Keystone, South Dakota

You guys. Do you want to know what it feels like in Metro Detroit today? This…

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It seriously feels like I’m back on the Athabasca glacier trying to walk in tennis shoes, it’s THAT icy out. Have no idea what I’m talking about? Check out this post from my Banff travel series!

But in all seriousness, if you’re in Metro Detroit and have to drive today, please be so so so careful! Pretty much if you’re anywhere in Michigan… I hear the weather isn’t good anywhere!

Andddd it’s for the SECOND Travel Tuesday in a row that I had the most awful drive to work this morning. (Y’all, there are more than 400 schools closed in the area and mine is one of the only ones that isn’t!) And just like last Tuesday, it’s time to stop dwelling on what’s happening outside and start reminiscing about the second day of our road trip.

Now.. where did we leave off?

Oh that’s right. Wall Drug! If you missed the first two posts in my road trip series, check them out here and here! (I promise you, this post will make a lot more sense if you read them first!) Like I said, Wall isn’t a place where you spend a ton of time, but it’s the perfect place to stop, stretch you legs, and grab some lunch on your way to your next stop.

I remember when we were planning out our trip, my dad said we were staying a night in Keystone I was super confused. I had no idea where the heck Keystone, South Dakota was. I mean, I’m pretty decent at Geography, and could tell you a few cities in each state and their locations. But Keystone wasn’t ever on my radar.

Then, my dad told me this little gem is home to Mount Rushmore. So no wonder it’s name get’s overshadowed! My goal today is to make sure this sweet little town get’s a piece of the spotlight too… but I’m telling you, you will love it!

We left Wall with full bellies and ready to take on the last hour of our trip to Keystone. This hour will fly by, I promise! Plus, there is a TON of random touristy things you can do between the two cities if you choose. Before you know it, you’ll be pulling up to the cutest little town!

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So cute, right?

But, before we get into the main attractions (Crazy Horse and Mount Rushmore), let’s start with a mini city guide to Keystone, South Dakota.

Keystone City Guide 

Nestled deep in the beautiful black hills of South Dakota, you will find the small town of Keystone. I kind of like to think of it as the Gatlinburg of South Dakota. (Is that just me?) It’s cute. It’s charming. And it’s full of random tourist attractions that you just can’t help but find yourself wanting to do. (Like mining or going to a petting farm.)

Where to Stay. You’ll find ranches, inns, resorts, lodges and cabins to choose from for a night in Keystone. We stayed at The Powerhouse Lodge, and you guys… this place was ADORABLE. We had our own cabin, and it was perfect. As soon as we checked in, we all passed out. The beds were super comfy and it was SO QUIET. It honestly was like we were in the middle of the woods, rather than just outside a major tourist attraction. It’s close to town and Mount Rushmore, and also close to the highway. Another huge plus? It was pet friendly, and we had our pups with us. Another plus? It’s home to one of the best restaurants in town.

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Speaking of food…

Where to Eat. I highly recommend eating at The Powerhouse Lodge even if you’re not staying there. People don’t call it the best food in town for nothing. I promise you’ll like it! Other places to check out? Jane’s Boardwalk Pizza, and Old Fashioned Fudge for some seriously delicious ice cream!

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What to Do. Go shopping! We spent the early evening wandering through the many shops of downtown Keystone. You’ll find every dang trinket you could ever imagine while you’re there! The shops are really fun to wander through while you’re killing time before going to see Mount Rushmore lit up at night. (I’ll tell you more about that in a bit!) Other things to do? Check out museums, magic shows, a petting zoo, mini golf… if it’s touristy and you want to do it, they’ve probably got it.

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Let’s move on, shall we?

Keystone is home to two different monuments, one of which gets overlooked… The Crazy Horse Memorial.

Crazy Horse Memorial 

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Okay, to be brutally honest with all of you, I don’t know if I should tell you this is a MUST SEE. For us, it was. My family comes from Native American lineage, so for us, we really enjoyed this. However, if Native American history isn’t your thing, you may find this to be a waste of $28. But, before you make that decision here’s a little bit more information.

