Joshua Tree to Mt Rushmore National Memorial Road Trip Guide


The Joshua Tree plant life in the Mojave Desert has inspired some iconic and great undertakings, including the legendary U2 album and the fictional planet of Tatooine in Star Wars.

This tree also has ties with history as it is believed to be named by the Mormon settlers migrating west. There are traces of numerous indigenous groups living here for thousands of years.

Hence, Joshua Tree National Park receives thousands of visitors each year. This National Park makes for a perfect start point for a week-long RV adventure and sets the mood for exploring this vast and untamed wilderness.

The route you’ll take from Joshua Tree National Park, California, to Mount Rushmore National Memorial, in South Dakota, will take you through some of the most iconic desert landscapes. If it is your first time seeing a desert, be prepared to be overwhelmed by its vastness.

It’s only fitting that the last stop for such a majestic road trip should be at Mount Rushmore National Memorial. This memorial pays tribute to four presidential figures of the United States of America by carving out their faces on a 60-foot mountain.

The area is surrounded by the Black Hills National Forest which allows visitors to explore the grassland parks, lakes, canyon, ridges, gorges, and many other geological features.

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Max RV length
Max trailer Length
Road trip length: 7+ days
Recommend rig: any
audience: friends

Point of Interest

Hot Springs

Before you head towards your end destination, make a stop at the city of Hot Springs, SD, to replenish with good food and even better attractions. Don't miss the chance to visit the Mammoth Site, exhibiting Ice Age fossils, and see something that you hardly see every day. This iconic museum exhibits numerous large specimens of woolly mammoths that were discovered in 1974 and preserved here.

If your road trip has been planned around summers then you’ll appreciate the Evans Plunge Mineral Springs, which is an indoor mineral-water pool with slides.

Another extremely interesting place to visit in Hot Springs is the Black Hills Wild Horse Sanctuary. You can take one of the many tour options at the sanctuary and experience different types of encounters with the animals. You can even stay at an old cabin for the night with a view of the wild horses.

Fort Casper Museum and Historic Site

This fort and historic site is drenched in history. Louis Guinard built a trading post and a bridge in 1859, near the point where the Mormon Pioneer Company first crossed the North Platte River almost a decade earlier. The same trading post was used by Richard Burton as an overnight stage stop in 1860. Another station was established at the same spot by the Pony Express.

One company of the Volunteer Cavalry was also sent here to protect a telegraph by Lieutenant Casper Collings and the station was renamed after him after he died in the Battle of Platte Bridge nearby. In 1936, the fort was rebuilt to resemble its original state in 1865 and today it exhibits all the materials that explain its history. Fort Casper Museum is also a good place to learn about the history of Central Wyoming, the City of Casper, in Natrona County.

Independence Rock State Historic Site

Independence Rock State Historic Site situated in a desolate desert-like landscape in central Wyoming is famous for two things, and hence, despite its unconventional location, receives thousands of visitors every year. The first important feature of Independent Rock is its appearance, a rounded granite extrusion that is 128 feet high.

Fifty million years ago, this rock was part of the Granite Range, but with time it exfoliated and reduced towards the earth’s crust. The rounded top of the Rock is due to the wind-blown sand that smoothed and shaved its edges over millions of years.

The Independence Rock also has a historical significance as thousands of pioneers braved these harsh lands as the only route to the west and ended up inscribing and painting their names at this very prominent rounded granite rock.

What adds charm to this historic site is the fact that it is still just as undeveloped and gives you an insight into the difficulties the pioneers had to face.

Salt Lake City

Salt Lake City might be the most populous city of Utah, yet it is extremely RV-friendly with its many campgrounds and a general air of natural grounds. You’ll find tons of outdoor activities, especially mountain-based adventures. However, the city also has historical and religious significance and one of its most popular destinations is Temple Square that houses the Mormon Temple.

Another must-see destination of Salt Lake City is the Natural Museums of Utah where you can see dinosaur fossils amongst the 5000 other interesting items on display. When you’re done with the indoor activities, you can head towards the mountains and have a great time skiing with your friends and family.

Many ski-lovers especially make the trip to Salt Lake City to take advantage of its mountains and heavy snow. One of the most thrilling things to do at this city is experience K1 Speed − an indoor electric car racing opportunity.

