This was our second time visiting Mount Rushmore. The first time, two years prior to this trip, I had never been to South Dakota. I was expecting amber waves of grain, or maybe dry, rocky views. But when we arrived in Keystone, we were met with lush, green mountainsides and a quaint gold rush town. It felt a little like driving into Tahoe or western Colorado.
And the monument itself was way more impressive than I had imagined. If you haven’t been, I don’t want to ruin it for you. Perhaps, like me, you imagine Mount Rushmore is a roadside attraction. Or that you walk through a turnstile into some wood-paneled visitors’ center with a plexiglass window and an overweight and underpaid park ranger.
If that’s what you’re thinking, then just skip the rest of this blog and go directly to Mount Rushmore.
For everyone else—for those who have visited Mount Rushmore, or for those who have better imaginations and have experienced less disappointment in things being not-quite-what-you-imagined—you’ll know that you drive up a nicely-constructed, curved parking ramp, you buy your $11 parking pass, you park in a modern parking structure, and you walk up to a clean and attractive granite courtyard, tastefully landscaped with native plants.
Then, as you’re walking toward the Presidential heads, you see the walkway is flanked by flags from every state, in order of their addition to the Union. You find your home state flag, and you’re like, aw yeah, that’s my state flag.
Finally, you see them: Washington, Jefferson, Roosevelt and Lincoln. There’s a large amphitheater, so you can sit and look at the mountain or go down the steps for a different view. There are tours and shows throughout the day, but we didn’t see those. We just hung out and looked at the mountain, which was enough.
I didn’t expect to be so impacted by Mount Rushmore, but something about it—the flags, the granite, the grandeur, the parking structure—something stirred my heart, and looking at those statues, I felt especially proud to be an American.
Also, the bathrooms are clean and the sinks have warm water.