Carved directly into the side of Harney Peak in the Black Hills, Mount Rushmore almost seems like a natural feature instead of a man-made one. The faces on the mountain are of George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt and Abraham Lincoln, who together represent the first 150 years of the United States.
You can take some amazing photos of the monument if you are there in the later evening when the faces are lit, though photos any time will be always be impressive. You’ll get the best photos from a distance, but the ranger-led tours which take you up close to the base of the mountain are something special too.
Aside from the centerpiece of the park, there are actually a number of other things to see here. The pine forest is filled with birds and animals, and it’s a great place to do some hiking, while the nearby Black Hills Forest is packed with trails and other outdoor activities like rock climbing and fly fishing.
There is a fee to park at the Mount Rushmore Memorial and although entrance to the monument itself is free there is a bit of a hike from the parking area to the memorial. There are no camping facilities at Mount Rushmore, so don’t plan on staying overnight, though there are campgrounds in the Black Hills and in Custer State Park.
Not far from Mount Rushmore is another giant sculpture in progress, of Lakota Chief Crazy Horse. This carving is still under construction, but is still worth a visit to see the impressive work in progress.
- Though there were some injuries sustained, no one died during the difficult 14 years that the construction took.
- The original design included more of the president’s bodies, but when the money ran out, so did the carving. So today, it’s mainly their heads.