The Crazy Horse Memorial is just 16 miles (25 km) down the road from Mount Rushmore and should be at the top of everyone’s list when visiting South Dakota. This massive memorial pays tribute to the Lakota Sioux warrior, Crazy Horse, and is dedicated to the Lakota People. Read on for all the information you need to visit the Crazy Horse Memorial.
Crazy Horse Memorial
Construction of Crazy Horse began in 1947 after Chief Standing Bear invited sculptor Korczak Ziolkowski to build a monument in response to Mt. Rushmore. The Crazy Horse monument is 74 years in the making and Ziolkowski’s children and grandchildren have now taken over the project continuing work on what is set to be the largest monument in the world.
Crazy Horse Memorial Construction
Why was the Crazy Horse Memorial Constructed? There is a very good reason. Located in the Black Hills of South Dakota, the Crazy Horse monument was built to counter the insult of the white faces of Mount Rushmore on the Lakota Sioux native land.
The Black Hills are located in Lakota territory, but when gold was found in the area in the late 1800s, the Sioux were forced to give up a portion of their land in 1870 after already being promised the land in an 1868 treaty.
To have a monument like Mount Rushmore built on sacred land that the government took from them to celebrate the settlers who killed so many Native Americans was a slap in the face and the Lakota People searched for a way to create a monument to show that they also had heroes. And their hero of choice was Crazy Horse who led rebellions against the US Army.
Memorial to the Sioux Nation
Mount Rushmore was built between 1927 and 1941 and during that time, then Sioux Chief Henry Standing Bear invited Ziolkowski to carve a memorial to the Sioux nation in 1939. Ziolkowski promised the Lakota People that no federal funding would ever be involved in building the monument and the project has relied on public funding for nearly three quarters of a century.
Zoilkowski worked on Crazy Horse his entire life often sculpting by hand until his death in 1982. He was obsessed with his work and wanted to help right the terrible wrong that the American army did to the Indigenous People of the United States.
Where is the Crazy Horse Memorial
The Crazy Horse Memorial is located in the Black Hills of South Dakota, Custer. It is 1 hour from Deadwood and Crazy Horse is just 90 minutes from Badlands National Park, another amazing thing to do in South Dakota.
Badlands National Park got its name from the Lakota People who called it “mako sica”, or “land that is bad”. Due to its lack of water, dry lands, and extreme terrain, it was difficult for them to pass so they named it the land that is bad.
If you are traveling by car, you can take US Highway 16/385 to the memorial’s entrance. From there, you can park your car and take a shuttle to the base of the mountain where the sculpture is being carved. The shuttle ride is included in the admission fee.
If you are flying into the area, the nearest airport is the Rapid City Regional Airport, which is about an hour’s drive from the memorial. From the airport, you can rent a car or take a taxi or shuttle service to the memorial.
The Crazy Horse Memorial is open year-round, but hours and activities may vary depending on the season. Check the Crazy Horse Memorial website for hours of operation and any special events or activities that may be happening during your visit.
The physical address of the memorial is 12151 Avenue of the Chiefs, Crazy Horse, SD 57730.
When will Crazy Horse Be Finished?
Crazy Horse won’t be finished any time soon. When completed it is set to be the largest monument in the world. Standing at 641 feet long and 563 feet high is 10 times larger than the faces of Mount Rushmore. When finished it will depict Crazy Horse riding on a horse.
Today, the face is completed but there is a long way to go to finish the horse’s head. In truth, there is really no completion date in sight reminding me of the ongoing efforts at La Sagrada Familia in Barcelona (only on a grander scale). He thought the project would take 30 years to create, but here we are three-quarters of a century later with no end in sight.
Crazy Horse Completion
Crazy Horse is set to be the world’s largest monument and it is going to be incredible. When it is completed, the crazy horse memorial will be awe-inspiring.
The face itself is already a feat of engineering but once the horse’s head is complete it will be extraordinary. When finished Crazy Horse will be sitting atop horse head with a flowing mane as his left arm extends in front of him, pointing.
The idea is to have Crazy Horse dwarf the heads of the American presidents and it will indeed. Crazy Horse Will be the largest monument in the World.
When you stand beside the face of Crazy Horse, you feel the enormity of the task. This will be the largest sculpture on earth when it is complete. When we were there, we were told that the arm and horse head are expected to be finished sometime in the next dozen or so years.
Who Was Crazy Horse?
Crazy Horse was a Lakota Sioux Warrior who lived form 1842 to 1877. He was one of the last hold outs of the Native American People to surrender to troops. Crazy Horse had no intention of living on a reserve but negotiated a surrender to bring his ailing people in for help.
He was then going to leave them in peace and live out his days on his own. Instead of sticking to their word, the United States military double-crossed him and (literally) stabbed him in the back murdering him.
This Crazy Horse monument is dedicated to his strength and heroism. Crazy Horse was instrumental in leading many battles against the American troops including their defeat of Custard at the Battle of Little Big Horn.
Visiting Crazy Horse Memorial
Visiting Crazy Horse is a fascinating walk through history. As Canadians, we didn’t know much about the Battles of Little Big Horn or the heroic Native American. We had heard the names, but never delved into the history.
