A Monumental Destination—Safe Travels and Classic Fun in Keystone, South Dakota | Black Hills Travel Blog

A Monumental Destination—Safe Travels and Classic Fun in Keystone, South Dakota

  • A Monumental Destination—Safe Travels and Classic Fun in Keystone, South Dakota
Updated: 
Thursday, December 31, 2020
By : 
Keystone Chamber of Commerce

Situated in the heart of the Black Hills, the city of Keystone is the perfect centralized location to stay and play during your vacation. Within Keystone, you’ll find plentiful lodging to meet your needs, a variety of mouth-watering dining options, retail stores, art galleries, helpful amenities and much more. Travel only minutes and you’ll come across spectacular national monuments such as Mount Rushmore National Memorial and Crazy Horse, plenty of outdoor fun, family-friendly attractions and the best breweries and wineries the area has to offer.

What makes Keystone unique?

With the monument located just 2 miles from the town, Keystone prides itself as the "home" of Mount Rushmore. But the town existed years before the monument was even conceived. Established in the late 1800s at the end of the Black Hills Gold Rush era, this once-booming gold rush town is a now a busy travel destination.

Keystone has evolved over the years beginning with with the gold rush and the development of the monument. The initial discovery of mineral deposits, mainly gold, in the region led to a flood of prospectors—all hoping to get rich quick. Pioneers and settlers helped fulfill the needs of those gold-seekers. In 1881 the town was named after the Keystone mine and was formally established. During this time Keystone prospered, declined, suffered setbacks such as fires and eventually began to recover. The biggest impact of Keystone’s development occurred during the carving of Mount Rushmore. Because of the carving, Keystone residents saw many improvements to their daily lives. Electricity came to town along with the creation of jobs at the mountain. The Keystone of today is no longer a “mining” town, but a close-knit community that prospers thanks to the visitors that come each year to see Mount Rushmore and explore the Black Hills.

What is the history of the town?

Originally built as a "men only" gold mining camp, it later became home to the men that carved Rushmore. Keystone was founded and built by those who imagined achieving their own American dreams through hard work and determination.

After gold was discovered within the mineral-rich region of the Black Hills, Keystone became a busy mining hub. It wasn’t long before this small town nestled alongside Battle Creek began to boom, reaching over 2,000 people thus becoming the largest community in Pennington County at that time. In the early 1900s, the railroad reached Keystone. It allowed the easy transport of people and goods, which eventually allowed for the creation of Mount Rushmore National Memorial. Today you can ride those same railroad tracks aboard the 1880 Train. Carrie Ingalls of “Little House on the Prairie” fame made her home here in 1911. Learn about her life as a journalist and the 36 years she spent in the area as well as the rich history rooted in the ideals of the American dream at the Keystone Historical Museum located in the old schoolhouse.



The carving of Mount Rushmore commenced in 1927, annually employing an average of 25 to 30 men until its completion in 1941. Initially, work was seasonal, but it was attractive work to the miners as wages were considerably higher than the mines were paying, and sometimes it was the only work available during the Depression. While the memorial created revenue and jobs for local workers, few knew the true greatness that would come because of the monumental carving. In the first year of completion, 393,000 tourists ventured to the wild west to see the famous and breathtaking carving. Soon after, Keystone discovered that tourism was and still is their primary industry.

Today, over 2 million people visit Mount Rushmore National Memorial each year, and nearly all of them come through Keystone. It is safe to say that Keystone, South Dakota is not only here to stay but will continue to grow and boom.

How does your town tie into my Black Hills vacation?

Because Keystone is centrally located in the Black Hills, it’s the perfect home base for your monumental vacation. Nearby Custer State Park, Crazy Horse Memorial, area caves, attractions, and outdoor recreation offer unlimited adventures. No matter what your interest, you can find it within easy driving distance of Keystone. Here you are just a hop, skip, and jump away from local day trips like the Badlands, Wind Cave National Park, Jewel Cave National Monument, as well as scenic drives like Needles Highway and Iron Mountain Road.

What can I do in Keystone during my visit?

Keystone offers more than simply basic traveler needs of lodging and restaurants. Museums, thrill-seeking attractions, a wide variety of gift shops and of course monumental carvings support the opportunity for exploration. And not just at Mount Rushmore. Visit our newest “resident”, Billie Bigfoot - seated at Dahl’s Chainsaw Art right here in Keystone! Ride a chairlift, take a zipline tour, explore a cave, get thrills on a mountain coaster, try your luck at making a hole-in-one at miniature golf, learn about all the U.S. presidents (in wax), get lost in a mirror maze or even pan/dig for gold. Fun times are endless in Keystone!

How much time should I budget?

At least 3-4 days, maybe even a week. There is so much to enjoy right here in our little town of Keystone. And because you’re not far from anything else to see and do in the Black Hills, why not stay here where you can branch out on daytrips? No need to pack and unpack your bags each day.

What can visitors expect at your community as far as staff, facilities, and services?

The Keystone Visitors Information Center offers community resources for those who want the full experience of the Black Hills. Our staff and Chamber of Commerce are the friendliest in the area. With a wealth of information on hand and knowledge about all attractions, businesses, and activities to participate in throughout the year, they are happy to assist visitors. Whether it be to reach their destination, locate any needed amenities, rest their bodies, quench their thirst or satisfy their hunger. They even know the best places to relax around an open fire and watch the star-lit night skies.

What ages can enjoy Keystone's attractions and sights?

Absolutely all ages! Keystone is a great vacation destination for the very young or the young-at-heart. Lots of history, easy walking, and fun attractions for all.

Does your community provide access and accommodations?

We take the safety and wellness of our visitors and locals very seriously. Rest assured you will enjoy the safe and routinely cleaned surroundings provided by our lodging and dining establishments as well as our attractions. The wide-open spaces and great safe places will give you peace of mind while you appreciate the beauty of the Black Hills. Nearly every place you visit will have ramps for the disabled and easy entrance to our local restrooms. Keystone’s main sidewalks/boardwalk follow ADA handicapped guidelines to assist with walkers or wheelchairs.

A stay in Keystone is guaranteed to be one that will create memories to last a lifetime. We are looking forward to meeting you—here in monumental Keystone!

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