Things to do at Mount Rushmore

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When planning your trip to South Dakota visit to Mount Rushmore is on the list of things to do. There is so much more to do at the Memorial than just look at it. Depending on your time frame, you can easily spend a few hours at the memorial. There is so much to see, do and learn. There are events from sun up to sundown and something for the whole family to enjoy.

When you first approach Mount Rushmore from Highway 16A through Keystone, it’s almost as if George Washington is peaking around the corner to see you. Out of the granite mountain sides the monument suddenly appears, surrounded by pine and bannered by blue sky. When you reach the memorial, you may be greeted by one of the many friendly mountain goats who have decided to make the memorial their home. The goats are wild and native to the Black Hills. These adorable Billies are the unofficial welcome wagon to the monument. You can see them grazing in the lush patches of grass that surround the front entrance. Although it may be tempting to share a treat with these guys, please don’t. Popcorn and other human foods are not good for these beautiful creatures.


As you make your way from the parking lot, you are greeted by massive granite columns that seem to mimic the monument they surround. The impressive entrance leads you directly through a corridor that will take you straight to the grand terrace.


As you make your way to the terrace, you’ll pass through the avenue of flags, which was added in 1976, the Bicentennial of the signing of the declaration of Independence. Composed of 14 granite columns that line the walk way, these columns display the flags of all 50 states and the territories that make up our great nation. Can you spot yours?


When you reach the grand terrace, you come face to face with the presidents. The Grand Terrace offers the most direct view of the faces. There is plenty of room to pose for photos and simply take in the scenery.


The adventure doesn’t stop there. To learn a little more about the history of the monument, the area and the native culture of South Dakota, take a leisurely half mile walk along the Presidential trail. This boardwalk laid trail is easy to navigate for almost everyone but be aware there are stairs on the trail as it takes you down and around the base of Mount Rushmore, offering several unique perspectives of the monument.   You can either take a self guided tour or join a group for a ranger walk.  The Lakota Nakota and Dakota Heritage Village is at the first part of the trail and offers a historical perspective on the life and ways of the Native American people of South Dakota, North Dakota and Nebraska.


Creating a monument like Mount Rushmore would be a challenging endeavor today even with modern day technology like GPS and digital imaging to help with precisely setting blasts to carve out the four famous faces.  But Mount Rushmore started construction in 1927 using only man power, dynamite, rope and drills. There was nothing digital available to guide sculptor Guztlom Borglum, just his ambition and dedication. The Sculptor’s Studio offers visitors an inside look to the process of creating Mount Rushmore. The studio includes some of Borglum’s tools, scale models and video of the blasts that carved out this magnificent monument. Visit the Lincoln Borglum Visitor Center to view exhibits and a 14-minute film describing the reasons for and methods used in carving Mount Rushmore.

The evening is a special time at Mount Rushmore. Every night at 9pm , from mid-May through mid-August and 8pm from Mid-August to the end of September in the amphitheatre, below the Grand Terrace, the monument is ceremoniously lit up. Be prepared to stay for an hour or so and dress accordingly as the weather can get cool in the shoulder seasons. While the ceremony is weather permitting, the monument will be illuminated for approximately an hour and a half despite rain or possible snow in the early spring and fall months. The ceremony is lead by a park ranger and typically consists of a brief historical presentation, accompanied by patriotic music, and the honoring of service men and women who attend the event. Every night the monument is lit up so that it can be seen through the darkness of the night, and new in 2015 the National Park Service is proud to announce that the monument is doing so using energy efficient LED lights which also eliminates nearly if not all of the light pollution, that had occurred in the past.

The Powder House Lodge and Restaurant is proud to be part of the history of Mount Rushmore. Constructed in the late 1930’s the building that now houses our restaurant and main office sat right next to another small log structure with a tin roof that acted as storage for blasting powder to the mines in the area during the gold rush, boot-legged liquor during prohibition, and rumor has it some of the blasting powder used during the creation of Mount Rushmore.  So, a visit to the Powder House Lodge and Restaurant is a great way to round out your trip to or from Mount Rushmore.

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