From our hotel in Rapid City, South Dakota we set out to one of the USAs most iconic and recognisable monuments in the USA, Mount Rushmore National Memorial. Around 3 million people visit this attraction every year. On arrival you have to walk through an avenue of the flags from all the 50 states of the USA, below the flags it says when each on became a state which we found very interesting. At the far end of this was the monument itself. The 4 large faces of the Presidents; Washington, Jefferson, Roosevelt and Lincoln loom over you. There is a route you can walk round to go underneath the sculpture, unfortunately half of this was closed when we were there but we still could get up close and then just had to retrace our steps back to the start. It may be very touristy (it was made with the focus of attracting more people to the area after all) but whilst in the vicinity it is well worth stopping at.
We then wanted to go for a hike after spending the last couple of days mainly sat in a car with only a few opportunities to get out and stretch our legs. I used my new favourite hiking app AllTrails to find a route that looked suitable and then we set off driving to the trail head. This particular drive we took the southern route option past Iron Creek and Needles Eye Tunnel which was beautiful with some interesting roads. We had corkscrew turns on built up wooden structures and narrow tunnels through the rocks past the pinnacles, we also got a long distance view across towards Mount Rushmore again.
Once at the trailhead we stopped for a quick picnic lunch in the freezing wind before starting on the Sunday Gulch Trail. Sylvan lake at the beginning of the route was a very scenic way to set off and once past this we turned left onto the 4.65 mile loop hike to follow it round clockwise. The beginning of the route wound gently upwards with amazing views across the valley beyond. At one point it came near to the road but never too close.
Most of the trail was marked by little painted markers however at one point we saw one that had fallen down and unfortunately took a wayward turning at this point over the rocks however because of the AllTrail app we were soon able to back track and then find our way back onto the path that dropped down into the valley alongside the river. Down here there were a couple of slightly slippery rocks that we had to cross carefully.
The climb up the following side is much steeper and involves scrambling up the rocks, Handrails have been put in place to help with this, these do help but it is still more challenging than your standard trail. This scramble is the reason we chose to go round clockwise because we preferred the idea of going up these rocks rather than having to lower ourselves down them and I would pick this option again.
We were going to stop at a few interesting towns on the way back to Rapid City however I was not feeling so good by that point of the day so we went back to the hotel and then after a quick recharge headed out for our dinner.
The Black Hills and Custer State Park area in South Dakota is so wonderful and the Sunday Gulch Trail although challenging was so worth it. It is not suitable for anyone with mobility problems and doesn’t build up to a main viewpoint or anything like that but it is perfect for just allowing yourself to get into nature. I would love to have spent more time completing other hikes nearby (Black Elk peak trailhead was at the same car park but due to the high winds the day we were there we decided upon the more sheltered option). If in South Dakota definitely make some time to come here.
Do you think Mount Rushmore is worth a visit? What is your favourite hike in the Black Hills or Custer State Park?