A tour of the museum at the base of the monument tells the history of the Native American culture and history. Make sure to watch the orientation film that shows Ziolkowski at work with his children. It shows the blasting that went on to begin and how they started by lugging the equipment up the mountain.
Crazy Horse Monument Museums
There are several things to see and do at the museums of Crazy Horse Memorial. The Indian Museum of North America, the Mountain Carving Gallery, and the Ziolkowski Family Life Collection are all on display to learn of Indigenous culture and the history of the family.
In the gift shop, you can buy local art and souvenirs to support the economy. There is also a craft to display of all the instruments used to blast the rock over the years.
Book this Highly Rated Private Tour – The Black Hills Monuments Tour from Rapid City takes you to the Crazy Horse Memorial, Mount Rushmore, Custer State Park, and the Black Hills of South Dakota.
The Face of Crazy Horse
A bus will take you out to the site for a closer view, but if you want something more, you can book a guided van ride and then walk up to the face. The van will take you most of the way up so don’t worry, it’s not a grueling walk. The van tour costs $125 per person and is a steep price to pay to see this magnificent carving up close. But all proceeds are charitable and help to continue the work of the foundation.
- Rustic Bus Ride to the Base of the Mountain ($4 per person)
- To enter, it is $30 per car for parking.
- Guided Van Ride – Trip to the Top of the Mountain (a charitable, non-refundable gift of $125 per person)
- For more information on visiting, go to the Crazy Horse Memorial website for details.
To learn more about the Crazy Horse memorial and the important tribute to the Lakota People was something we are truly grateful for. There is a lot of controversy surrounding both monuments and the Lakota People are calling for the removal of Mount Rushmore. Some think the Crazy Horse monument has become more about the Ziolkowski family than the Lakota People.
If you would like to get even yet another view of these two memorials, take a helicopter Tour of Crazy Horse Memorial and Mount Rushmore Black Hills Aerial Adventures offers one of the most reasonable helicopter tours we’ve ever seen and it gives you a birds-eye view of both Mount Rushmore and Crazy Horse. It also offers a lovely view of the Black Hills of South Dakota.
The helicopter doesn’t get as close to the monuments as we would have hoped and it doesn’t do an even split for views. (Meaning one side gets more view time than the other) If you do book a helicopter tour and want to see more of Crazy Horse, sit on the left hand side.
You don’t really get close to either Mount Rushmore or Crazy Horse, we assume it has something to do with airspace security. But for the price, it’s a good tour.
The Mount Rushmore Crazy Horse tour is $205 per person, but there are cheaper tours to see just one of the monuments for $110. If you have never been on a helicopter, they offer discovery tours starting at $49.
Crazy Horse Memorial – The Details
Crazy Horse is located in the Black Hills of South Dakota just 45 minutes from Rapid City. Plan to spend 3 – 4 hours at Crazy Horse as there are plenty of things to see and do.
Besides the museums and sculptures themselves, there is a terrace where you can order food. At night there is a laser show over the monument that runs from May to September.
Where to Stay Near the Crazy Horse Memorial
We stayed at the Bavarian Inn. It is a mountain boutique resort located in Custer, South Dakota less than 5 minutes from Crazy Horse. It makes for a great base to explore, Crazy Horse, Mt. Rushmore, and Custer State Park.
You can also make a base in Deadwood which is just an hour from the Crazy Horse Memorial.
DoubleTree by Hilton at Cadillac Jack’s – In Deadwood, you can’t go wrong with a Hilton and when in doubt, we always book a higher-end chain hotel. This Double Tree by Hilton has a casino complete with black jack, craps, poker, and roulette.
The Hotel by Gold Dust – We stayed at this hotel and it was walking distance to all amenities and Deadwood attractions. It is also just around the corner from the Gold Dust Casino.
There are plenty of hotels in Deadwood. Many have historic significance and have been restored with that old west feel. Check out the complete list here.
Crazy Horse Memorial Foundation
The Crazy Horse Memorial Foundation is a non-profit organization started in 1948 by Korczak Ziolkowski. Its aim is to preserve and promote the culture, traditions, and heritage of the Lakota people.
The centerpiece of the Foundation’s work is the Crazy Horse Memorial, a massive sculpture that depicts the Lakota leader Crazy Horse on horseback with his arm outstretched, pointing towards the horizon. The sculpture is being carved into Thunderhead Mountain in the Black Hills of South Dakota, and when completed, it will be the world’s largest mountain carving.
The Crazy Horse Memorial Foundation is also involved in various educational and cultural programs aimed at preserving and promoting Native American culture. These include the Indian Museum of North America, which showcases Native American art and artifacts from across the continent, and the Indian University of North America, which offers educational opportunities for Native American students.
The Foundation is funded through private donations and admission fees to the memorial site. The Crazy Horse Memorial hosts more than 1 million visitors per year. I’d say that’s a pretty good haul. Its mission is to continue the work of Korczak Ziolkowski and to ensure that the legacy of Crazy Horse and the Lakota people is remembered and celebrated for generations to come.
There is parking at the memorial but there are tours from Rapid City if you don’t have a car. Although we highly recommend renting a car in South Dakota. Part of the charm is having the freedom to explore not only the memorials, but the national parks, and gorgeous scenic drives. Compare Car Rental Prices here.