Mount Rushmore National Memorial Things to Do Tips by toonsarah Top 5 Page for this destination
Mount Rushmore National Memorial Things to Do: 56 reviews and 141 photos
Avenue of the Flags (by Chris)
Flags of the fifty US States, and the various territories etc., line this avenue that leads from the parking area to the Grand View Terrace. This feature was introduced to Mount Rushmore to mark the Bicentennial of American Independence. The flags are arranged in alphabetical order, with A being nearest you as you start down the path and W at the far end near the presidents. Of course all US residents will want to look for their own state’s flag, while as regular visitors to America we were keen to find those of all the states we’ve visited.
The Avenue looks great in photos too. You can use it to frame the monument itself, as Chris has done in this shot.
Directions: I say this a lot in my tips, but you REALLY can't miss this!
Face of George Washington
On the level beneath the Grand View Terrace is the museum and bookstore, which is well worth a visit. The museum has some interesting exhibits, not just about the carving of the monument as you might expect, but also about its place in popular culture, e.g. the film “North by Northwest”. There’s also a small cinema showing a short film about the carving of Mount Rushmore.
The bookstore has a very wide selection of books. When we were there they had a signing by the author of one of these, who was one of the men who’d worked on the monument. We were fascinated by the experiences he described, firstly working on the winch system and later as a driller working on the face of Roosevelt.
The museum is open all year, 7 days a week, as follows:
Winter (October 1st - April 30th): 8:00 am - 5:00 pm
Spring (May 1st - 13th): 8:00 am - 6:00 pm
Summer (May 14th - August 31st): 8:00 am - 10:00 pm
Fall (September 1st - September 30th): 8:00 am - 9:00 pm
Directions: Take the elevator down from the Grand View Terrace
View from the Borglum View Terrace
Away to your right as you look at the monument from the Grand View Terrace is a small building housing the Sculptor’s Studio. This can be reached directly by following the steps down to your right, or can be visited as part of your walk round the President’s Trail (see my other tip on this). If you choose to do the latter I recommend you walk clockwise and leave the studio till the end of your walk as it’s good to have the close up view of the presidents’ faces first.
In the studio you’ll find the various tools used by Gutzon Borglum and the workers, and displays about the techniques used. You can also see some of the scale models used to translate the sculpture into that huge rock-carving on the mountainside. When we were there a ranger was giving a talk about the history of the carving, which I gathered happens daily.
On the way back to the Grand View Terrace you pass the Borglum View Terrace where a sculptor-in-residence is usually at work.
Directions: Like the Presidential Trail, this is signposted from the terrace
View from the Grand Viewing Terrace
After parking your car (see my General Tip) you walk out of the parking area past an information point and rest rooms, and arrive at the start of the Avenue of Flags. On your right as you face the Avenue is a restaurant and snack shop, on your left a gift shop.
If you head down the Avenue towards the monument itself you’ll arrive on the Grand View terrace which is, as the name suggests, the best place from which to get an view of the four presidents, who look back at you across a small valley and, immediately below you, an amphitheatre. You can get some great photos from here, but if you want to get closer take the Presidential Trail which leads you past the foot of the mountain (see my separate tip on this).
Below the terrace (and reached by elevator) is the museum which has lots of exhibits about the carving of the mountain and the four presidents themselves. There’s also a great selection of books, plus more rest rooms, an information desk and water fountains.
You might also like to visit the Sculptor’s Studio which shows some of the tools and models used in construction and runs sculpture workshops.
Directions: If travelling on I-90 you need to exit at Rapid City and follow Highway 16 (signposted) to Keystone and then Highway 244 to Mount Rushmore. From the south you should take Highway 385 north to Highway 244, which is the road leading to the memorial.
Washington from the Presidential Trail
Although you can get a great view of the monument without going beyond the main viewing area, a walk on this ½ mile loop path will take you much closer. If you set off from the left hand side of the Grand View Terrace (as you face the mountain) you’ll find that the first part, which takes you to the base of the mountain below the face of George Washington, is flat - but beyond that there are a quite a lot of steps so this isn’t suitable for anyone with walking difficulties. This second part leads you below the other three faces and back to the terrace via the Sculptor’s Studio.
Directions: This is signposted from the terrace (although we managed to miss it and ended up in the museum the first time we tried!)
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