Keystone2021-03-16T18:11:32+00:00
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FUN FACTS

Mount Rushmore

Keystone was originally built as a “men only” gold mining camp, and was later home to the men that carved Rushmore.

Moccasin Springs

Find a bit of serenity as you soak in the natural hot springs at Moccasin Springs Natural Mineral Spa.

horsedrawn wagon

Saddle up or take a backseat in a horse-drawn covered wagons as your authentic chuckwagon dinner cooks over a campfire.

Welcome to Keystone!

Welcome to Keystone … a Dynamite Town

Imagine you have a nice little farm community of friendly people who are busy growing corn and beans in the summer months. When winter comes, they catch up on chores and make plans for the summer. Magically surround the town with towering granite spires and pine-filled mountain valleys. Scatter gold in the streams. Trade the sheep for mountain goats and the cattle for elk and deer. Recruit an amazing artist to carve (with dynamite, no less!) an immense memorial to American democracy. Voila! You have Keystone, where 350 hard-working people who host 2 million or more guests through all four seasons. For the 2 million, here are some insider tips on how enjoy the unique little town below Mount Rushmore.

Make the Most of Rushmore

Mount Rushmore may be the main reason you’re here, so don’t gaze and then go away. There’s much to be found below the faces. Here are a few tips: 1) Sample the ice cream at the restaurant; the vanilla is made from Thomas Jefferson’s own recipe. 2) Don’t skip a visit to the 1939 sculptor’s studio, where you’ll sense the history of the monument. 3) Hike the Presidential Trail, not just for better views of the faces but also for the nature (you might even meet a mountain goat). 4) Hang around for the patriotic lighting ceremony, which begins at 9 p.m. daily from late May to late September.

Enjoy the Mountain Architecture

Remember the old quip that dancer Ginger Rogers could do everything Fred Rogers could do — and do it backwards in heels? That’s also true of people who create bridges, roads and buildings in rugged mountain terrain as opposed to the flatlands. There’s no better example than the Keystone area. As you arrive from the north, watch for the laminated timber-arch highway interchange, the only one of its kind in the world. The three-level bridge is an architectural marvel. As you descend the canyon, you’ll pass under Miner’s Tunnel, one of seven stone underpasses in the area. As you explore the town, note the unusual stone retaining walls and foundations.

Gateway to Scenic Roadways

Keystone is the northern gateway to the Peter Norbeck Scenic Byway, heralded as one of America’s most scenic and historic roadways. The route was chosen by Norbeck, a U.S. senator who championed Mount Rushmore. When engineers told Norbeck the terrain was too rugged for roads, he personally walked the forest, looking for possible paths and the best scenery. Depart Keystone to the south on Highway 16-A and you’ll encounter Iron Mountain Road, a captivating series of pigtails, stone tunnels, dips, climbs and hairpin curves. It leads to the heart of Custer State Park and the Wildlife Loop. Depart Keystone to the west on Highway 244 and watch for a parking lot just beyond Mount Rushmore’s main entrance, where you’ll find an amazing profile of Washington in stone. Proceed on Highway 244 for unusual camping, hiking and picnic spots. Soon you’ll come to Highway 87, which leads to more tunnels, pigtails, Black Elk Peak, Sylvan Lake and Custer State Park. Get a map. Norbeck’s roads are so crooked that it’s easy to confuse north and south.

Shopping in Keystone

Keystone is a one-of-a-kind shopping experience. You’ll meet candy-makers, chain saw artists, rockhounds, fine art aficionados, gold miners, wild game chefs, t-shirt designers, cowboy comedians and other interesting characters. Their life’s work is to welcome the never-ending parade of pilgrims to the Shrine of Democracy from late spring to autumn. In winter, some take a break — but fortunately not the candy-makers.

