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South Dakota

Mount Rushmore, Crazy Horse & the Badlands With Your Family

Program No. 4752RJ
Enjoy a classic American adventure with your family as you visit the epic monuments of the Black Hills, ride horses, dig for fossils, pan for gold, look for buffalo and much more!

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At a Glance

Did you know that most of the 400 men and women who carved out the presidential faces of Mount Rushmore were miners who came to the Black Hills looking for gold? Did you know that they used dynamite and jackhammers to carve the faces? And did you know that they had a pretty good amateur baseball team? Learn all about the history and significance of Mount Rushmore and the massive Crazy Horse Memorial on a trip with your family to South Dakota! Go horseback riding, splash in a historic warm water spring, visit a mammoth sink hole and learn how to pan for gold. And at the end of a day of adventure, share stories around an open fire while you learn, laugh and create memories for both generations.
Activity Level
Keep the Pace
Walking up to 2 miles on uneven, hilly terrain. Optional 1-hour horseback trail ride. Ability to sit on wheeled sled with self-regulating speed. Walking through museums with seating available. The ability to get on and off a motor coach. Some standing during interpretive lessons. Elevations up to 5,200 feet.
Family Programs
Family Programs
Share your love of learning with your family. These programs are designed for any combination of generations: grandparents, aunts, uncles, parents and children.

What You'll Learn

  • Take a chair lift up to a ridge for a special view of Mount Rushmore and feel the wind in your hair as you zip back down on the Alpine slide!
  • Saddle up for a Western trail ride, and discover ancient fossils and lunar-like deposits in the Badlands.
  • Experience Custer State Park’s “wildlife loop” in search of buffalo, pronghorns, begging burros and big horn sheep.

General Notes

This is a Family program for participants, their adult children and grandchildren ages 8 and up. For a comparable intergenerational adventure for just grandparents and grandchildren, check out "Mount Rushmore, Crazy Horse & the Badlands With Your Grandchild" (#15968).
Featured Expert
All trip experts
Profile Image
Robert Gerald Yellowhawk
Robert Gerald Yellowhawk is a native South Dakotan, born in Rapid City. His goal as a youth was to graduate from high school, and now he is a sophomore at Oglala Lakota College in Rapid City, majoring in business administration. A participant as a sixth-grader in the Ateyapi Program, he is now a fulltime mentor helping youths understand traditional Native American dance, values, regalia, ceremonies and the Lakota language. Robert worked two summers at Crazy Horse Memorial.

Please note: This expert may not be available for every date of this program.

Profile Image of Robert Yellowhawk
Robert Gerald Yellowhawk View biography
Robert Gerald Yellowhawk is a native South Dakotan, born in Rapid City. His goal as a youth was to graduate from high school, and now he is a sophomore at Oglala Lakota College in Rapid City, majoring in business administration. A participant as a sixth-grader in the Ateyapi Program, he is now a fulltime mentor helping youths understand traditional Native American dance, values, regalia, ceremonies and the Lakota language. Robert worked two summers at Crazy Horse Memorial.
Profile Image of Erin Woods
Erin Woods View biography
Erin Woods is an elementary teacher in the Rapid City School District. With a keen interest in Mount Rushmore history, she enthusiastically relates how Mount Rushmore was carved and how the architects and carvers were able to keep the head of George Washington in proportion to Lincoln, Jefferson and Roosevelt. Erin has a master’s degree in curriculum and instruction, with an emphasis in math and educational technology.
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While we make every effort to ensure the accuracy of our published materials, programs are typically advertised more than a year prior to their start date. As a result, some program activities, schedules, accommodations, personnel, and other logistics occasionally change due to local conditions or circumstances. Should a major change occur, we will make every effort to alert you. For less significant changes, we will update you during orientation. Thank you for your understanding.
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6 days
5 nights
13 meals
5 B 3 L 5 D
Check-in, Orientation, Welcome Dinner
Keystone, SD
K Bar S Lodge

Activity note: Lodge check-in from 3:00 p.m.

