We headed south on 385 from Deadwood through Hill City to get to the monument, because my stepdad has family in Hill City, and we wanted to check out the Black Hills Institute museum. We didn't end up making it to the museum, because we wanted to make sure we had plenty of time to see everything else, but if I had more time, I'd definitely stop in! And if I had kids, I wouldn't dream of missing it - they have a T-rex skeleton!
Then, from Hill City, we continued south on 385, then went east on 244 (instead of tracking back through Keystone, SD) to the Mount Rushmore monument! On the way down, there's a spot where you can see George Washington's profile as you get close to the entrance. It's easy to spot because there's a huge parking lot on the side of the road. When we were driving, we passed it and thought "Why are all those people pointing and taking photos of the mountain?" Then someone turned around and said "Holy crap, it's Washington!" We of course immediately pulled over so we could do our own pointing and photo taking!
Once we'd had our fill of the profile, we continued down the road to the memorial.
Travel tip: There are several entrance fees you'll have to pay when you go to these monuments. At Mount Rushmore, the monument is free, but you have to pay $11/car to park in their lot. At Custer National Park, a week long entrance pass is $15/car. And at the Crazy Horse Memorial, there is a $27/car (or $10/person, whichever is less) entrance fee.
There is a short hike you can do from the main viewing terrace - it's only about a mile loop, but it includes some steep hills and stairs, so I wouldn't really recommend it for groups with strollers or people with mobility issues. We're all in pretty good shape, and it was still tough on us because of the heat the day we went! But, you do get some really cool perspectives of the monument from the hike - there are little stopping points that have great views of each of the faces, with some facts about our presidents. And there's a little museum at the bottom of the hill that has a cast of what the entire mountain would look like had it been finished the way the designer originally planned! (Spoiler alert - they'd have had bodies, too!)
Once we'd had our fill of the gentlemen, purchased some goodies from the air conditioned giant gift shop, and made a stop at the ladies' room, we continued on our way. We back tracked again, heading east on 244, then south on 385 for just a moment before heading back south east on 87 into Custer National Park to check out Sylvan Lake. People who like cheesy movies may know that Sylvan Lake was the location of the lake "behind" Mount Rushmore in the movie National Treasure 2... it's actually about 15 miles away. On the way there, you pass through a cool tunnel carved out of the rock, and you'll have to pay the entrance fee I mentioned before for Custer National Park. Even so, the trip is completely worth it, because Sylvan Lake was high up on our list of favorites for the trip!
After the Crazy Horse pit stop, we continued south on 385, then east on 16A for the Custer National Park Wildlife Loop.
Then, the loop was done and it was out of Custer National Park, and on to Rapid City!
It was late afternoon by the time we arrived in Rapid City, so we check into our hotel then walked down the main street to Firehouse Brewing Co. We had to wait for a table, but it all worked out because they have a nifty souvenir shop right next door! After dinner we walked to the town square, where they were having an outdoor movie night. Grease was playing, and we watched for a few minutes (through "Summer Lovin', of course!) then headed back towards the hotel. We had a last vacation drink at the bar across from the hotel, then crashed.
It was a long but awesome trip. We flew home early Tuesday morning, which ended up being nice since we had time for a nap once we got home. We definitely packed more into our trip than perhaps was smart, and there were things we missed out on. But it was nice to see a part of the country we'd never experienced, and it gave us a completely different perspective on a couple of things. I'll definitely go back to Montana, Yellowstone and South Dakota. And there were pieces of Wyoming I would check out more extensively - the area around Cody, the Bighorn National Forest. But for the most part, I think I got enough of a taste of Wyoming.
Our favorite things on the trip? In no particular order:
- Yellowstone, and horseback riding in the Shoshone National Forest
- Roughlock Falls in the Black Hills
- Sylvan Lake in Custer National Park
- The Montana Grizzly Encounter
And check out previous posts about our trip:
- Bozeman, Montana
- The Montana Grizzly Encounter
- Horseback Riding at the Pahaska Tepee Lodge
- Driving through Wyoming
- South Dakota and the Black Hills
What part would you look forward to most?