Last weekend I decided to take the day off to celebrate Earth Day! I had recently been looking at maps for fun (I do this a lot) and found that Mt. Rushmore was only 5 1/2 hours from Denver! I had never been so... woo weekend road trip to South Dakota!
I drove through a whole lot of nothing until I got into the Black Hills. The nothing was so worth it. The Black Hills are beautiful and driving up to Mt. Rushmore is gorgeous.
Background on Mt. Rushmore (just in case): it's a National Memorial governed by the National Park Service. It was conceived by a South Dakota historian to bring tourism to the area. It is now visited by over 3 million people annually, and is the number one attraction in South Dakota - where tourism is the 2nd largest industry.
Originally the historian Doane Robinson wanted the sculpture to be of Western heroes but Gutzon Borglum, the sculptor, wanted it to have a national focus which is why the Presidents were the final design. They began sculpting in 1927 and finished the four faces (George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt, and Abraham Lincoln) between 1934 and 1939. The original design sculpted the Presidents from head to waist, but due to a lack of funding work ceased in 1941.
Amazingly, sculpting 60 foot heads in blocks of granite for 14 years produced no fatalities.
There is no entrance fee to the Monument, but there is an $11 per car parking fee. This allows you to park in the parking garage for the year.
After walking down the Avenue of Flags, I spent some time taking in the view above the amphitheater. Then I went on the fairly short hike closer to the mountain. One of the first stops on the hike is a cave with a great view up George Washington's nose.
It was a beautiful day for a walk.
The hike is all wooden paths and stairways (lots of stairs) in the trees.
Future Mt. Rushmore face.
After the hike I stopped at the dining hall and got some ice cream. The big draw is Thomas Jefferson vanilla, apparently modeled after his famous ice cream recipe, but the mint chocolate was too tempting. (and didn't cost extra like TJ vanilla!)
I had painted Mt. Rushmore earlier in the week and (of course) brought it to take pictures with the real thing.
It was a beautiful place and once in a lifetime experience (60 foot President heads!) I definitely recommend if you've never been, or haven't been as an adult.
PS - my Mt. Rushmore is for sale :) Make me an offer if you love Presidents as much as I do!