What is Crazy Horse Memorial? So what exactly is the Crazy Horse Memorial? Well, it’s an absolutely MASSIVE sculpture that is being carved into a mountain for the past FIFTY (yeah you read that right… 50) years. Think Mount Rushmore, but WAY WAY WAY WAY bigger. The sculpture is of Crazy Horse, a Lakota war chief who fought in The Black Hills Wars.

What’s the story behind the memorial? Well, before we can talk about the memorial, it’s time for a mini history lesson. Back in the 1800s, the Native Americans were given the Black Hills as their sacred land by the US government. But, when American settlers began discovering gold throughout this land, the federal government wanted it back. The Lakota put up a brave fight, but in the end, the US government annexed the Black Hills and moved all the Native Americans to reservations. Crazy Horse was said to have died tragically at a very young age, by being knifed in the back by American soldiers. Fast forward to the 1940s, where a man named Chief Standing Bear and his brother were trying in vein to get Crazy Horse added to Mount Rushmore. When that didn’t work he called in the help of Sculptor Korczak Ziolkowski. Together, they began the life long project of turning Thunderhead Mountain into a massive monument to commemorate cross-cultural awareness.

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(I hope you’re still with me!)

How long does it take to see it? Technically, you can see the memorial from way down the road because it’s so dang big! But, once you enter the property, you’ll find that there is much more to do than just start at the beautiful face being carved into the mountain. You’ll find a welcome center, indian museum, mountain museum, Native American educational and cultural center, sculptor’s workshop, snack shop, restaurant and viewing area. At night, they have Night Blasts and a Laser show. In fact, there are tons of events happening all throughout the year.

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How much does it cost? It all depends on who is with you! Check out this handy guide from crazyhorsememorial.org

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Must have souvenir? Everyone should take home a piece of Crazy Horse. I personally LOVE rocks. (I’m weird. I know.) But I am constantly collecting them. So Trev got me a big rock from Crazy Horse! On the way out, they have a massive pile of rocks that have already been blown off the mountain. You can take one if you donate any amount of money to the memorial.

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Now, let’s move on to the real reason most people are in Keystone… Mount Rushmore. It’s time to celebrate America!

Mount Rushmore

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Ever since I was little, I wanted to see Mount Rushmore. I mean, who didn’t grow up wanting to see this American landmark? And the coolest thing? It’s SO MUCH MORE than just a bunch of famous faces on the side of a mountain. Now, I won’t give you a history lesson about Mount Rushmore because chances are, you totally know what it is already! But I will tell you what you can’t miss while you’re there! But first, the basics.

When to visit? Mount Rushmore is open all year round. However, not everything on the grounds is. To get the “full experience” you’ll want to visit in the summer, when the hours are the longest and everything is open. However, summer is also the busiest time of year. So be prepared for crowds!

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What time of day is best to see Mount Rushmore? Personally, I think the best time to see Mount Rushmore is at night. It is SO PRETTY all lit up! But, if you’ve never seen it before, I would recommend seeing it in the light as well. Do what we did. Head there after dinner, check out everything on the grounds, take the short hike, and then stay until they light it up.

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How much does it cost? To see Mount Rushmore is absolutely free! But you will have to pay to park. Parking costs only $10 per private vehicle and is good for one year from the purchase date.

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What to do. There are a few “can’t miss” things at Mount Rushmore. You for sure need to check out the Visitor’s Center and Sculptor’s studio. In the Visitor’s Center you will find a museum that will teach you everything you could ever want to know about Mount Rushmore. And in the Sculptor’s Studio you’ll learn about the tools and techniques used to create Mount Rushmore. It’s super fascinating and a must see in my book! And of course, you should hike up the Presidential Trail.

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The Presidential Trail. This was by far my favorite part of Mount Rushmore. Can you tell I have a story to tell? It’s a good one, and it will make you laugh, I promise!!! This trail is .6 miles long and includes 422 stairs. However, the reward at the end is being so dang close to the faces that you can even see when someone decides to hop the fence and sit under Honest Abe’s chin.  SAY WHAT?!  Yup. Welcome to Storytime with Savannah. If you don’t like random stories that will make you laugh, than you can skip past this, but I highly recommend sticking around for it!

