We had been planning on waking up leisurely on this trip. No alarms, nothing to remind us that soon we would have to go back to our real life of real jobs and real alarms that go off way too early in the morning. We even brought ingredients to make french toast on our camp stove. We were going to go all. out. And then we decided to wake up early enough to see Mount Rushmore at sunrise. Oops.
And while we didn’t get to enjoy our french toast, we did get to enjoy the national monument during the golden hour with literally four other people. That’s it. If you’ve ever been to Mount Rushmore you know that it’s always jam-packed with tourists—getting a nice picture of you (or your kids) in front of the monument without 18 people behind you is next to impossible. That’s why seeing it at sunrise is so remarkable: the lighting is perfect, there’s no crowd, and it’s as peaceful and serene as can be. What a beautiful start to the day!
After walking the short Presidential Trail (a half-mile loop that brings you closer to the base of the monument), we waited for the café to open (it opens at 8am, but we got there at 6:30…) and planned out the rest of our day.
Later, we drove through Needles Highway, which is famous for its rock formations, hairpin turns, and one-car width tunnels. I think I enjoyed it more as the passenger than my mom did as the driver 😜
After Needles Highway, we headed into Custer State Park to the Wildlife Loop, which is a pretty well-known and popular attraction in the area. We saw donkeys (they’re used to getting food from humans, don’t get me started on my ethical qualms about this) that came right up to our car, along with bison and lots of prairie dogs.
Then we headed to another site within Custer State Park: Sylvan Lake. We walked around the perimeter of the lake, which is a popular site on a hot summer day for humans and canines alike! It’s a fun, short, easy hike that won’t take too long and will get you outside enjoying a beautiful area.
The perks of waking up super early is that you can complete a full day of activities and still get back to your campsite by mid-afternoon. I took a nap (accidentally) in my hammock and read The Little Book of Hygge, which one of my dear friends gave me as a going-away present before I go abroad this fall!
Check back for my next post in a few days, where I’ll talk all about our third day in South Dakota! Spoiler alert: it involves another national park and walking 600 stairs by lantern light 😱 If you missed my post about our first day in South Dakota, check that out here!