Visiting South Dakota (Mt. Rushmore) during the 4th of July Week
Updated: Nov 18
We flew from Tampa with a stopover in Dallas. It only took a few hours until we landed in Rapid City. We picked up our rental car at the airport and spent our first two days visiting the sites around the city.
Mt. Rushmore and the Badlands
We drove to Mt. Rushmore on July 1st, trying to avoid the 4th of July weekend crowd. It was not very busy. The parking was almost empty. A lot of security was around, as the President was coming for the fireworks. We were unable to walk to the closest point to the site, but it was enough to get a great view of the monuments. After lunch we visited the Badlands National Park. The area is beautiful with its dramatic landscapes, canyons and towering spires.
On July 2nd we left Rapid City and were on our way to Custer State Park. We stopped at Bear County, which is on the same road going to Mount Rushmore. You stay in car and you see black bears, wolves, reindeers, buffaloes and mountain lions. We really enjoyed the attraction, especially the dozens of cubs hanging on trees near the exit of the park. You walk through that area and you can take great photos. In the afternoon we visited the Crazy Horse Memorial near Custer. The mountain monument is still under construction. It has been in progress since 1948. It will represent a native warrior, Crazy Horse, riding a horse. It’s not yet completed, but it is still worth the stop. We ended our day at the State Game Lodge, where we spent a couple of nights.
The next day was spent driving around the national park, stopping in Sylvan Lake and Legion Lake. It’s a very scenic drive. You see dozens of buffaloes, some even crossing the roads and stopping traffic. Some people get out of their cars, but it is not recommended. After lunch we visited the Mammoth Site & Museum in Hot Springs. It is an active excavation site and you see researchers digging in front of you. They claim that the site contains the largest concentration of mammoth remains on earth.
On July 4th we took a short drive to our new location in the city of Custer, where we watched the morning parade. Later on, we visited Reptile Gardens known for having more species of reptiles than any other zoo in the world. In the afternoon, we stopped in Keystone and took a tour of the Big Thunder Gold Mine. That was a very informative visit. We drove back to Culver, had dinner and went back to town to watch the local fireworks.
The next morning, we drove to Sturgis, a town well know for its gathering of bikers each year in August. There are still a lot of bikers visiting during the rest of the year. Then we took a little road to the city of Belle Fourche, famous for being the geographic center of the United States. Our next stop was at Devils Tower in Wyoming. The mountain tower is a one of a kind natural wonder that Theodore Roosevelt made America’s first national monument. It was a little bit of a drive from South Dakota, but we had the road for ourselves. We ended the day in Deadwood, where we spent our last two days in South Dakota.
On July 6th we visited Deadwood, a city known for its gold rush history. Famous gunman Wild Bill Hickok was killed here and is buried at the local cemetery next to Calamity Jane. The town has a lot of saloons, casinos, bars and restaurants. It’s a great location for a couple of days. We spent our time visiting the town and driving around the Black Hills National Forest, located a few miles from the city of Deadwood.