No trip to South Dakota would be complete without a visit to Mount Rushmore and the surrounding area. My husband and I had been to Mount Rushmore before, but somehow we missed Iron Mountain Road (a.k.a. US 16A.)
This amazing road, which is 17 miles in length, has two splits which turn into one-lane highways to help preserve the natural, untouched beauty of the forest. There are also three pigtail bridges (which aid in the elevation change without a large footprint), three granite tunnels (which offer a different view of Mount Rushmore), 314 curves, and 14 switchbacks. The tunnels were only one-lane, and on curves, so you have to honk your horn when approaching. Also, many people (like me) want to stop and take pictures. This can create quite a traffic jam. My husband was great and had the patience of a Saint with me. I wanted to stop every 5 seconds and take pictures (not an exaggeration.) During this trip he was designing a car, in his head, that was convertible and had a seat that would raise up to capture the view without having to stop (he was probably thinking more on the lines of an ejection seat for me.) Anyway, we followed Iron Mountain Road, past a very large herd of buffalo (which caused their own traffic jam), into Custer State Park. If you continue to take 16a out of Custer State Park, it is free. If you want to continue on the scenic loop and take Needles Highway back up to Mount Rushmore, be prepared to pay $15. Needles highway had some really cool rock formations and scenic vistas.
I feel cheated never to have traveled this scenic highway before. So, if you ever find yourself in the vicinity of Mount Rushmore, or the Black Hills, you must take a drive on Iron Mountain Road.
We finally made it to Mount Rushmore, a little later in the afternoon than we wanted to, (probably because someone wanted to stop every 5 seconds and take pictures.) We took the self-guided tour and followed some trails to get different views of the picturesque monument. Gutzon Borglum, sculpture, was quite the visionary!
Here is a slide show of some random photos of Mount Rushmore and the surrounding area. Hope you enjoy them.
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