Midway through our 17-day roadtrip this summer, we spent a few days in the Black Hills of South Dakota. We were excited to finally visit Mount Rushmore! It had been on our family’s bucket list for many years, so we started planning (and budgeting for) this trip two years ago. It’s not the kind of place you can find a reason to drive by–not from Washington DC! Mount Rushmore National Memorial is located in Keystone in southwest South Dakota.
When you first arrive at Mount Rushmore, you walk through the Avenue of Flags towards the Viewing Area. We were lucky to have such a beautiful weather day! Besides the Visitor Center and Museum, there is a restaurant and (of course) a gift shop. They’ve built what they can in the area to make it more of a destination, but it’s not a day-long visit, just a few hours at most. You can hike the 0.6 mile Presidential Trail to get closer up, listen to a Ranger Program, or come back for the Evening Program (summer only) where the sculpture is illuminated.
Inside the Visitor Center, there was an duct tape art exhibit which was really cool! This changes seasonally, so keep an eye on the calendar for what’s coming up next.
Anytime you visit a National Park, get the kids involved with the Junior Ranger program. At Mount Rushmore National Memorial, it was really helpful to have the booklet to orient us in the Visitor Center. It was quite crowded (typical for August), and this gave the kids some direction so we weren’t missing out on learning about the memorial. Depending on the age of your child(ren), that determines how many pages they complete. When done, they take the book to a Park Ranger and receive their badge.
We learned about the sculptor, Gutzon Borglum, and how carving the mountain occurred between 1925-1941. Borglum’s son continued his work after his death in March 1941. The kids knew enough about WWII to understand why carving and funding for the project stopped in October 1941 as the US entered the war. It turns out that 90% of the carving was done by dynamite, and the Museum did a good job of exhibiting the scale of the heads since you can only view the memorial from far away.
There is no entrance fee, but it does cost $11 for parking. The National Parks and Federal Recreational Lands Annual Pass, the Annual Pass – Military, the Senior Pass, and the Access Pass cannot be used for parking fees at Mount Rushmore, unfortunately.
Are you planning on visiting Mount Rushmore anytime soon?