Afternoon: At the time of check-in, collect your Road Scholar Welcome Packet from the front desk. In the packet you will find information regarding program details including the location of orientation. During orientation you will meet your Group Leader and fellow Scholars. The program orientation will begin at 4:30 p.m. The Group Leader will greet everyone and lead introductions. They will review the up-to-date program schedule, discuss roles and responsibilities, logistics, safety guidelines, emergency procedures, and answer questions. There may be some light paperwork at the end of the orientation session. If you don’t arrive in time for orientation, please refer to your welcome packet on how to locate the Group Leader and get caught up on any information you may have missed. This is a Road Scholar Grandparent program. Grandparents are responsible for their grandchildren at all times. Minors are never to be left unsupervised. All talks and field trips will be led by local experts and expert Group Leaders. Transportation will be via motorcoach, requiring going up/down a few steps when getting on/off, unless specified otherwise. Periods in the daily schedule designated as “Free time” and “At leisure” offer opportunities to do what you like and make your experience even more meaningful and memorable according to your personal preferences. The Group Leader will be happy to offer suggestions. Program activities, schedules, personnel, and indicated distances or times may change due to local circumstances/conditions. In the event of changes, we will alert you as quickly as possible. Thank you for your understanding.

Dinner: At the Lodge.

Evening: At leisure. Continue getting to know your fellow participants, settle in, and get a good night’s rest for the day ahead.

Custer State Park, Trail Ride, About Rushmore
Keystone, SD
K Bar S Lodge

Activity note: Getting on/off a motorcoach; driving about 110 miles throughout the day, approximately 3 hours riding time plus stops. Getting on/off horses; riding approximately 1 hour; long pants and boots or tennis shoes required for horseback riding; helmets supplied. Walking about 1/2 mile; dirth path, mountain meadows, pine covered forests.

Breakfast: At the Lodge.

Morning: We’ll board a motorcoach and kick off our Black Hills learning adventure on a field trip with our Group Leader to Custer State Park. The park covers more than 71,000 acres full of mountains, plains, forests, and wildlife — one of the Top 10 places for wildlife in the world! We’ll stop first at the Visitor Center and explore interactive exhibits to learn about the Park’s history, mysteries, landscapes, and wildlife. We’ll then hop back on the motorcoach and ride along Wildlife Loop Road to look for wild bison (buffalo), burros, prairie dogs, elk, white tail deer, and more.

Lunch: Sack lunch in the field.

Afternoon: At the end of the loop, we’ll “cowboy and cowgirl up” and ride horses on a 1-hour trail ride through lush backcountry, led by experienced wranglers. After the ride, we'll return to the Lodge.

Dinner: At the Lodge.

Evening: At the Lodge, we’ll have a fun, hands-on activity to set the stage for our Mount Rushmore field trip tomorrow. We’ll learn how sculptor Gutzon Borglum made small scale models to plan how he would blast and carve huge images out of the mountain. We’ll team up with our families and work together to create our own scale drawing of Mount Rushmore.

Mount Rushmore, Alpine Slide, Crazy Horse, Campfire
Keystone, SD
K Bar S Lodge

Activity note: Getting on/off a motorcoach; driving about 55 miles, approximately 1 hour riding time. Walking about 1/2 mile indoors and out and standing; groomed paths some stairs.

Breakfast: At the Lodge.

Morning: Mount Rushmore National Monument is much more than four gigantic faces carved out of stone. The sculptor who made it, Gutzon Borglum — a Danish-American — intended it to be not just a memorial to four of our greatest Presidents, but a “shrine of democracy.” Why these four? Washington led the army during the Revolutionary War with Great Britain and later became the first President of the United States. Jefferson wrote the Declaration of Independence and doubled the size of the country with Louisiana Purchase. Lincoln led the country through the Civil War and saved the Union. Roosevelt developed the “Square Deal” that promoted the conservation movement, controlled corporations, and protected consumers. Abroad, he made the Panama Canal happen and won the Nobel Peace Prize for settling a war between Russia and China. We’ll coach a short distance to see Mount Rushmore from a different angle- on the top of a ridge about two miles away. We’ll ride up on chairlifts (like ski lifts) for amazing panoramic views. Once at the top, we have the opportunity to ride the Alpine Slide on your own, speed controlled sled, back down the hill. If the sled and slide aren't of interest, feel free to catch the chairlift back down. We’ll then return to the Lodge.

Lunch: At the Lodge.

Afternoon: Mount Rushmore, with its majestic figures of four Presidents, is an American treasure. But there’s an even bigger monument being created less than 20 miles away. This monumental project uses the image of Crazy Horse — legendary Lakota warrior and leader — to symbolize the culture, traditions, and living heritage of North American Indians. Work started in 1948 and when it’s finished, the Crazy Horse Memorial will be the largest mountain carving in the world. We’ll visit the Memorial to learn all about it and explore the Native American Educational & Cultural center there. We’ll have breathtaking views of the carving and surrounding landscape, see pictures of Native Americans from long ago, and an exhibit carved out of rock that tells the story of the bison (buffalo) and how important they were. We’ll take part in a hands-on art activity led by museum educators, then return to the Lodge.

