dakota.

And visitors are, on average limited to a maximum speed of 35 MPH to have ample time to soak in the sights at every single turn.

This section of road is widely considered one of the most unique because of all of its amazing architectural components.

Mountain views from Iron Mountain Road

Scott Cummings /

Learn About the Story of Keystone at the Keystone Historical Museum

Exterior of Keystone Historical Museum

Cheri Alguire /

The Keystone Historical Museum is a seasonal museum that’s worth a visit if you’re into historical trips.

It sits within a Keystone Victorian schoolhouse built in the 1900s.

Its Victorian architectural design is just as impressive as its interior.

Inside, you can find a variety of photo collections from Keystone’s earliest days.

Interior of Keystone Historical Museum

Cheri Alguire /

There are also rock and mineral collections, antique school furniture, and mining artifacts.

So, be sure to come by from June to August.

You don’t have to pay an admission fee!

The Keystone Historical Museum is in the historic downtown district of the town on 3rd Street.

School furniture in Keystone Historical Museum

Cheri Alguire /

View the Exhibits and Displays at the Rushmore Borglum Story

There’s nothing quite like a tour around the Rushmore Borglum Story.

This museum takes you on an immersive trip through the life of Gutzon Borglum, the sculptor responsible for the Mount Rushmore monument.

But this monument is not the only artwork he created!

Discover more about Borglum’s statues placed all over the world and how he delved into the world of public art at the age of 60.

The Rushmore Borglum Story, on Winter Street, is open from May to October.

Go on an Educational Stroll along the Avenue Of Flags

People along the Avenue Of Flags

Patricia G Rodriguez /

If you’re in Keystone for Mount Rushmore, it’s vital that you walk along the Avenue Of Flags at least once during your visit.

This avenue is one of the historic and cultural sites in Keystone that you shouldn’t miss.

Originally established as a commemoration of the country’s Bicentennial in 1976, this avenue has transformed into something more in the years that followed.

It features all the 56 flags of the United States in two neat rows; 50 flags for 50 states and six miscellaneous ones.

Flags of the Avenue Of Flags

Paul R. Jones /

Keeping these flags raised are tall pillars that also contain the state, territory, or commonwealth of the flags.

At the far end of the walkway are stunning views of the Mount Rushmore monument.

The Avenue Of Flags is within Mount Rushmore National Memorial.

Night scene at the Avenue Of Flags

Kenneth Sponsler /

Enjoy the View of Open Hills at Breezy Point Picnic Area

Take a break in the heart of nature at Breezy Point Picnic Area.

This picnic area has about five picnic spots.

To get to these spots, you’ll have to walk around tree-covered walkways.

The erected signages you’ll meet along the way contain information about Peter Norbeck, a former governor of South Dakota, and even black hills granite, which the site is abundant for.

It also has an overlook with open views of the surrounding hills within the vicinity.

Breezy Point Picnic Area is on South Dakota Highway 244, just west of Mount Rushmore.

Admire the Changing Views of Mount Rushmore at the Presidential Trail

Close view of Mount Rushmore National Memorial from Presidential Trail

EWY Media /

The Presidential Trail is one of the most popular spots for hiking around Mount Rushmore National Memorial.

Though it’s a relatively short loop that doesn’t exceed a mile, this trail gets you different views of the large monument at certain angles.

With benches for your respite and all-around ponderosa pine trees, it’s a relaxing spot for casual and informational strolls.

Views from Presidential Trail

Steve Cukrov /

At certain stops in the route, you can find informational signages about the monument.

Its final 0.4-mile section has about 422 stairsteps for a more challenging hike.

You can access the Presidential Trail from South Dakota Highway 244.

Final Thoughts

Keystone, South Dakota’s colorful skyline, features a collection of its most popular attractions, including Mount Rushmore National Memorial, Big Thunder Gold Mine, The National Presidential Wax Museum, and more.

These top sites are sure to satisfy any traveler’s wanderlust.

If you’re ever stumped as to what to do next, feel free to come back here and take a look at the recommendations!

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