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Wyoming Wanderers: A historic tour around Mount Rushmore

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Sarah Post
  • 90th Missile Wing Public Affairs

In the military, we are only stationed in one area for a short amount of time,  so in my opinion, we might as well see everything each area has to offer before we move again. There is an historic landmark in a good location for those stationed at or living in Cheyenne to go and see, and that is Mount Rushmore National Monument in South Dakota.


In June, I took a trip to see Mount Rushmore with some of my friends, and it was well worth the four-hour drive. We watched out the car window and the cattle-filled plains of Wyoming turned into the beautiful Black Hills of South Dakota with bison, bighorn sheep and more animals Cheyenne doesn’t have to offer.


We stopped in Custer, South Dakota, first to walk around. Most of the shops were designed around the aesthetic of the town: old west, Native American and outdoorsy. In one camping/ hiking store, an employee handed us a map and told us to take the scenic route to Mount Rushmore. We decided to take his advice so we could see as much as we could. So, we turned off the GPS and followed road 16A out of town and into Custer State Park, taking the road all the way to Mount Rushmore.


This route took almost an hour longer, but it was well worth it. We saw a herd of bighorn sheep sitting on a hill next to the road, which was very exciting. We saw a really big bison and some deer in the woods. The road twisted and turned through the state park before eventually leaving the park via a left turn. But don’t worry about getting lost, as signs continue to point travelers in the direction of 16A. Once we were out of the park, the views got even better and we got our first glimpse of the monument. A little pull off on the side of the road let us view Mount Rushmore from across the valley. It was tiny but stood out against the rest of the mountains and hills. We kept driving and drove through 2 tunnels cut out of the mountains, both framing Mount Rushmore perfectly. There was a third stone tunnel that was attached to a spiral bridge on one end, which was almost like a spiral staircase but in the form of a bridge. There were also a few places to stop along the way, where we looked out at the monument and hills and every view was spectacular.


Then we finally made it to Mount Rushmore! At the entrance, visitors could buy self-guided tours that played audio and gave educational facts throughout the visit. Then we walked in and saw it: an avenue of flags leading up to Mount Rushmore. I was in awe. I have seen photos, read about it and have always wanted to see it, and finally it was right in front of me.


There is an engraved granite plaque with the name of all 400 people who helped in the construction of the monument, and a bust of the designer, Gutzon Borglum, on display. The Avenue of Flags represents the flags of 50 states, one district, three territories and two commonwealths of the United States. Each state flag has a plaque with the date it became a state, and which number state it was to join the union.


Mount Rushmore itself was incredible. The faces of each president were smooth and so detailed that I could even see Teddy Roosevelt's glasses. There is a museum below the main viewing platform with photos, news clips and stories about the project. It was very interesting to read all the facts and learn how much went into the 14-year carving project. There is also a short walking path to the base of the monument that gives another view looking up. We all thought Mount Rushmore was impressive and it did not let us down.


After seeing the monument, we made our way to Rapid City, South Dakota. We passed Bear Country U.S.A, which I had learned about on Tik Tok a few days earlier, so we just had to stop and visit. Bear Country U.S.A is a drive through wildlife exhibit with 12 different animals in separate pastures, and they were all so cute. They also have a wildlife walkway with a lot of smaller animals a gift shop and a snack stand. We then finished off our day with dinner at a local Rapid City restaurant before making the four-hour drive back to Cheyenne.


I love seeing new things and places and traveling, and there is just so much to see in Wyoming and the surrounding states. Get out and see something new soon. Maybe even go see Mount Rushmore and some cute animals!


Editor’s Note: Inclusion of commercial entities in this travel commentary does not imply endorsement by the Department of Defense, the U.S. Air Force or the 90th Missile Wing.