Dinner: At the Lodge.

Evening: We’ll gather around a campfire with our Group Leader for a hands-on lesson about how Native Americans utilized all parts of a bison. We’ll also take this opportunity to roast marshmallows, make S’mores, and share stories around the campfire. We’ll then coach a short distance back to Mount Rushmore and attend the Lighting Ceremony, a patriotic event in the open-air auditorium.

Badlands National Park, Gold Panning, Indigenous Dance
Keystone, SD
K Bar S Lodge

Activity note: Getting on/off a motorcoach; driving about 200 miles round-trip, approximately 4 hours total riding time plus stops. Walking about 1/2 mile; boardwalks, groomed paths.

Breakfast: At the Lodge.

Morning: We’ll set out via motorcoach with our Group Leader for a field trip to Badlands National Park. It’s an incredible place with beautiful and weird looking buttes, pinnacles, and spires. But 69 million years ago, everything was covered by an inland sea where dinosaurs roamed along the shore. Millions of years later, there were animals such as ancient camels, dogs, horses, rhinos, and saber-toothed cats. They’re long gone, but we’ll stop at different locations in the Park to explore and see what’s there today. We’ll then ride on to the town of Wall. The main attraction is Wall Drug Store, known around the world as a highlight of roadside America. Starting in 1931, it became famous for giving away free ice water to thirsty travelers.

Lunch: This meal has been excluded from the program cost and is on your own to enjoy what you like in Wall. The Group Leader will be happy to offer suggestions.

Afternoon: The Black Hills was a major draw and hot spot for those seeking to strike it rich during the Gold Rush of the late 1800’s. The Black Hills proved to be a mineral-rich territory, bringing prospectors from all over. This afternoon, get your hands wet as you have the opportunity to learn from experts the tricks and techniques old-time prospectors used to pan for gold in the waters flowing through the Black Hills. We’ll then return to the Lodge.

Dinner: At the Lodge.

Evening: We’ll be joined by a local expert who will captivate us with stories and dances that are representative of local Indigenous peoples.

Mammoth Site, Junior Paleo Dig, Swimming
Keystone, SD
K Bar S Lodge

Activity note: Getting on/off a motorcoach; driving about 105 miles, approximately 2 hours riding time. Walking during field trips, standing up to 1 hour at a time. Bring swimming suit and towel for swimming activity.

Breakfast: At the Lodge.

Morning: We’ll ride out to the famous Mammoth Site just outside the city of Hot Springs. This site is here today thanks to a trick of nature more than 26,000 years ago. An ancient sinkhole collapsed and spring water flowing up from the bottom made a watering hole. It attracted mammoths and other animals such as Ice Age camels, coyotes, giant short-faced bear, llamas, and wolves. Some of them fell in and died. The sinkhole later filled in, preserving the skeletons as fossils. The site was discovered in 1974 when a construction company was excavating for a housing project. They found the bones then turned the site over to scientists. It’s now a laboratory, research facility, museum and working paleontological dig site. We’ll go behind the scenes with one of the collectors and curators to learn more about some of the discoveries and see some of the mammoth fossils. Kids will get to become Junior Paleontologists as we help dig for signs of prehistoric life.

Lunch: At a local restaurant.

Afternoon: Next, it’s Evans Plunge in Hot Springs where we’ll spend the afternoon enjoying the world’s largest indoor, natural warm spring, rejuvenating, mineral water pool. It’s fed by an enormous thermal spring producing 5,000 gallons per minute! Native Lakota and Cheyenne people knew these waters and used them for centuries before settlers arrived. In 1890, a man named Fred Evans built the first structure over what became known as Evans Plunge. It was soon famous as people came here to swim and soak in the crystal clear waters that stay at a temperature of 87°F. There are water slides, rings, and life guards are on duty. Remember to pack a towel from home for this fun-filled activity as hotel towels are not permitted off property.

Dinner: At the Lodge. Share favorite experiences with new Road Scholar friends during our farewell dinner.

Evening: At leisure. Prepare for check-out and departure in the morning

Program Concludes
Keystone, SD

Activity note: Hotel check-out 11:00 a.m.

Breakfast: At the Lodge. This concludes our program.

Morning: If you are returning home, safe travels. If you are staying on independently, have a wonderful time. If you are transferring to another Road Scholar program, detailed instructions are included in your Information Packet for that program. We hope you enjoy Road Scholar learning adventures and look forward to having you on rewarding programs in the future. Don’t forget to join our Facebook page and follow us on Instagram. Best wishes for all your journeys!

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