Visitor’s Guide to Crazy Horse Memorial in Black Hills of South Dakota

There is another sculpture being carved in the Black Hills of South Dakota – a sculpture so colossal that on completion it will be the world’s largest. 

A sculpture dedicated to a hero as popular as the 4 Founding Fathers. 

We are talking about the Crazy Horse Memorial and the fierce Lakota leader Crazy Horse. 

The story of this sculpture is the story of the Lakota Indians and to understand it, you must visit the Crazy Horse Memorial, located a stone’s throw away from Mount Rushmore National Memorial.

Where Is The Crazy Horse Memorial Located? How Do I See The Sculpture?

Situated among the Black Hills of South Dakota, Crazy Horse Memorial is a colossal unfinished sculpture that narrates the story of the Lakota people. 

It stands on the Thunderhead mountainside that is 6,532 ft tall and made of hard granite. 

The Memorial is located close to the Custer State Park and Mount Rushmore National Memorial and is a must-visit destination on South Dakota Road Trip

To see Crazy Horse Memorial, you can stay in Keystone or Rapid City or camp at Custer State Park. 

The official address of the sculpture is 12151 Ave of the Chiefs, Crazy Horse, SD 57730.

You will begin seeing the enormous sculpture miles before you even reach the Memorial. 

We have seen many visitors see the sculpture from the road and leave without entering the premises. 

However we recommend paying the tickets and entering the Memorial for two reasons: first, visitor contributions keep the project alive, and second, there is so much to see and do inside the Memorial that you simply can’t afford to miss. 

The Memorial address takes you to the entrance of the Crazy Horse Memorial. 

After you park the car, the first stop is the huge Visitor Center, which is the main entrance to the majestic Visitor Complex. 

You can view the sculpture and the model created by Ziolkowski from the Viewing Deck area. 

If you want to see the sculpture from up close you can opt for the additional bus ride of about half an hour round trip (~$5 extra per person). 

The bus ride takes visitors from the Welcome Center to the base of the Thunderhead Mountain. 

There is the additional option of donating $125 and being able to go to the top of the mountain as well.

Crazy Horse Memorial is a colossal, unfinished sculpture dedicated to the Lakota warrior Crazy Horse

Who Was Crazy Horse?

“One does not sell the earth upon which the people walk.” – Crazy Horse

Crazy Horse was a fierce Lakota leader who was known for his bravery and prowess in battle. 

Born as a member of the Teton Sioux Indian tribe, Crazy Horse was part of the Lakota Indians – US Government battle that lasted for almost 25 years. 

Throughout his time as a warrior, he continuously resisted and fought against the US government and was last of the Lakota warriors to surrender. 

He led the Lakota people to victory in the 1876 Battle of the Little Big Horn against General Custer’s US Cavalry battalion.

Understanding The History Of Crazy Horse Memorial

The Crazy Horse Memorial has a vivid and engrossing history. 

After Mount Rushmore National Memorial was conceived with the faces of 4 US Presidents, the local Lakota people wanted a Memorial dedicated to their hero, Crazy Horse.

“My fellow chiefs and I would like the white man to know that the red man has great heroes also.” said the Oglala Lakota Chief Henry Standing Bear and commissioned the sculpture.

Sculptor Korczak Ziolkowski, who had already worked on Mount Rushmore, was invited to finish the project and while work began on the sculpture in 1947 it continues to this day. 

The chief reason for the incompletion of the project is that the sculptor promised to the Lakota people that he won’t take any government funds. 

And so the Memorial continues to progress without any federal or state funds and instead relies on donations and visitor ticket funds.

What Is Depicted By The Crazy Horse Sculpture?

The Crazy Horse Memorial Sculpture shows the fierce Lakota warrior on horseback with his hand outstretched towards the mountains. 

The story goes that a cavalryman derisively asked Crazy Horse where were his lands now and Crazy Horse responded, “ My lands are where my dead lie buried.” 

The sculpture captures that powerful and poignant moment in the great warrior’s life story.

What Is The Mission Of The Crazy Horse Memorial?

Lakota Chief Henry Standing Bear was concerned that the culture and traditions of the Native American people were being obliterated and future generations were increasingly left without valuable records or traditional values. 

He conceived the idea of a likeness of the Lakota hero Crazy Horse carved on the Black Hills as a reminder of the past and that all was not lost. 

The Crazy Horse Memorial continues to stand by that mission and preserves and promotes the history, culture, and traditions of Native American people.

Crazy Horse Memorial Facts And Figures

Memorial Timings – The Crazy Horse Memorial opens at 7 am for summer hours and 8 am for winter hours. 

It closes approximately at dusk daily. For detailed timings on the day of your visit, see here. The Memorial is open 365 days a year.

Over a million people visit the Crazy Horse Memorial every year. 

The funds from tickets and donations along with private contributions are the sole funds keeping the project alive.

The regular admission fee is $12 for adults and $4 extra for the bus ride to the base of the mountain.

Things To Do At Crazy Horse Memorial

View The Models Of The Sculpture Of Crazy Horse At The Visitor Center

Visitors can watch the 1:34 scale model sculpture created by the sculptor Korczak Ziolkowski which is being recreated on the mountainside on a much grander scale. 

There are also other model sculptures of the head of Crazy Horse and the horse’s head. 

You can also take home a rock from the mountain.  