Hiking up the steps to see the faces up close is not an easy task. We were winded when we reached the top, but it was so dang worth it. There weren’t a whole lot of people up there with us, because we had just survived a random, South Dakota hail storm in the middle of June. As we (my parents, Trev and I) stood at the top, gazing at those famous faces, Trev yelled “OMG. Someone is under Abe’s Chin!!” We all thought he was joking. How and the heck would they even get up there? But sure enough… there was someone in a neon yellow nike sweatshirt sitting there. They had hopped the fence, climbed up the rock, and were just sitting there, taking in the view. Well, if you’ve ever been to Mount Rushmore, you’ll know that this is a MASSIVE no-no. We sat and watched him for a bit, wondering what his next move would be.

Pretty soon, more people started joining us at the top, as the storm had passed. And these people noticed the person under Abe’s chin too. And this caused QUITE the commotion. Next thing we know, two rangers were standing next to us, ready to assess the situation. The first was a young man. He was tall, and athletic looking. We’ll call him Ranger Ronnie. The second was a bit older, a bit more plump, and a holding a megaphone. We’ll call him Ranger Rick.

Do you see where this is going? I bet you don’t! 

The younger of the two turned to me to ask “Have you seen someone up there?” So of course, I pointed out the bright yellow blob. “I’M ON IT! I’LL GO UP THE BACK WAY!” screamed Ranger Ronnie, hopped the railing with ease and took off sprinting up the rubble towards the trees. It was like watching a super hero called to action as he moved quickly and effortlessly up the rocky surface before he disappeared into the trees.

Which left us, and the growing crowd with our eyes glued to Ranger Rick. Was he going to do the same thing?

He started his journey for justice by ROLLING over the fence. He then scuttled his way to the world’s smallest, wobbliest rock. It teetered back and forth as he tried to catch his balance. The teetering only caused him to misstep and sort of tumble down. Cue the growing crowd all saying “OOOOOOO”. (No joke. Everyone said it in unison.)

This didn’t stop Ranger Rick though. He decided to try two more steps. Which he made it through unscathed. This is when we all started having the same questions scroll through our minds. Was he going to  try to make his way to the top at this pace? It would surely take days.

But no. We were in for the treat of a life time. Ranger Rick pulled out his megaphone.

He stood in his most authoritative stance, and used his meanest voice.

“SIR. I AM A NATIONAL PARK RANGER. I COMMAND YOU TO GET DOWN.”

Silence. Was the yellow shirted blob about to move? Would he listen to the authority that was the National Park ranger?

“SIR. I COMMAND YOU. YOU CAN NOT HIDE. YOU ARE WEARING BRIGHT YELLOW.”

We all looked up anxiously awaiting the yellow blobs next move. He yanked the yellow shirt off and sprinted into the trees.

Unfortunately, the park rangers never got him. However, I don’t think I’ve ever laughed so hard in my entire life. Thanks for that, Ranger Rick. #PowerToTheParkRangers

Evening Lighting Ceremony. Every night (May-September), when it gets dark, a crowd gathers at the stage in front of Mount Rushmore. They play a small video, and you listen to a speech by one of the park rangers. Then, they light up the monument. It’s so beautiful! I promise you won’t want to miss it.

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Okay. I think I covered everything!

We had such a great time exploring Keystone. It was our last stop before our final destination… Jackson Hole! Have you see my Jackson Hole posts? If not you can find them  herehereherehereherehere, and here 🙂 Usually, when I finish up a travel series, I share my mobile photos from the trip in a separate post. But, I’m SO EXCITED to start the next travel series on Savannah Said It, that I’ve decided to add a few of the drive from Keystone to Jackson below. And by a few, I mean only 4, because this post is already stupid long!

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Trev and Manly snoozing as usual.
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Mojo is ready for the Wild West!
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Painted Hills, Wyoming. How unreal are these beauties?!

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Roadtripping to the Wild West was so dang cool. I hope you’ve enjoyed this mini road trip series. Next week, we’re heading back East to a place that is SO DANG SPECIAL to me. I can not wait to share it with you! Be sure to come back and see where we’re off to!

Happy Travels!

Xx.
Savannah

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