Road trips are as a part of the American culture as hamburgers and 4th of July. Driving through the mountains and plains of the United States is a time-honored tradition for families and young travelers alike. From convertibles to campers, a trip to Mt. Rushmore from Denver is a great summer getaway. Host to about 3 million visitors annually, the mountain sculpture depicting presidents Washington, Jefferson, Roosevelt and Lincoln is an American icon and the perfect destination for an all-American weekend.
Roughly six hours northeast of Denver, Mt. Rushmore National Memorial is situated in the scenic Black Hills National Forest. From Denver, Mount Rushmore sits an easy jaunt north on I-25 toward Fort Collins. Take exit 17 — basically a merge — onto U.S. 85 in Cheyenne and follow it up to U.S. 18 east in South Dakota. Turn left on 89 north and stick with it onto U.S. 285 north and follow it to S.D. 244 east and Mount Rushmore.
To get directions directly from your home go to MapQuest.com.
Stop Along the Way…
2233 E Lincolnway
Cheyenne, WY 82001
If departing around 10 a.m. from Denver, a great place to stop for lunch is Poor Richards in Cheyenne. With a wide variety of menu items such as the seared salmon salad or jambalaya pasta, there is something for every hungry road tripper. An extensive burger menu including buffalo burgers, patty melts and a massive salad bar will get anyone through the afternoon. Oh, and don’t miss the restaurant’s signature hot bacon dressing — it’s true, bacon makes everything better, even practically perfect road trips.
Related: 5 Tips to Save Gas
Flintstones Bedrock City
301 W. Mt. Rushmore Rd.
Custer, SD 57730
Price $10 for ages 5+, 5 and under are free
The modern Stone Age family has its own theme park. For a slight detour on the way to Mt. Rushmore, step into a cartoon world of your own. Roughly four hours from your lunch stop in Wyoming, the charming Bedrock City offers everything from a 20-foot Dino sculpture to foot-powered cars. At only 30 minutes from Mt. Rushmore National Monument, this novelty stop is sure to have guests whistling the memorable theme song all the way to the park.
Where to Stay
President’s View Resort
Keystone, SD 57751
Price: from $49.95
Alongside the 1880 Boardwalk, the President’s View Resort will have you feeling like the commander and chief yourself — minus all of the Romney drama — and it comes without the economy-busting price tag. The hotel is located at the base of Mt. Rushmore, with stunning views from the balconies. In the heart of the city, nearby attractions such as Crazy Horse and Custer State Park as well as the 1880 train and museums are all within reach. Its pillow-top mattresses are a perfect place to rest after a long drive to this scenic area.
Mt. Rushmore National Memorial
Black Hills National Forest
Mt. Rushmore, SD 57751
Price: free admission/$11 annual pass for vehicles
When you’ve finally arrived at the park, the Mount Rushmore Information Center is a great place to get oriented. The Lincoln Borglum Museum and Sculptors Studio offer great distractions at the national monument. From the stupendous stone sculptures hewn from the mountain itself to the wildlife in the park, the trip is well worth the drive. Plan at least two hours to enjoy one of America’s most recognizable monuments thoroughly.
Where to Eat
Buffalo Dining Room
13000 Hwy 244, Building 81
Keystone, SD 57751
Inside the park, the Buffalo Dining Room is a great dinner option with impressive views of the stony former presidents. Its cafeteria-style service is operated by the memorial’s concessionaire and offers great deals all day long. Try the buffalo stew or homemade biscuits and gravy, but do not miss out on the pies and monument-sized scoops of ice cream.
CBS Denver Insider’s Tips
As with any road trip, make sure that you prepare your car before hitting the highway. Pack water and snacks, as well as emergency equipment as long stretches of road without services pose a risk to any driver. A tune-up and oil change are always a great idea, as well as hard copies of maps into the areas you will be exploring.
Chad Chisholm is an avid globetrotter and brings the best of travel secrets and expert insights to his readership. A Denver-based travel writer and photographer, Chad’s travels have taken him to five of the seven continents in a passionate love affair with the world of travel and the outdoors. His work can be found at Examiner.com.