Why I Can’t Recommend Mount Rushmore

Mount, Mt., Rushmore, SD

Guest Post: By Jess Roberts

Most of you know Jess by now. She's my trusty travel companion & agreed to write about our Mount Rushmore experience. It's slightly different than other Mt. Rushmore posts ...

Let me start by making a confession. I…am…Canadian.

Yes, I said it. Whew. Now that I’ve come clean about that, I have another (not so little) secret. I love the US. Seriously. I have been obsessed with the US since I was a teenager and traveled to Philadelphia for the first time. I was pretty sure I belonged there and planned on moving across the border as soon as I could.

That didn’t work out. Turns out it’s kind of hard to move to America, and it’s a lot easier to just stay wherever you call home. But I still had dreams of seeing the things that the US had to offer. I wanted to see the Statue of Liberty, the Space Needle, the Golden Gate Bridge, and yes…I wanted to see Mount Rushmore.

Mount Rushmore always represented the epitome of American sightseeing to me. It’s faces of presidents carved into a mountain. Like really. How much more American can you get? So, as we started our journey toward the Dakotas, I was starting to get really excited.

Unfortunately, there were several factors that slowly let the air out of my proverbial tires until I came to the conclusion that I just can’t recommend going to see Mount Rushmore.

4 reasons why I can’t recommend Mount Rushmore:

1. The drive 
Mount Rushmore is smack dab in the middle of nothing and zilch. If you’re going that way anyway (like we were), then you might as well stop by and check it out. But I definitely would not suggest going out of your way just for that.

Taken after paying for parking ... $11 to park!
Taken after paying for parking ... $11 to park!
The free view of Mount Rushmore.
The free view of Mount Rushmore.

2. The price 
Technically, seeing the monument is free. But parking is $11.00.  So if you don’t bring your car and decide to start your hike up the mountain at 3 am to make sure you catch a glimpse of it before they close it down for the night, then it’s totally free.

I’m exaggerating a bit. But it felt a little like extortion to charge that much to park in a lot for 15 minutes. And they know that nobody is just going to turn around and be like “Nope, screw the faces in the mountain … that’s too gosh darn much.” Everyone is going to grumble about it and then hand over their credit card because there’s no point in even being there if not to see this monument.

A viewpoint (free) before getting to Mt. Rushmore
A viewpoint (free) before getting to Mt. Rushmore
Mt. Rushmore map
Mt. Rushmore map

That being said, on the drive up the mountain, there’s a few areas to pull off the road to see Rushmore before you make it to the place where they will ask you to empty out your life savings to pay for parking. The last pullout that you hit before the parking lot has an awesome view, and is totally worth stopping and taking a picture from there (for free) and skipping the $11.00 view.

3. Dogs aren’t allowed
This has been a problem all along and I’ve come to expect it now; but it’s still frustrating every time I see that “No Dogs” sign. You can have them outside the actual monument area but don’t even think about trying to get a picture of Fido in front of those faces.

Dog, Mount, Mt., Rushmore, cheap, free
Barney checkin' out the monument from the free/dogs-allowed spot.

4. It’s only average
The fourth and final reason why I can’t recommend Mount Rushmore was that it’s a little underwhelming. Yes, it’s a feat of human perseverance and all that. It is quite picturesque, but it’s a lot smaller than I realized and honestly…

…it’s just okay.

It didn’t take my breath away. There wasn’t a really awesome story behind it. It was fine. And if someone asked about it, “fine” is pretty much the only word that I could really come up with for the entire experience.

** A Bonus Rant!

Crazy Horse, free, photo
15 mins from Mt. Rushmore is the Crazy Horse Memorial. This picture is free if you have a zoom lens. All you have to do is get out of your car before the pay booths, snap a picture and then turn around. This little trick will save you $11/person or $22/car. Ah hahaha!!! HA! Ah ahhaha! Alright that's all.

8 thoughts on “Why I Can’t Recommend Mount Rushmore

  1. Sophie

    This made me laugh. There are always those sights that turn out to be seriously underwhelming. For me the Teracotta Warriors were totally underwhelming. But then I guess it makes it worse that your dog wasn’t allowed to join in the fun. To me that’s really sad because if you’re going on an adventure to a national park, of course you’d take the dog!

    • Dan Post author

      Ahhh!!! I totally agree! The Teracotta Warriors were pretty lame, haha. I loved the Great Wall though … and the “World’s Most Dangerous Trail” is close to Xi’an which I’d love to do. Hopefully, China wasn’t underwhelming as a whole. We were there for a couple years and there are definitely some cool places.

  2. Alyssa

    I have to agree with you on most of this. I saw both Mount Rushmore (on July 4th this year actually) and Crazy Horse Memorial along a USA road trip this July. To go into Crazy Horse you have to pay, I do think it’s worth actually going and not just taking a picture before the booths. Inside the visitor center there is so much history, artifacts and interesting info. You can’t walk/drive close to the monument but once inside they have a bus that will drive you to it and back. It really is something up close. As for Mount Rushmore, I visited it after Crazy Horse and wasn’t impressed then. Because of the history, it’s still neat to see in person but for the size comparison, all the faces of Mount Rushmore would fit in just the head of the Crazy Horse Memorial. That’s crazy! I’ll be doing a post with more on this soon.

    • Dan Post author

      It sounds like it is definitely worth going into Crazy Horse too … rather than be cheap like us and snap a picture before the booth. It’s awesome what they’re doing out there and I had no idea they had so many things to see inside. Haha, maybe we should have just gone in! The US is hard to do on a budget! Let me know when you write your post … I’d love to check it out! Thanks for the comment :)

  3. Meg Jerrard

    Thanks for this honest review – we’ve just done a roadtrip around the US (I’m AUs and my husband is US), and I was pushing for a stop via Mt Rushmore, because I mean it is one of the miggest and most famous landmarks in the US, but Mike basically made the same points for why it wasn’t worth the ridiculous detour. You’ve made me a lot happier with our decision to skip now!

    Sorry it didn’t live up to your expectations!


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