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Driving through the Black Hills of South Dakota, it’s easy to be taken in by the natural beauty of your surroundings. Of course, you’ll need to keep your eyes on the road, because traffic can really pick as you approach Mount Rushmore, one of the country’s most iconic national memorials. Approximately 3 million people visit this site each year, many traveling by car or RV. It’s definitely one of those must-see spots for anyone on a road trip through the Midwest.
Mount Rushmore: Just the facts
Mount Rushmore has been attracting visitors since it opened in 1941. The sculpture itself is breathtaking, and although you’ve probably seen it in photos and on TV, you really can’t appreciate its immense size and detail until you see it in person. It took over 400 sculptors and several years to complete. Amazingly, there were no deaths among the laborers, despite the use of dynamite and the fact that the president’s heads tower 60 feet high.
The memorial features the faces of Abraham Lincoln, George Washington, Theodore Roosevelt, and Thomas Jefferson carved into granite. It was intended to be a draw for tourists, as well as serve as a patriotic memorial to the history of the nation. It has certainly been serving its purpose, and the memorial is free to visitors. There is a fee for parking, but it’s good for a whole year. You won’t have to spend much more once your inside, unless you visit the gift shop or cafe. There’s a large souvenir shop on site, as well as bathroom and dining facilities.
As you enter the memorial site and approach the mountain, you walk along the Avenue of Flags, which displays state flags, as well as those of US territories. It’s perfect for photo opportunities. Depending on when you visit, the memorial grounds can get pretty crowded. On the plus side, you should have no trouble finding fellow tourists willing to take your picture, with the presidents looming in the background.
Mount Rushmore and the surrounding area
Although you can’t camp or park overnight at Mount Rushmore, there are plenty of other places to stay in the surrounding area. Black Hills National Forest is home to 30 campgrounds alone, and nearby places like Rapid City and Keystone also have privately owned and operated campgrounds. Spokane Creek Cabins & Campground is just one of the many idyllic spots to settle in when exploring the area.
If you’re looking for other things to do and see in the area, you have a lot of options. There’s the Black Hills Institute in Hill City, where you can explore fossils and dinosaurs. Families will have fun at the Circle B Chuckwagon, where you can enjoy an Old West experience through music, food, and a variety of activities and performances.
Even if you’re just passing through the state, there’s no shortage of things worth pulling off for. A stop at Mount Rushmore won’t take more than a few hours, and it definitely provides a memorable experience. Whether traveling by car, RV, or even motorcycle, be sure to make a stop in the Black Hills region and pay the Mount Rushmore National Memorial a visit.