While we stayed up in Spearfish, South Dakota, we took a day trip down into the Black Hills to check out Mount Rushmore and Crazy Horse Memorial. The drive from Spearfish to Mount Rushmore is about 70 miles (through Rapid City) and took us a little more than an hour to drive.
The Mount Rushmore National Memorial does not have an admission cost – but you do have to pay for parking, which was about $11 for a car, motorcycle or RV (more for commercial vehicles). We went on a Thursday in late July and was shocked at how easy it was to park our big truck and after a very short walk, we were there!
The entrance in the Mount Rushmore Memorial area is impressive – with flags from all 50 states, displayed alphabetically, while the presidents line the horizon.
The first thing we did was head into the Mount Rushmore gift shop inside the Visitor’s Center – so the kids could stamp their Passport to Your National Parks books. These books have a section for every part of the country and you can get a cancellation stamp at participating National Parks. It also has a space for a commemorative stamp, if you purchase one at the gift shop (we didn’t). You can purchase the Passport books at most any National Park gift shop for around $9.
Then both of the kids worked on earning their Junior Ranger badges for Mount Rushmore. To participate in the program, just ask for a Junior Ranger booklet at the information desk. They have two levels of books – one for readers and one for preschool age.
Both kids completed their workbooks and earned their badges. . .
I love seeing how proud they are when they earn these badges. Not only are they learning facts and history about the places we visit – with age appropriate worksheets and questions – but they are also learning critical thinking skills and problem solving skills as they seek out the answers through the educational displays around the visitors center.
After this we watched a 14-minute educational video about the reasons and methods of carving the monument. I love watching these with my kids! They are usually done very well and the kids enjoy them, too.
After the Visitor’s Center, we walked along the Presidents’ Trail – it’s a short 0.6 mile long walk, mostly along boardwalk, with 422 steps and some fantastic views of the monument.
This trail will take you to the Sculptor’s Studio, where Gutzon Borglum (the sculptor) spent a lot of time refining his scale model of the monument.
It is here that you can attend a Sculpture Studio talk, if you catch it at the right time (I think every 30 minutes?). We missed it this time – but I’d love to catch it, if/when we return!
To save money, we packed a lunch – which we left in the truck and after we were all done touring, learning and walking the President’s trail – we grabbed lunch out of the truck and ate right in the pavilion area, near the flags. I’m grateful we also packed our Camelpaks for water along the way.
I had been to Mount Rushmore about 13 years ago when I was a bridesmaid in a friend’s wedding here in South Dakota. But there was something extra special about bringing my kids to this great monument for the first time. I feel like places like this are all pieces to a big puzzle that we’re putting together as we cross this beautiful country. All the things they learn at one place build on another – and I can’t wait to continue the conversation about these presidents as we tour the East Coast this fall.
After Mount Rushmore we drove an additional 17 miles to the Crazy Horse Memorial. Privately funded through admission fees and donations (it is not a federal or state-supported project) it cost $28 per car to enter the Crazy Horse Memorial area. Parking is free.
The Crazy Horse Memorial, when complete, will depict Crazy Horse, an Oglala Lakota warrior, riding a horse and pointing to the horizon. This memorial was commissioned by a Lakota elder, Henry Standing Bear, who selected Korczak Ziolkowski to be the sculptor.
Started in 1948 the memorial has a long way to go before it’s complete – but when it’s done it could be one of the world’s largest sculptures at 641 feet wide and 563 feet high (Mt. Rushmore heads are only each about 60 feet high for comparison). The sculpture in the photo above is an example of what the sculpture should look like at completion, the current Crazy Horse memorial is behind that on the horizon.
If you visit Crazy Horse – I recommend you watch the video in the visitor’s center, it does a beautiful job telling the history and purpose of the sculpture.
Have you been to Mount Rushmore or to Crazy Horse before? Leave a comment and let us know what was your favorite part or if you did other activities in the Black Hills!
Last summer, for a trip to Disneyland, we ordered these CamelBak Kid’s Mini M.U.L.E. Hydration Pack for our kids and we LOVE them! They are the perfect size for a couple snacks and they hold plenty of water for the kids. Definitely worth the investment if you’re out with your kids hiking or on the go. They use them with and without the water insert, depending on what we are doing. We have adult Camelbaks that we take as well and again – they are worth every penny not having to lug around a water bottle or in my case, a purse.