South Dakota’s most popular attraction depicts four 60-foot (18-meter) busts of American presidents carved into granite cliffs. Make the drive out to this mammoth sculpture garden to see one of the most recognizable American landmarks.
Although the image of Mount Rushmore is familiar to most, it is still an experience to see first-hand the sheer size of this attraction. As you gaze at the four granite faces, keep in mind that each is as tall as a six-story building. The faces of George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt, and Abraham Lincoln were chosen to represent the first 130 years of United States history.
The Danish-American sculptor Gutzon Borglum designed Mount Rushmore in 1927. With the help of 400 men, he carved the sculpture in 14 years. The faces catch the sun for most of the day which is why the mountain was chosen.
Visit the Sculptor’s Studio to see original artifacts from the carving of the mountain. Inspect one of the models of Mount Rushmore that Borglum carved early in the design process and see some of the workers’ tools from the carving.
Take the Presidential Trail to reach the viewpoint closest to Mount Rushmore. Walk along the path for a few minutes and reach the foot of the cliffs. The giant faces of Mount Rushmore tower over visitors just above, within a few hundred feet of the viewpoint.
Stick around until after sundown for a nightly lighting ceremony of Mount Rushmore. Sit in the amphitheater and watch as the faces of the cliff seem to slowly rise out of the darkness as they are gradually illuminated by powerful floodlights.
The easiest way to get to Mount Rushmore is to drive, since it is in a fairly remote location, however there is a fee to park. Alternatively, you can take a plane, train, or bus to Rapid City, which is about 24 miles (39 kilometers) to the north. From there rent a car or board a tour bus to reach the park.