It was Day 4 of our Arizona to South Dakota road trip when we spent the morning visiting Mt. Rushmore National Monument. Exhausted from the day before, we opted out of waking up at dawn to see the sunrise at Mt. Rushmore. Instead, we slept in a bit, grabbed a coffee from the Perky Pine Café in Hill City, then headed to Mt. Rushmore. After spending a half day at this iconic monument, Buddy and I are sharing our Top 5 Tips for an exciting adventure at Mt. Rushmore!
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Top 5 Tips for an Exciting Adventure at Mt. Rushmore
1. Prepare for Crowds
I thought arriving at Mt. Rushmore 10am on a Monday in July would mean that the monument would be less crowded. I was wrong. The monument was full. This made it difficult for us to enjoy the Lincoln Borglum Museum and the Sculptor’s Studio. For the most part, we had to wiggle our way around other tourists to see the exhibits. There were some instances when we wanted to give more time to reading and taking in the information provided by the exhibits. But it was so crowded that we could not do so comfortably. I do want to note that despite the crowds, we were able to easily find parking.
Bonus Tip: If you are looking to have less people in the background of your Mt. Rushmore photos, consider taking them when you are leaving rather than arriving. We took family photos at the beginning of the Avenue of Flags right when we arrived and there were so many other tourists in our photos, smiling and posing behind us. However, when we were heading out a few hours later, there were very few tourists taking photos at that spot. It was so empty in fact, that there was enough space for me and Buddy to film a Movement Postcard at the Avenue of Flags honoring both of our Southwestern home states.
2. For souvenirs, visit the Bookstore
I collect keychains from every place that I travel. For that reason, I am always on the look out for a gift shop at every site I visit. When we arrived at 10 that morning, the line to get into the Mt. Rushmore gift shop was out the door and around the corner! The line stayed that way the entire time that we were there.
I was bummed about the prospect of having to stand in that long line for a keychain and expressed that sentiment to Buddy. A park ranger inside the museum overheard me and recommended that I visit the bookstore located in the Information Center instead. It was a great tip! The bookstore sold a handful of souvenirs, including key chains. Best of all, there was no line!
3. Prepare for a lot of stairs
During our time at Mt. Rushmore, we walked along the Presidential Trail and the Grand View Terrace Trail. While we highly recommend the trails, we want to warn you that you will be climbing up and down a lot of stairs. The good news is, there are a lot of multigenerational families on the trails, so the pace is slow and easy. There are also a lot of places to stop and rest or take photos along these two trails.
4. Yes, the Thomas Jefferson Vanilla Ice Cream is worth it!
If you are interested in learning more about the ice cream, we have a whole separate blog about the Thomas Jefferson’s Vanilla Ice Cream from the Memorial Team Ice Cream in our Restaurant Round up. But I think Buddy put it nicely when he said, “My favorite thing was the ice cream.”
5. Sunscreen and a Hat
We visited Mt. Rushmore in July and the sun was a bit intense. After arriving at Mt. Rushmore, I pulled out our bottle of Blue Lizard Sunscreen so we could reapply. Buddy and I were blown away because it was our first time in 10 years of using this sunscreen that the color changing bottle turned so blue that it matched the deep blue bottle cap! Blue Lizard sunscreen bottles are designed to turn blue when exposed to UV light.
To protect ourselves from the UV rays, we lathered up with sunscreen and put on some hats. I recommend this hat, which I have worn both on my travels and around town for three years now.
Although the sun was bright, the temperature was perfect for us Southern Arizona dwellers. We sat outside at 12:30pm and were not hot at all. Then again, given where we live, our definition of hot weather may be skewed.
Bonus Tip: Bring a water bottle. I always have my blue Hydroflask with a flex cap at my side when traveling.
All in all, we spent about two and a half hours at Mt. Rushmore. We thought it was the right amount of time for us to explore the monument. Although we did not experience sunrise or the Evening Lighting Ceremony at the monument, we did not think that it took away from our experience in any way. We left feeling like we had the full Mt. Rushmore experience.
About Mt. Rushmore, Buddy says, “There were a lot of tourists. The museum is very detailed. I definitely recommend the ice cream.”
Have you visited Mt. Rushmore? What time of year did you visit? And what are your recommendations? Share below in the comments!
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