At the Visitor Center, visitors can see model sculptures of Crazy Horse’s head and his horse’s head

See The Indian Museum Of North America And The Cultural Center

Located inside the Visitor Complex is the Indian Museum of North America which has a variety of exhibits explaining the history, traditions, culture, and the American Indian way of living. 

The museum collection includes arts and artifacts belonging to various Native American tribes across North America and is quite extensive. 

There are tribal flag collections, paintings, antique photographs showing the Native American way of life, and the traditional Lakota Tipi painted by Lakota artist Paha Ska on display at the Museum.

Tour Sculptor Korczak’s Home And Studio

Korczak’s Home and Studio has many of the sculptor’s artworks on display. 

Walking around the house is very interesting as you get an insight into the sculptor’s life and the process of carving.

Watch The Laser Light Show

The Laser Light Show starts at dusk daily and continues from Memorial Day Weekend to the end of September. For current timings, check here

The show is titled ‘Legends in Light’ and includes a spectacular laser display on the 500-foot tall mountainside. 

The skillfully choreographed show narrates the history of the Native American people and their rich heritage through colorful animations and sound effects. 

Watching a laser light show of this grand scale is a memorable experience.

Eat At The Laughing Water Restaurant

Laughing Water Restaurant, the on-site restaurant located at the Crazy Horse Memorial, was originally started by the sculptor Korczak Ziolkowski and his wife, Ruth. 

The restaurant has excellent views of the mountain carving and serves many Native American delicacies like the Indian Fry Bread and Black Hills Buffalo Stew.

Enjoy A Night Blast At The Memorial

Night Blasts at the Memorial are just that – spectacular ceremonial blasts with fireballs that light up the entire mountain. 

Two annual Night blasts are conducted at the memorial to commemorate special days. 

The first occurs on June 26 to commemorate the Battle of The Little Big Horn in 1876 where Crazy Horse defeated the US Government forces. 

The second occurs on September 6 to commemorate the death anniversary of Crazy Horse in 1877 and the birth of the sculptor Korczak Ziolkowski in 1908. 

If you are visiting the area the night of the blasts, there can be no greater fun than seeing the mountain and the sculpture glow due to the fire.

Celebrate Native Americans’ Day At The Memorial

What the rest of the Nation celebrates as Columbus Day, South Dakota celebrates as the Native Americans’ Day. 

On the second Monday of October every year, the Crazy Horse Memorial honors individuals who have made a contribution to Native American education and heritage. 

The memorial also has a free program featuring Native American singers, dancers, storytellers, and artists. 

This is a great time to visit the Memorial and learn about the Lakota way of life.

Participate In Volksmarch And Climb To The Top Of Crazy Horse

The Spring and Fall Volksmarch is the perfect time to hike to the top of Crazy Horse with thousands of other people. 

The Volksmarch is an organized 10K hike and admission price to the Memorial is waived for the hikers. 

The hike takes about 3 to 4 hrs to complete and is a family event.

Things To Do Around Crazy Horse Memorial

There are many things to do in the Black Hills, South Dakota near Crazy Horse.

Mount Rushmore National Memorial

Mount Rushmore National Memorial and Crazy Horse Memorial are two of South Dakota’s iconic monuments, and visiting both is essential. 

The faces of 4 Presidents carved on Mount Rushmore are impressive and majestic. 

The Memorial is one of the most patriotic sites in the country and seeing it in person is very inspirational.

Also Read: Visitor’s Guide to Mount Rushmore National Memorial

Custer State Park

Another gem located in the Black Hills of South Dakota is the Custer State Park. 

The park is home to a herd of over 1000 bison and also has other abundant wildlife. 

Camping, fishing, hiking, and biking are other popular activities at the park. 

Custer State Park is a great family destination in the Black Hills of South Dakota, read our detailed guide on things to do in Custer State Park here.

Peter Norbeck Scenic Byway

While there are many South Dakota scenic drives, the Peter Norbeck Scenic Byway is most beautiful of them all. 

This 18 miles long scenic byway passes through some of the most picturesque Black Hills landscapes and is a work of excellent engineering as is evident by its many tunnels, hairpin curves, and looping bridges.

Also Read: Top 5 South Dakota Scenic Drives: Road tripping with a view

Badlands National Park

Badlands National Park is a breathtaking landscape of spires, pinnacles, buttes, and prairies. 

These Northern Plains have been carved by the White River for decades and the resulting topography is unlike any other place on earth. 

The Badlands are rich in fossils of prehistoric animals which roamed here many years ago and also in the variety of animals that call it home today.

Badlands National Park is one of South Dakota’s top tourist attractions and delights visitors with its dramatic landscapes.

Also Read: 9 Awesome Badlands Trails: Guide to Hiking in Badlands National Park

There are many other things to do in the Black Hills, Badlands, and the surrounding area. 

If you are planning a road trip in the area you will love our guide on Ultimate South Dakota Road Trip Itinerary: What to Do and What to See.

On Respecting History

The carving of Crazy Horse Memorial involves a lot of dynamiting, blasting, drilling, and finishing. 

While the nearby Mount Rushmore National Memorial took 14 years to complete and tells the story of a birth of a Nation and it’s Founding Fathers, the unfinished Crazy Horse Memorial tells an equally enthralling story of a people without a land and a story of commemorating heroes while keeping their honor intact. 

Visiting the Crazy Horse Memorial is a great way to understand the other side of the story and appreciate the rich history of the Black Hills of South Dakota.