I have wanted to see Mt. Rushmore my whole life. I’ll be honest though, I was expecting our visit to Mt. Rushmore a few weeks ago to be a quick in and out proposition. I didn’t think we would spend hours wandering the grounds, walking the Presidential Trail, get up close and personal with a friendly mountain goat and learn so much about the history of this grand National Monument. Mt. Rushmore was so much more than I expected, and I walked away with a sense of pride of this country’s past, and a hope for what it will become in the future.
There is no camping directly at Mt. Rushmore, so we stopped in as a day trip while visiting Custer State Park about 45 minutes to an hour away. The roads from Custer State Park, are narrow, winding and quite scenic. Our first glimpse of Mt. Rushmore was while passing through a natural tunnel in the cliffside.
Driving up to the National Monument, there are plenty of areas to stop on the roadside and get great shots of the four iconic heads of our past presidents carved into the mountainside, but I encourage you to pay the $11 fee per car and visit the monument itself, it is well worth the price of admission.
Ranger talks and programs, audio self guided tours, and several interactive areas like the visitor’s center and Sculpture’s Studio are being offered throughout the day, and really help to immerse you in not only the history of the planning, building and history of Mt. Rushmore itself, but in facts about the lives of the four presidents represented here.
5 Things to Do at Mt. Rushmore
1. Explore the national park visitor’s center, and grab a Junior Ranger program book for little ones.
2. Walk the Presidential Trail. With over 200 steps and steep grades, it is not for everyone, but if you can make it, I highly recommend it. We had a great time exploring Mt. Rushmore from various angles, and the plaques that give facts on each president as you walk were very educational.
3. Visit the Carver’s Studio. Here you get a true sense of what went into the actual creation of Mt. Rushmore. What is was originally supposed to look like, how the hall of records was supposed to be completed but never was, and the tools they used to accomplish this magnificient feat.
4. Watch the video in the Lincoln Borglum Visitor’s Center. It tells of the history of the monument as well, but has some great clips from the building and unveiling ceremonies too. Truly a great experience, even for younger visitors.
5. Have a Buffalo Burger in the cafe. There is a cafe at Mt. Rushmore that serves a variety of food, but their buffalo burgers are incredible. If meat isn’t your thing, they have other items as well. Enjoying a meal with your family while looking out over Mt. Rushmore is a memory making experience not to be missed though. The staff is incredible here too!
We had a fantastic time visiting Mt. Rushmore and almost closed the place down. I had to drag the boys away, and if it had not been for the drive and having so much to explore at Custer State Park, we definitely could have spent another day there. If you are planning a vacation in the area, definitely map Mt. Rushmore into your plans.
I will leave you with a question that a gentleman from the UK who was visiting Mt. Rushmore with a tour group asked me during our visit, “If you could see any other president added to Mt. Rushmore, which would it be?”