Keystone is a Playground So Play

Don’t be misled by those four stony faces above town; Keystone is fun and games — especially in the heart of summer. Enjoy scenic chairlifts, an Alpine slide, zip lines that span a mile, mini golf by a gold mine and helicopter tours of the faces and surrounding mountain peaks. Pan for gold in a real mine. Dip your toes in the cool waters of Battle Creek. Cool off in nearby Rushmore Cave. Watch a gun fight at the Red Garter Saloon. This is a mountain playground for families.

Keystone is Truly an ‘Old Soul’ Town

A town that hosts 2 million-plus visitors a year is going to look snazzy at first glance, but Keystone has an old soul. Mining began in the 1870s, and the town was created in 1891. For a look at the “old town,” take Highway 40 south. You’ll find a delightful old general store, small shops, and mine and mill ruins. Maps for a self-guided tour are available in kiosks. Look above Highway 40 for the town’s longtime school building, now a museum (free admission) with exhibits on mining history, the carving of Rushmore and Carrie Ingalls of “Little House” fame, who lived in Keystone for years. Discover even more history of the mountain carving at the Rushmore Borglum Story and at the Sculptor’s Studio at the memorial.

Keystone Chefs Satisfy All Appetites

There’s something for any guest in Keystone, and there are some things you won’t find just anywhere — such as rattlesnake sausage (at the Big Thunder Mine). Keystone’s chefs have embraced wild game. You’ll find offerings at the Red Garter on the boardwalk and several other eateries. Watch for prime rib on the menu, because South Dakota is renowned for high quality beef. Bison dishes are also a favorite‚ from the bison stew served at Mount Rushmore’s Carver’s Restaurant to bison brats, burgers and steaks in restaurants around town.

Our ‘Fifth Face” is Sasquatch

Even before carving was completed on Mount Rushmore, many politicians have imagined themselves as the Fifth Face. Another figure was carved in the winter of 2020 but it represents a man who never won an elective office. He never shook a hand or kissed a baby. He’s Sasquatch, aka Big Foot. The sculpture, made of Black Hills pine by Jarrett Dahl and his team at Dahl’s Chainsaw Art, measures over 22 feet. That makes it the largest Big Foot sculpture in the world — though it barely exceeds the length of Washington’s nose on Rushmore. Visitors are welcome to visit and photograph Big Foot and the other fanciful creations at Dahls.

A Cemetery With a Presidential View

Travelers drawn to cemeteries are welcome at Keystone’s Mountain View Cemetery, a nicely-tended resting place on the west side of town. Just follow Cemetery Road. This is the only cemetery with a view of Mount Rushmore. A handcrafted wrought iron fence separates gravesites from the surrounding pines. Miners, cowboys and Mount Rushmore carvers are buried there, including a colorful character who claimed to have survived Custer’s Last Stand even though he was born 20 years after it occurred. Carrie Ingalls’ husband David Swanzey is among the resting. He was a miner who promoted the concept of Mount Rushmore. Carrie is buried at the Ingalls family plot in De Smet. Visitors are welcome, but please remember to be respectful, especially when mourners are present.

More stories on Keystone

Iron Mountain Road

His road squeezes through three stone tunnels, spirals down three pigtail bridges and winds round and round to the 5,445-foot summit where a small parking lot allows visitors to get out from behind the wheel and enjoy a panoramic view of the mountains, including Mount Rushmore.

Winter in Keystone

Winter has arrived in Keystone. Life in the busiest tourist town in the West slows to a crawl. The three-hour parking limit seems superfluous on the empty road called Winter Street. Yes, you can almost feel a community-wide sigh of relief as the 327 full-time residents catch their collective breath.

Slight of Hand

Nowhere in the book’s 416 pages of narrative, photographs, bibliography and index will you read the name Luigi Del Bianco, a classically trained Italian artist specifically recruited by Borglum to be the monument’s chief carver from 1933 to 1940.

Chainsaw Masterpieces

When Jarrett Dahl looks at a log, he sees more than just a log. He sees into the log. Possibilities lurk — like woodland creatures yearning to be freed from timber prisons, by sharknadoes of razor-sharp Husqvarna teeth.

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