Mount Rushmore National Monument is an American treasure. Its busts of George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln, and Theodore Roosevelt are one of the most recognizable carvings in the world. Mount Rushmore has been the subject or backdrop in many famous, photos, paintings, and movies. I visited Mount Rushmore while I was reading about American history, and this made my visit particularly meaningful.
The carving at Mount Rushmore began in 1927 and was completed in 1941. The effort was led by controversial sculptor Gutzon Borglum and involved approximately 400 workers doing the drilling, blasting, carving, and hauling. The federally funded program was completed at a cost of slightly less than one million US dollars.
Mount Rushmore was one of the highlights of my road trip which also included Yellowstone, Little America Wyoming, and Estes Park in Colorado. Mount Rushmore is located about 25 miles southwest of Rapid City, South Dakota. It is just 2 miles from the small town of Keystone, South Dakota, which has extensive tourist facilities.
The park has a very good bookstore, museum, theater, amphitheater, a variety of ranger talks, an audio tour, and an evening program. There is an annual parking fee ($10) rather than an entrance charge (therefore annual park passes do not apply). The films, talks, and other programs are interesting to people of all ages and nationalities.
I stayed in Keystone and visited the monument several times to take advantage of different activities and lighting conditions. I particularly enjoyed the evening program, which begins with a ranger talk, followed by a film, music, and lighting of the mountain.
Mount Rushmore and the nearby hotels can be extremely busy during the summer months, If you have flexibility in your schedule, the months of April, May, September, or October are probably the best time to visit. Early August, during the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally, is probably a particularly good time to avoid the area. When I visited the area in the middle of May, the daytime temperatures were warm and the nights were quite brisk. The town was not crowded and I was able to find a good hotel room without a reservation. It is probably a good idea to check the park website to be aware of any special events.
Nearby Custer State Park has some beautiful sites which can be seen from the road, and extensive hiking trails. Crazy Horse Monument (under construction for 60+ years, and counting) is a 30 minute drive from Mount Rushmore. Badlands National Park and Wall Drug are about 1.5 hours from Mount Rushmore, and are two more must-see attractions if you are in South Dakota.