In this comprehensive guide, the journey from Yellowstone National Park to Mount Rushmore is elucidated in vivid detail. Each step of the way reveals a new facet of this transformative journey. From the awe-inspiring views and wildlife encounters at Yellowstone, to the statuesque grandeur of Mount Rushmore, this article explores the myriad of captivating attractions and historical landmarks that make the route from Yellowstone to Mount Rushmore one of the most enjoyable and educational experiences in North America.
GETTING FROM YELLOWSTONE TO MOUNT RUSHMORE
Planning a road trip from Yellowstone National Park to Mount Rushmore? This detailed guide will help you with the planning, ensuring you don’t miss any highlights along your scenic journey.
Choosing Best Route
The most straightforward and scenic route is via US-16 E and I-90 E. This route passes through the breath-taking Bighorn Mountains and Buffalo, known for its charming old western town feel. You can also opt for the slightly longer route via US-16 E and US-85 S, which takes you through the historic city of Deadwood.
Estimated Driving Time
The driving time from Yellowstone National Park to Mount Rushmore is approximately 8 to 9 hours, depending on traffic and road conditions. A leisurely drive, with stops for food, rest, and sightseeing, can easily turn this drive into a full day’s adventure.
You have the option to rent a car, drive your own, or hire a guide for your journey. Alternatively, if you prefer not to drive, there are tour operators who offer guided tours from Yellowstone to Mount Rushmore. However, driving gives you flexibility to stop and enjoy the sights and towns along the way.
ABOUT YELLOWSTONE NATIONAL PARK
Overview of the Park
Yellowstone National Park is the world’s very first national park, spanning over 2.2 million acres across Wyoming, Montana, and Idaho. Famed for its geothermal features – including the iconic Old Faithful geyser, Yellowstone is a marvel of untamed wilderness, craggy peaks, deep forests, and its own Grand Canyon.
Key Attractions and Sites
At Yellowstone, must-see attractions include Old Faithful, the Grand Prismatic Spring, Yellowstone Lake, and Hayden Valley. Wildlife enthusiasts must not miss Lamar Valley, rightfully termed the ‘Serengeti of America’, where you can spot herds of bison and packs of wolves in their natural habitat.
Tips for Visitors
Be prepared for rapidly changing weather and potentially frigid temperatures, even in summer. Keep safe distances from all wildlife and strictly comply with park rules and instructions. Also, stay on designated paths to protect yourself and the park’s fragile geothermal features.
ABOUT MOUNT RUSHMORE
Overview of Mount Rushmore
Mount Rushmore, located in South Dakota’s Black Hills National Forest, is a symbol of America’s heritage and history. This colossal monument, carved into the granite mountain face, depicts the visages of four U.S presidents (George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt, and Abraham Lincoln) who played significant roles in shaping the nation’s history.
Mount Rushmore is broadly recognized as an icon of American history. Each president was chosen for their significant contribution and symbolizes a different phase of American development: Washington represents birth, Jefferson expansion, Roosevelt development, and Lincoln preservation.
Viewing the Monument
You can view the monument from the Grand View Terrace, behind the Avenue of Flags, a pathway lined with flags representing the 56 U.S states and territories. For the adventurous, the Presidential Trail gives you an up-close look at the monument.
STOPS ALONG THE WAY
Notable Towns or Cities
On this drive, consider a pit-stop at Cody, a typical Wild West Town, and Buffalo, well-known for its range of postcard-perfect historic buildings.
Scenic Routes and Viewpoints
The Bighorn Mountains and Bighorn National Forest, on the US-16 E route, offer numerous viewpoints to take in the stunning panorama of towering peaks, high plains, and dense forests. The Spearfish Canyon, on the longer route, is also a must-see – especially in fall, when the foliage comes alive with brilliant hues.
When you cross into South Dakota, take the time to visit the cultural wonder that is Deadwood. This charming city is frozen in its Gold Rush days and offers a trip back in time, complete with restored buildings and reenactments of Wild West shootouts.
WHERE TO STAY
Accommodation Options at Yellowstone
At Yellowstone, you can choose from a range of lodges, cabins, and campgrounds. A notable choice is the historic Old Faithful Inn, situated right next to the Old Faithful Geyser.
Accommodation Options at Mount Rushmore
Near Mount Rushmore, options range from budget-friendly motels to luxury accommodations. Keystone, the nearest town to Mount Rushmore, offers various accommodations and is a convenient base for exploring the area.
Recommending Stays between the two Destinations
Given the lengthy drive, consider splitting the journey with an overnight stay. Towns such as Cody, Buffalo, and Spearfish provide comfortable lodging options, and an opportunity to experience local culture and cuisine.
WHEN TO VISIT
Best Time to Visit Yellowstone
The best time to visit Yellowstone is late spring or early fall, when the park is less crowded, and the weather is relatively mild. However, summer, though crowded, is when all attractions, including high-country trails, are accessible.
Best Time to Visit Mount Rushmore
Mount Rushmore is open year-round. However, spring to fall is the most popular time for visits, with pleasant temperatures and special activities, such as the nightly lighting ceremony.
Considering Weather Conditions
Weather-wise, conditions can change drastically at both locations. Thus, having a flexible schedule and packing layers is advisable to cater to sudden weather changes.
FRIENDLY TIPS FOR THE TRIP
Stay updated on weather conditions and road closures. If you’re hiking, carry a map, water, and bear spray, especially in Yellowstone. Keep a safe distance from all wildlife and stay on marked trails.
Best Packing Tips
Pack layers to adjust to changeable weather and comfortable shoes for hikes. Binoculars for wildlife viewing in Yellowstone and a camera for capturing the beauty of Mount Rushmore are also recommended.
Travel Friendly Advice
Fuel up whenever possible, pack plenty of snacks and water, and start early to make the most of daylight and avoid wildlife on roads during dusk and dawn.
UNIQUE TO THE LOCATIONS
Wildlife at Yellowstone
Yellowstone is famous for its diverse wildlife including wolves, bears, and herds of bison and elk – it’s virtually a safari in the American wilderness.
The Night Lighting Ceremony at Mount Rushmore
Every evening, Mount Rushmore hosts a lighting ceremony where the sculpture is illuminated in a patriotic display – a sight you won’t want to miss.
Unique park etiquettes
Most National Parks including Yellowstone and Mount Rushmore encourage ‘Leave No Trace’ principles: take only pictures, leave only footprints.
EXPERIENCES TO TRY
Activities available at Yellowstone
Yellowstone offers various activities including hiking, wildlife viewing, camping, fishing, boating, and even snowshoeing or cross-country skiing in winter.
Activities available at Mount Rushmore
Beyond admiring the monument, Mount Rushmore offers hiking trails, the interactive Sculptor’s Studio, and the insightful Lincoln Borglum Museum.
Experiences only found on the route between
The drive from Yellowstone to Mount Rushmore offers unique experiences including horseback riding in Bighorn National Forest and strolling the historic streets of Deadwood.
PREPARATION FOR THE TRIP
Creating your Itinerary
Plan your itinerary by noting down all the places you want to visit, keeping in mind the distance and driving times between each point. Be flexible, allowing for spontaneous detours and explorations.
Budgeting for the trip
Estimate your trip expenses including accommodation, food, fuel, entry fees, and activities. It’s advisable to carry some cash for areas where cards may not be accepted.
Your checklist should include essentials like maps, first aid kit, car essentials (spare tire, jumper cables), clothing for all weathers, toiletries, food and water, and camping gear if planning outdoor overnight stays.