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This Iconic U.S. National Park Is Surging in Popularity But Is It Worth Visiting?

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Saying “dead presidents” feels like an FBI invasion is looming, but that's exactly what 2.43 million tourists sought to check off their travel wishlists with one of the most iconic sites in the U.S.

According to the National Park Service, more tourists visited the impressive works of Mount Rushmore in 2023 than the combined total of residents in Wyoming, North Dakota, and South Dakota combined.

mount rushmore surrounded by lush greenery

While definitely on the sleepy side of the spectrum, South Dakota may surprise visitors with its stunning nature and intangible sense of being in the wild.

Famous Mount Rushmore is located in the lush Black Hills of South Dakota, which is perfect for a road trip through this underrated region of the U.S.

But given its location and being one of few attractions in the state, it's only fair to ask, “Is it worth visiting?”

Where The Buffalo Roam

Lots can be said about South Dakota, but “tourism hotspot” typically wouldn't come to mind for most.

backroads of custer state park south dakota

Although, the state does have lofty goals to make a name for themselves as a top 10 destination in the country.

Dreams aside, the here and now version of South Dakota flies way under the radar for most travelers, but almost 2.5 million tourists is quite impressive.

The small Rapid City airport is the closest to reach Mt. Rushmore, so that means it's typically reached by a good old-fashioned American road trip.

It is important to note that according SD's Department of Transportation, construction on a bridge replacement won't be complete until May 23, 2024.

waterfall in black hills national forest

So, if a road trip is in the works, expect a bit of a headache trying to reach some of your favorite faces on U.S. dollars.

That being said, the winding roads through the Black Hills are incredible to take in the state's unsuspecting beauty and put the pedal to the metal…safely, of course.

Whether driving through Black Hills National Forest, Custer State Park, or coming in from another access point, you will feel immersed in the wild with wildlife viewing, ample hiking trails, and even waterfalls.

With ample stopping points to take in stunning scenery, perhaps best of all is the possible dozens of bison sightings you may encounter as you are truly where the buffalo roam.

Visiting Mt. Rushmore

mount rushmore entrance sign

Mt. Rushmore was quite an undertaking in 1927.

It took sculptor Gutzon Borglum, as well as a crew of workers, 14 years to carve the likeness of former U.S. Presidents, Abraham Lincoln, George Washington, Thomas Jefferson and Theadore Roosevelt into the mountain.

One must ask themselves what the draw is to make the trek to Mt. Rushmore. Is it for the ‘gram? Is it an excuse to drive through the scenic Black Hills? Or perhaps it's simply patriotism?

After all, the purpose of the project is to honor U.S. history and one of the most popular times to visit is Independence Day, where thousands of tourists congregate to bear witness to this American marvel.

tourists at mount rushmore viewing point

…Unfinished marvel, that is. That's right, if you take a close look, you will notice an empty slab of rock between Lincoln's and Roosevelt's faces.

Nonetheless, hordes of tourists gather here each year to take in one of America's most recognizable sites.

Beyond taking selfies and gandering at the monument, there is a sculpture museum on the grounds and large visitor center offering one of the best views at night.

Despite little to do here, rave reviews abound on Google and TripAdvisor with recent visitors saying, “Absolutely spectacular” and “On my bucket list for years…my visit didn’t disappoint!”.

tourists walking into mount rushmore site

Don't Forget About Crazy Horse

If you've seen 4 faces on a big rock then you've seen them all, right? Not so fast!

Just 17 miles from Mt. Rushmore is another impressive rockface…face. Crazy Horse Monument is still under construction, but there is enough progress to date to make it worth a visit.

In fact, when it's all said and done it's expected to be the largest mountain carving in the world. Created to rival Mt. Rushmore, this monument's purpose is to shine a light on the significance of Native American history.

Crazy Horse attraction in south dakota

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