Search This Blog

Friday, June 3, 2016

Mount Rushmore National Monument

Mount Rushmore National Monument  - Black Hills, South Dakota 
I admit--- I was really 50/50 about visiting Mount Rushmore.  I mean, it's an iconic American landmark, it should have been a simple yes.  But  - there are a few buts.  National Park passes don't work here (technically the monument is free but parking is notd... but that really makes no sense), so we ended up paying 11$ in parking for each vehicle. The drive was a little out of the way to drive to the monument instead of sticking to the highways, and the trip was already short on time and heavy on the miles and deadlines. And most importantly, it was not a pet-friendly place. Oh and then there was the "Eh, cool but underwhelming" from nearly everyone I asked.  Despite the back and forth battle, I ultimately decided to see Mount Rushmore because let's be honest, it is an icon and I don't know when I will be back in South Dakota again. 

First Impression:  The drive through the Black Hills of South Dakota into Mount Rushmore was probably my favorite part. We followed 385 after leaving Wind Caves National Park, and followed SR 244 to the monument.  The landscape was beautiful with the mountains and the greenery.  Soon we arrived at the monument and parked in the garage (there were several levels as well as an area for short and large RVs, where I parked my truck).  The critters stayed in the car in the shade while we went in to see the sculpture. Dogs are not allowed beyond the first set up concrete pillars beyond the parking garage. So basically they are not allowed anywhere beyond the parking garage and the two "pet exercise areas".  Overall-  the monument was underwhelming, and not as big as you envision in your head.  It doesn't help that I got used to seeing Utah's towering mountains every day.  However, the grounds are beautiful and it is something you have to see in person to really appreciate the time and efforts it took the carve the monument. 

Entrance to Mount Rushmore
Avenue of Flags leading to the monument
Avenue of Flags: We passed through the information center and bookstore just beyond the parking garage.  I wanted a National Park stamp but there was this one lady asking about 500 questions (yes, on how to use a STAMP) so we decided to walk on.  We passed the cafe before crossing through Borglum Court and walking down the Avenue of Flags (above) to see the view from the Grand View Terrace (site map in the middle of the post).  The Avenue of Flags has 56 flags of the states, districts, territories and commonwealths of the United States (in alphabetical order). 

 Avenue of Flags with Mount Rushmore
Gutzon Borglum Bust by his son Lincoln 
About the artist:  In Borglum Court, you can stop see the bust of Gutzon Borglum made by his son Lincoln who also helped with the monument.  Here you can start to appreciate the work of the Borglums.  The story says that Borglum looked upon the "knobby crooked face of Mount Rushmore in the Black Hills of South Dakota and saw a vision of four United States presidents carved into the mountain". 

Entrance, Avenue of Flags and Mount Rushmore
What To Do:  Lincoln Borglum Visitor Center Museum and Theatres (30-60 minutes), Mount Rushmore:  The Shrine (14 minute film), Mount Rushmore Audio Tour (30-120 minutes), Presidential Trail (20-40 minute walk), Junior Ranger and Rushmore Ranger Programs (30-60 minutes), Youth Exploration Area (10-30 minutes summer only), Sculptor's Studio (15-45 minutes summer only), Lakota, Nakota and Dakota Heritage Village (10-30 minutes summer only).  You can find the hours for the park and exhibits HERE.

National Monument Map from NPS.Org
Grand View Terrace 
Fun Facts:  
  • Mount Rushmore was authorized by the United States congress on March of 1925.
  • More than three million visitors go to the park every year. 
  • Over 400 men worked to complete the sculpture from 1927 to 1941.  
  • Each face is 60 feet tall
  • Each eye is 11 feet wide
  • Washington's nose is 21 feet long (all the other noses are only 20 feet long). 
  • Washington's mouth is 18 feet wide
  • Total cost to build:  $989,992.32
  • The namesake:  Charles Rushmore
  • Sculptor:  Gutzon Borglum
  • Main tool:  Dynamite
  • The drill:  Jackhammer
  • The rock:  Harney Peak Granite
  • The trees:  Ponderosa Pine
  • Democracy:  the meaning of Mount Rushmore
Read more about how it was carved HERE

The Presidents (in carving order):
George Washington 1789-1797:  First President
Thomas Jefferson 1801 - 1809:  Louisiana Purchase
Theodore Roosevelt 1901-1909:  Panama Canal, Trust Buster, and Conservation
Abraham Lincoln 1861-1865:  Saved the union during the civil war. 

Below the terrace you an also find the Lincoln Borglum Visitor Center (lower level), the ranger desk, museum, theaters and book store. You can walk the Presidential trail to get a closer view of the carving, and visit the Borglum view terrace and sculptor's studio and book store. The museum was beautiful, and a nice addition to the monuments.  And worth spending more time in if you don't have a rouge cat waiting in a Penske truck. 

After your sightseeing, pictures, and tours, you can stop at the cafe for lunch.  You can even get a "Memorial Team Ice Cream", because apparently President Jefferson was the principal author of the Declaration of Independence... and of the first ice cream recipe is America. 

I am glad we stopped to see this iconic American monument.  My only regret (as most of my stops) was not having enough time.  I don't feel comfortable leaving my critters in the car for long periods of time, and we were on a strict road trip itinerary.  If you are also on the fence about visiting the monument, I urge you to stop by and say hi to Washington, Jefferson, Roosevelt, and Lincoln.  While it is in the middle of the country, it is around some other amazing stops like Wind Caves National Park and Badlands National Park.  We had this as a quick stop on our journey east before heading to the Badlands. 


  1. I'm selfishly really glad you stopped here. I've always thought it would be cool to see, but honestly, I have zero interest in visiting South Dakota. Now I don't have to ;)
    I thought it was bigger and taller too! Who knew?

    1. HAHAHA> I mean, if you are passing through stop. But definitely wouldn't plan a trip specifically to see this. I have you covered ;)

  2. I love this! Super helpful to have as I plan to roadtrip my way back west when I move back eventually :)

    1. Great Kaitlin! SO glad you enjoyed this! Let me know if you have any cross country moving questions!


Let's Chat!