Kolob Canyons

If Valley of Fire State Park has left you speechless, wait until you see the Kolob Canyons of Zion National Park. The Kolob Canyon is an enormous finger canyon with spiraling cliffs rising towards the sky. These cliffs are of red Navajo sandstone and make this place all the more special with their deep pink and orange glow.

There are numerous other deep canyon pockets here that have yet to be discovered by anyone. This canyon is named in Mormon Scripture meaning, “residence closest to heaven.” Kolob Canyon is somewhere you’d love to get lost and discover something new.

There are tons of trails deep into the canyon that takes you away from the crowd and high up on the ridgeline so you can enjoy spectacular views. One of the trails even leads the hikers right on top of one of the enchanting finger canyons. There is a campground nearby in Cedar City, UT, where you can park your RVs.

Valley of Fire State Park

The Valley of Fire is a state park is located 50-miles northeast of Las Vegas, and yet, it is nothing like Vegas. As soon as you’ll stop here, you’ll see nothing but fiery red rocks for miles and miles – 46,000 acres to be exact.

These red rocks are actually Aztec sandstones and any other color in the valley belongs to the gray and tan colored limestone. Time your departure from Las Vegas in a way that you reach when the sun is high in the sky and the rock formations appear to be on fire. Also, make sure to stay here long enough to capture the sunset as it is unbelievably beautiful.

This valley has been a set for more than a few movies with the likes of Star Trek Generations, Total Recall, and The Professional. The impressive rock formations here were old when dinosaurs roamed the area.

The Secret Garden

With a packed itinerary, you might not have much time to see much of Las Vegas, NV, but if you have even a few hours in this city, you should pay a visit to the Secret Garden. The Secret Garden was founded 27 years ago by the famous tiger tamers and magician duo of Siegfried and Roy.

The Secret Garden has brought white tigers, white lions, panthers, and leopards to Vegas. Yet the most famous feature of the Secret Garden is the Dolphin Habitat. Situated inside the Mirage, on the Las Vegas Strip, the Secret Garden must not be mistaken with a zoo. This place allows visitors to practice yoga with the animals and offers painting and swimming opportunities with dolphins.

For an additional price, you can even get a VIP tour of the behind-the-scenes action and get to be a Trainer for a Day.

Mojave National Preserve

Embark on your journey by setting your GPS to the Mojave National Preserve in southern California. Home to plenty of recreational activities and natural features that are sure to keep you busy. The preserve also offers modern facilities which make it a good place to stop and spend the night.

Mojave National Preserve with its gravel roads and huge parking areas is perfect for RV road trippers. The preserve is home to ancient lavas, water-sculpted canyons, huge sand dunes, limestone caverns, and a view of the desert horizon. Make a stop at the visitor center to grab maps and find out the highlights of the preserve.

Do not miss out on the 700-ft Kelso Dunes, which are also the country’s third tallest dunes. If you listen closely, you might hear the low humming sound of the sands shifting within. Cima Dome should be your next stop, which is a 1500-ft huge chunk of granite with volcanic cinders and outcrops left in the wake of lava. When you get hungry from all that exploring, you can enjoy the tasty meals at GP’s and Nana’s Railroad Café located nearby.


Located in South Dakota, Mount Rushmore National Memorial should be every RV road tripper’s ultimate destination since it boasts numerous high rated campgrounds. You can choose from Custer State Park, Big Pine Campground, Grizzly Creek, Kemp’s Kamp and many more.

Once you have chosen the perfect spot for your stay, it is time to explore the massive memorial and the Black Hills surrounding it. The first attraction to stop at, is, of course, the 60-foot magnificent monument of four great American presidents sculpted in the mountains by artist Gutzon Borglum.

The prominent figures who are forever carved into mountains are George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt, and Abraham Lincoln.

You can then enjoy the various activities at the site including Lincoln Borglum Visitor Center & Museum, the Presidential Trail, Youth Exploration Area, the Mount Rushmore Audio Tour, Sculptor’s Studio, a parking garage with R.V. parking, pet exercise areas, the Mount Rushmore Bookstores, Gift Shop, Memorial Ice Cream Shop, and the Carvers Café.

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