How Tall Is Mount Rushmore?

At an elevation of 5,725ft, the Mount Rushmore National Memorial stands as a towering symbol of the history and culture of the United States of America.

Apr 17, 2024By Scott Mclaughlan, PhD Sociology

how tall is mount rushmore


At the top of Mount Rushmore stands the Mount Rushmore National Memorial, a giant sculpture of four revered presidents of the United States of America. Mount Rushmore stands at an elevation of 5,725ft (1,745m) above sea level – the monument stands at 1,320ft (quarter of a mile) above the main viewing area. Altogether, the vast expanse of Mount Rushmore National Memorial Park spans 1,278 acres – two square miles, or five square kilometers – of the picturesque Black Hills, near Keystone, Southwest South Dakota.


Mount Rushmore

The mountainside of Mount Rushmore, in the Black Hills of South Dakota, Source: Wikimedia Commons
The mountainside of Mount Rushmore, in the Black Hills of South Dakota, Source: Wikimedia Commons


Nestled within the breathtaking landscape of southwest South Dakota, Mount Rushmore National Monument – also known as the “Shrine of Democracy” – emerges out of the rugged topography of the Black Hills region, the easternmost stretch of the Rocky Mountains


The mountain itself stands at 5,725ft in elevation and the approximately 60ft high heads of the four presidents extend about 250ft along the crest of the mountain. The iconic heads of George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt, and Abraham Lincoln (left to right) stand approximately a quarter of a mile above the main viewing area. The total area of the memorial park covers 1,278 acres (approximately 2 square miles) 


While Black Elk Peak (7,242ft) stands as the tallest summit in the region, Mount Rushmore was chosen for its optimal conditions: its smooth fine-grained granite rock (percent for sculpting) and its southwest-facing rockface, ensuring ample sunlight throughout the day for the construction process. 

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The Four Presidents

A detailed view of the Mount Rushmore National Monument, Source: Wikimedia Commons
A detailed view of the Mount Rushmore National Monument, Source: Wikimedia Commons


The heads of Mount Rushmore are one of the most iconic images in the history of the United States. The original plan was to carve the full bodies of the four presidents into the mountain. However, save for a small proportion of George Washington’s neckline, the monument ultimately materialized as just the heads of the four presidents. 


Washington’s head, measuring 60ft (18.3m) from crown to chin, encompasses features of striking proportions: 11ft (3.4m) wide eyes, a 21ft (6.4m) long nose, and an 18ft (5.5m) wide mouth. The heads of Thomas Jefferson and Theodore Roosevelt are slightly smaller, while the head of Abraham Lincoln is a little larger. 


In just over 6 ½ years, about 400 workers – mostly miners, ranchers, farmers, and teachers from the local area – used dynamite, jackhammers, and chisels to blast, drill and chip through 450,000 tons of granite. The vast majority of the excavated rock remains at the base of the memorial to this day.



Mount Rushmore heads under construction
Mount Rushmore heads under construction.

The famous sculptor behind Mount Rushmore, Gutzon Borgulm, envisioned his monument as a commemoration of “the spirit and ideas of the westward expansion of America and the growth of democratic ideals and institutions.” In his design, George Washington represented the birth of the nation, Jefferson its expansion, Lincoln its preservation, and Roosevelt its development


Borgulm’s approach was simple but methodological. He created a model of the sculpture at a ratio of 1:12 (1 inch to 1 foot on the mountain) to guide his workers. Using a precise measurement system, he directed the preparation of egg-shaped volumes of rock for each head using dynamite.


Subsequently, rough facial features were shaped using pneumatic drills, followed by the addition of details with pneumatic hammers and chisels. Working from Bosun chairs suspended against the mountain face, Borgulm’s team began construction in 1927. Washington was finished in 1930, Jefferson in 1936, Lincoln in 1937, and Roosevelt in 1939. Mount Rushmore was officially completed on 13 October 1941. 


Comparative Facts

the four presidents on mount rushmore


Mount Rushmore is far from one of the world’s tallest mountains. However, despite its modest height, its cultural and historical significance make it an important landmark nonetheless. 


From sea level to peak, Mount Rushmore’s elevation (5,725ft) is over four times taller than the Empire State Building (1,250ft), five times taller than the Eiffel Tower (1,083ft), and twice the size of the world’s tallest building Dubai’s Burj Khalifa (2,717ft). 


The 60ft (18.3m) heads of the four presidents are similar in height to the Great Spinx of Giza (66ft), George Washington’s nose (6.4ft), mirrors the real-life height of the tallest depicted president on Mount Rushmore, Abraham Lincoln. 


Altogether, the 1,278 acre expanse of Mount Rushmore National Memorial Park is approximately twice the size of the City of London (716 acres) and comparable to Chicago’s Lincoln Park (1,216 acres).

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By Scott MclaughlanPhD SociologyScott is an independent scholar with a doctorate in sociology from Birkbeck College, University of London.