Mt. Rushmore, located in the Black Hills of South Dakota, is probably one of the most iconic sites in the United States. The image of Mt. Rushmore has been used in countless films and is seen to many as a patriotic symbol of the United States.
We used the GyPSy audio guide for our exploration of the Black Hills. The guide recommends approaching Mt. Rushmore from Iron Mountain Road, which is a road that was designed to give you views of the famous memorial as you approach it. I really appreciated this drive and without the GyPSy guide, I don’t know that I would’ve planned our visit this way. If you plan to visit the Black Hills, definitely spring for the audio tour, it really does enhance the experience.
Much like the Alamo, I had heard from several people that they were underwhelmed by Mt. Rushmore so I went into this visit with pretty low expectations. No, Mt. Rushmore is not as big as a lot of National Parks and there are not a wide variety of things to do when you visit and it can get crowded, but you can escape the crowds by getting away from the Grand View Terrace. Personally, as a history buff and a proud American, I enjoyed the experience.
We visited Mt. Rushmore in the early evening and the crowds were fairly low. We took the .6 mile long Presidential Trail that gets you closer to the Memorial. I enjoyed one of the first viewpoints where you get to look at Washington through an opening in the rock (left). The trail takes you to the Sculptor’s Studio where you can see a scale model of the Memorial and learn more about what it was like to make such a large rock carving.
While admission to Mt. Rushmore is free, parking costs $10 but it is good for a year. While I doubt many people return to Mt. Rushmore multiple times throughout a year, we did come back a few days later to see the monument lit up at night. The lighting ceremony is very moving and is something everyone should see.
Now, when talking about Mt. Rushmore, I think it is important to talk about the controversy surrounding the monument. The first issue with the monument is that it is located on sacred Lakota land that the United States government may not have acquired legally. The other controversy surrounds the sculptor, Gutzon Borglum. Borglum was working on another controversial carving of Confederate leaders in Georgia that was backed by the Klu Klux Klan and Borglum himself was most likely a member. The third is that Mt. Rushmore was designed to be a tourist icon. The original idea was to carve famous figures from the wild west, but someone in South Dakota leadership at the time decided that it would have more broad appeal if they chose American leaders instead. For a lot more information about these controversies, I recommend this article from National Geographic.
If you are in South Dakota, you really have to stop at Mt. Rushmore. You don’t have to spend a ton of time there, but I think it is something that everyone (especially Americans) should see at least once. But, go into it with your eyes wide open and understand the history and contention that surrounds the monument. Mt. Rushmore isn’t the only attraction in the area. There is a lot of natural beauty in the Black Hills to explore, especially Custer State Park.
Thanks for stopping by! To read more about this trip, check out the Epic National Park Road Trip. To read about some of our previous trips, visit my Trips Page. If you like my photos be sure to “like” my Facebook Page and follow me on Instagram! You can purchase prints on Etsy and Fine Art America. To see inside my camera bag, check out my updated Gear Page.