Mt Rushmore
Destinations,  South Dakota,  United States

The Dakotas Road Trip Day 3

My time in the Dakotas while jam packed showed me a part of the country, I never thought I would get a chance to see.

Black Hills Map

Day 3

The third day of my road trip was a nonstop adventure of visiting some very touristy spots while also hiking the highest peak in the state of South Dakota.

The start of my day took me to visit Mt. Rushmore and check a bucket list item I have had since watching the movie Richie Rich growing up. A weird move to think of the monument but that is just how my mind works sometimes.

Driving from Rapid City is smooth with a relatively direct route once you get on highway 16. The drive is decently scenic and drives you through the town of Keystone which is essentially a giant tourist town built just for the surrounding attractions.

Mt. Rushmore

I have to say I was rather disappointed by the actual monument but that could be mainly due to most of the location being off limits due to setting up for President Trump arriving a few days after I was there. Personally, I would not go out of my way to visit Mt. Rushmore but if you are in this area of South Dakota you should make the trek over.

Custer State Park

After Mt. Rushmore I headed straight to Custer State Park for what would be the main highlight of my day, summitting Black Elk Peak the highest point in South Dakota. I will be going in-depth on Custer State Park and Black Elk Peak in separate posts since there is just so much, I loved about this park.

The state park is one of my favorites so far in the United States that offers so many activities for all walks of life. A lot of people spend their entire time in the park at the main lake enjoy all water activities from kayaking, swimming, etc.

Hiking would be the main highlight for many, and the park does not disappoint with some amazing trails from just 1 or 2 miles to double digit loops depending on how you combine some of them. The summit of Black Elk Peak is still the highlight of this park for me and one that I recommend for anyone visiting.

My one piece of advice is getting there early since parking is a pain after the morning rush.

Stay tune for more info on the park and the trails!

Crazy Horse Memorial

After hiking Custer State Park and a quick lunch in the park I headed to Crazy Horse Memorial, a place I was not fully sure on what it was. I had heard of the memorial before but being completely honest I just thought it was a carving on a side of a mountain and that was it.

Once I arrived, I was shocked at how much history they cover inside the visitor center and the truly get an of the scope of this project. The mountain carving is currently the world’s largest in progress and when you see it in person it is mind boggling that they can carve this into a giant mountain.

I will not cover the entire story behind the memorial since I do not want to miss something but highly recommend everyone checkout the memorial website and read more on how they are creating this memorial to honor all North American Indians.

Iron Needles Highway and Needles Highway

My day ended with a scenic drive through some of the coolest roads I have ever driven on. I am a sucker for scenic drives and the Black Hills of South Dakota do not disappoint.

The drive highways connecting you from Rapid City through most of the Black Hills including Highway 16A and 87 and some of the most beautiful roads and breathtaking views I have done in a long time. Not only are the views amazing but if you enjoy curvy roads and some elevation gain and drops these are built for you!

One word of caution is taking it slow in some areas since many tunnels are just one lane and you must use caution when entering.

This summer road trip through the Dakotas was one for the books and it showed me some amazing areas in parts of the United Sates many do not get to see. This might have been my favorite day of the entire trip and showcased some of the amazing scenery, drives and hikes you can do in South Dakota.

Have you ever been to Custer State Park? Or been out exploring the Black Hills of South Dakota? What was your favorite part?

Follow along the adventures on:

Instagram @gusontherun or Twitter @gusontherun


  • Riana.AngCanning

    Your road trip is looking good! Sorry to hear that Mt Rushmore was disappointing. It looks so much smaller in your photos than I thought it would be. Good to know it’s not worth going out of the way for. Glad the other stops and driving were pretty epic!

    • Gus

      Thanks it truly made my summer! Mt Rushmore is definitely not what you expect after seeing it online and in movies. It is pretty impressive how they carved it on the side of a mountain but definitely wouldn’t go more than 20-30min out of my way for it.

  • The.Holidaymaker

    How interesting to hear your perspective about Mt Rushmore. Sometimes it is our expectations that ruin it when we see things in person. Crazy Horse and Iron Needles definitely look interesting and added to your 3 day adventure!

  • Emma

    I’m like you, Richie Rich always made me want to visit Mt. Rushmore. That’s too bad it wasn’t what you expected but I still reckon I would go see it if I’m around there. Although I hear there are some great national parks around the area too. I might have to plan a road trip when things settle down

    • Gus

      It is definitely worth a visit if you are in the area to at least say you have seen it in person. But there are much better things to visit in the area around it.

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