When I found out I was moving to Rapid City nearly two years ago, one of the things I asked myself was, “What is even in Rapid City??” Mount Rushmore of course! The National Memorial is about 40 minutes from Rapid City near a small town called Keystone.
The drive to Mount Rushmore is gorgeous. No matter what time of year you drive through the Black Hills, the sights are breathtaking. As you drive up to the monument, there are plenty of places to stop on the side of the road giving you a gorgeous view of the monument from afar.
The granite face of Mount Rushmore showcases sculptures of four United States Presidents: George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt, and Abraham Lincoln. The monument was sculpted by Gutzon Borglum and his son Lincoln. The idea of monument came from Doane Robinson, a historian who wanted to promote tourism in the Black Hills. Mount Rushmore was chosen because of its exposure to the sun and high granite quality. The original idea that Robinson had was to feature Western heroes such as Lewis and Clark, but Borglum decided on the four presidents instead. Washington, Jefferson, Roosevelt, and Lincoln were selected because of their role in preserving the Republic and expansion of territory. Once the project received Congressional approval, construction started in 1927 and the faces of the presidents were completed between 1934 and 1939. When Borglum died in March 1941, his son took over the project until October 1941, when lack of funding forced an end to the project. The original concept of the monument was to show the presidents down to their waist, however, what you see today is still iconic.
Entrance to Mount Rushmore is free but there is a parking fee that’s good for the whole year. As you enter the memorial, the faces of the four presidents are seen in the distance and you’re surrounded by each of the United States’ flags as you walk down the plaza leading up to the main viewing area. This is the best place to see the monument directly on. If you’re a little bit more adventurous, I recommend hiking the Presidential Trail. This short trail, only 0.6 miles long, allows you to get closer to the sculpture. While an easy trail, it does have a lot of stairs (over 440) so it’s not easily accessible for those who have a hard time walking.
The town of Keystone is a great place to visit for food, souvenirs, and lodging. The town, established in the late 19th century at the end of the Black Hills Gold Rush era, has a history of mining. The discovery of gold and other minerals had people flocking into the area. Keystone prospered with the conception and carving of Mount Rushmore, which brought many jobs to the area. The town is currently visited by over 2 million visitors each year. More on Keystone’s mining history can be found here. I didn’t stay in Keystone very long, but I did stop in the local taffy shop, known for their many flavors of taffy that are made daily right in the store with a family recipe that had been passed down for generations.
If you’re looking for more outdoor activities, there are plenty of trails and even rock climbing behind the monument. I haven’t ventured out to these trails yet or tried the climbing but they’re on my to-do list once spring rolls around. However, it’s worth driving through the Hills just to take in the beauty…and George Washington’s profile.
Ever visit Mount Rushmore? If so, please share your experiences!