Updated: Jun 7, 2020
There is no better way to celebrate the 4th of July than to visit Mount Rushmore. The Mount Rushmore National Memorial, located in the Black Hills of South Dakota, is an emotional testimony to the greatness of America and the dedication of sculptor Gutzon Borglum and his crew of approximately 400 to bring a dream to life.
Borglum wrote, “Let us place there, carved high, as close to heaven as we can, the words of our leaders, their faces, to show posterity what manner of men they were. Then breathe a prayer that these records will endure until the wind and the rain alone shall wear them away.” Inspiring words that illustrate the greatness of our country—and its people.
It has always been my dream to visit Mount Rushmore. As a child, my parents couldn’t afford family vacations. When my children were little, we lived in the South and never made it as far north as South Dakota. Now that my husband and I are full-time RVers, we put it at the top of our list of must-see sites.
It was everything I hoped for and more. As you approach the mountains, you get several glimpses of Washington, Jefferson, Roosevelt, and Lincoln. Their faces grow larger and larger as you get closer. Each turn in the road shows a different angle. About 450,000 tons of rock were blasted from the mountain to create this massive memorial. The faces are approximately 60 feet tall. Noses are about 20 feet long, eyes about 11 feet wide, mouths about 18 feet wide.
When you finally arrive at the entrance to the memorial, you pay a parking fee only—admission is free! There is no better deal anywhere. Parking is $10 for a car and $20 for an RV. It’s $5 for senior citizens. Cars are parked in a multi-tiered garage. Visitors then take an elevator or stairs that drops them off just a few feet from the entrance. NOTE: Pets are not allowed inside the park.
The Information Center is on your right, immediately after the park entrance. Visitors walk down a wide stone pathway that leads to the Grand View Terrace, appropriately named because once you step up on the terrace, you face the four great presidents.
One of the great surprises about Mount Rushmore concerns crowd control. During the planning stages, way back in 1925, they must have known that people from all over the world would come to see this amazing carving. To prevent overcrowding, visitors are routed in several directions upon entering the park. They can go into the Information Center and watch a 15-minute film on the monument’s creation. They can also turn left and follow a nature trail that skirts the perimeter of the park.
There’s the Sculptor’s Studio along the trail, as well as Borglum View Terrace. It’s a short walk to Borglum View Terrace. Please take it if you can. I think it’s the best view of the Presidents in the park, better than that from the Grand View Terrace.
Another option is to follow the 0.6-mile Presidential Trail, which starts from the left side of the Grand View Terrace. You’ll find the Youth Exploration Area around one curve. Stop and listen in for a few minutes. This station is for all ages. When we visited, a Native American was telling a story about how flutes were made—compliments of a woodpecker. He then played a hand-made flute. The soft notes carried on the open air.
Mount Rushmore is ideal for children—those who can walk. Strollers might be a problem. For instance, there are 422 stairs on the Presidential Trail. That sounds like a ton of stairs, but there are many long stretches to break them up. And there are so many visual stimuli, you might not notice the stairs. Aside from the beautiful foliage, you might see beautiful birds, granite outcroppings embedded with mica, and children having fun being children. Mount Rushmore does not prohibit children from climbing on rocks—yeah! It’s wonderful watching them test their skills.
Children can also become junior rangers while at Mount Rushmore. They can buy the hat, complete with pins, and they get an educational booklet that they complete as they travel throughout the park.
Ponderosa pines keep visitors relatively cool. There is shade to be found throughout the park, and if you’re thirsty, there is the café and ice cream shop.
Take your time meandering through this glorious park. You can even have your picture taken with a presidential impersonator. Stay for the nighttime illumination of the presidents. Then take home memories that will last a lifetime.
There is no overnight camping in the park, but it’s plentiful outside.
Current hours of operation (summer 2018):
Parking structure and memorial grounds: 5:00 a.m. to 11:00 p.m.
Information Center and Lincoln Borglum Visitor Center: 8:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m.
Sculptor's Studio: Closed until spring 2019, for renovation project.
Carvers' Marketplace: 8:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m.
Gift Shop: 8:00 a.m. to 10:30 p.m.
Mount Rushmore illumination: 9:30 to 11:00 p.m.
Near Rapid City, SD. Exact coordinates of Mount Rushmore: Latitude: 43.877163 North, Longitude: 103.456009 West.