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When traveling through South Dakota and its many national parks, Mount Rushmore is one of the most visited, even though it’s relatively small, and you have to pay more to enter it…Yes, it’s a historic monument that many have seen in photos, textbooks, and on TV since they were kids, but is Mount Rushmore worth visiting?
Let’s explore that question, and find out if you should visit Mount Rushmore when traveling through the Black Hills Of South Dakota.
Mount Rushmore’s Location
Mount Rushmore is located in the Black Hills National Forest, which is in southwestern South Dakota. It’s near other parks, such as Custer State Park, Wind Cave National Park, and Badlands National Park.
Being one of the more prominent landmarks in the Black Hills, Mount Rushmore has plenty of signs pointing visitors towards it, so you won’t have to worry about missing it.
History of Mount Rushmore
While perhaps most people know Mount Rushmore from their US History textbooks as a symbol of freedom, in reality, it was built on land stolen from the Native Americans who called the Black Hills home.
The Black Hills are a sacred place for many of the native tribes who are from that area, like the Lakota tribe. As with so many places in the United States, that land has been taken over by the US Government and never returned to the native people who originally called the land home.
The US Government wanted to buy the land from the Lakota tribe, but they did not want to sell the land as it was sacred to them and their history. In 1868, the US Government conceded in trying to buy the land and signed a treaty with the Lakota giving the Lakota the Black Hills.
However, that only lasted until the mid-1870’s when George Custer found gold in the Black Hills and started exploiting the Lakota’s land. This continued until the Gold Rush was over, but the land was never returned to the Lakota. The US Government offered the tribe money, but they never took it because they wanted their land and no amount of money was worth it.
Fast forward and the US Government never honored its 1868 treaty with the Lakota and gave them their land back. They did, however, manage to blast four gigantic faces of presidents into the side of a Black Hills mountain—again, a sacred site to the Lakota people.
Visiting Mount Rushmore
Now that you know the history behind Mount Rushmore, let’s dive into the experience of visiting Mount Rushmore.
As you drive through the Black Hills and wind your way up to Mount Rushmore, you can spot the faces of the presidents through some of the trees. There are a few locations to pull off and see them before actually entering the Mount Rushmore National Monument.
When you arrive at Mount Rushmore, you go through a pay station and into a parking garage. It costs $10 per car to enter Mount Rushmore, even if you have a US National Park Pass…
Once you park, you walk up to the entrance to Mount Rushmore, where it’s lined with all the flags of the states and US Territories with the view of the four presidents in the background.
The best view of Mount Rushmore is beyond the flags atop the small amphitheater. From there, you can take a short trail around up closer to Mount Rushmore itself. The entire trail hike only takes about 20-30 minutes depending on how often you stop. It’s not strenuous, but you do climb up a few steps.
They have a small museum with Mount Rushmore’s history as well as an extensive gift shop.
Is Visiting Mount Rushmore Worth It?
Let’s go back and focus on our main question: Is visiting Mount Rushmore worth it?
In our humble opinion, no, Mount Rushmore is not worth visiting.
Aside from the toxic, destructive history that was inflicted upon the Native Americans, it’s just kind of blah, especially when compared to other places you could visit, like the Crazy Horse Memorial and Custer State Park.
It’s understanding why people want to visit Mount Rushmore. It’s a national monument, a landmark you’ve seen in photos your whole life, and definitely something people want to see in the area. However, the experience visiting Mount Rushmore leaves much to be desired and a lot to think about, especially when you consider its history.
Plus, Mount Rushmore’s $10 parking fee is excessive, and quite frankly, a money grab. It’s seems a little ridiculous that you have to pay extra on top of having a US National Park Pass—$80—just so they can have a fancy parking garage with a plaza leading up to Mount Rushmore all in the name of freedom.
It honestly all feels manufactured, much like the “patriotic” events before an NFL game.
It’s supposed to give visitors pride and nostalgia for being “American,” but it fails. Mount Rushmore feels more like it’s another attempt at whitewashing US history and destroying any trace of native history that once existed there.
Plus, we can almost guarantee that you will see more Trump MAGA hats at Mount Rushmore than anywhere else in your trips through the Black Hills or national parks.
All in all, Mount Rushmore is not worth visiting. Save your money and spend it elsewhere.
If you want to see Mount Rushmore, just stop at one of the pull offs before or after the monument’s entrance and take photos from there. You will get the same experience as if you visited Mount Rushmore.