Crazy Horse Memorial: The Crazy Horse Monument in South Dakota

Who I am
Martí Micolau

To the tribe of the Lakota the fact that the sacred mountains of the Black Hills had been used to carve the faces of American presidents on Mount Rushmore has never been so good. For this reason, despite some internal resistance, they decided to "challenge" the stars and stripes iconography to sculpt a monument that depicted their famous leader Crazy Horse, victor of the battle of Little Big Horn against the "general" Custer.

Il Crazy horse memorial, begun in 1948, is still a work in progress, but you can still clearly see the head and the outline of the outstretched arm of Cavallo Pazzo. Once completed, it will become the largest statue carved in a mountain in the world.


  • Where it is and useful information
  • To see
  • Special tours
  • History and curiosities of the Crazy Horse Memorial
  • Where to sleep in the area

Where it is and useful information

The Crazy Horse Memorial is located in the Black Hills region of South Dakota a 10-minute drive north of the city of Custer. The geographical area of ​​the United States in which it is located is therefore that of the so-called Real America where some of the symbolic places of American identity are located.

The memorial is open every day of the year but, as regards the access times to the structure, it is difficult to make a general speech because they change a lot during the seasons, so to be on the safe side and not make mistakes, I refer you to the official page. In principle, the memorial is open from morning until sunset, but in summer the opening is extended in some cases even up to 22:00.

The prices to access the park are calculated based on the people who will be in the car with you:

  • $ 30 per car with more than two people on board
  • $ 24 per car with two people
  • $ 12 per car with one person
  • $ 7 per person on foot or by bike

To see

The first building you will visit upon entering the Tourist Center is the large hall of the Welcome Center, which contains an information desk, a theater and theIndian Museum of North America, which you will have to cross to reach the large terrace from which to observe the imposing sculpture that is gradually structuring. Once outdoors you can also observe, thanks to a very detailed 1/34 scale model, what the work will look like once the work is completed.

On both sides of the terrace you will find the inevitable Gift Shop, where you can find all sorts of gadgets linked to the traditions of the natives, and the Laughing Water Restaurant which is practically the only option, apart from the snack shop, that you will have if you want to eat something while staying inside the memorial.

The other pavilions of the Tourist Center that you can visit are:

  • Mountain Carving Gallery: in this section you will learn the story of how all this began thanks to the work and ideas of the sculptor Korczak Ziolkowski (who ironically participated for a few years together with his colleague Gutzon Borglum in the work on Mount Rushmore). Of particular interest are the tools, machinery and models used during the early days of the project
  • The Native American Educational and Cultural Center: a place dedicated to preserving and passing on Indian art by contemporary artists, as well as being an additional exhibition space for the museum's thematic exhibitions. On the lower floor there is a photographic exhibition by the explorer Edward Sheriff Curtis focusing on the world of the Far West, and an exhibition dedicated to the history of bison.
  • Sculptor Home & Studio: as you can guess from the name this was the part where the sculptor Ziolkowski originally established his home with his family, here you can find original furnishings of the period.

Outside the structure there is also a lovely garden in which the Nature Gates, an evocative gate by Korczak and his family depicting the profiles of over 200 animals that can (or could) be found in this region of South Dakota, a statue of two fighting horses, and a small memorial dedicated to the victims of the terrorist attacks of 11 September.

Special tours

If you are wondering if there is anything else to do besides observing the sculpture from afar and visiting the many sections of the Tourist Center, the answer is yes. In fact, there are some experiences that are definitely worth trying if you have time available and if you are interested in learning more about this area.

One of the most interesting and spectacular events is certainly the one called Legends in Light, a show of lights and lasers that are projected on the mountain and which, among other things, represent what will be the final form of the sculpture. This event is seasonal and is held after dark from Memorial Day weekend (last Monday in May) through the month of September.

They are always held at night and, unfortunately, only twice every year i Night Blast, a pyrotechnic event that illuminates the mountain with the light produced by numerous bonfires cleverly positioned along the path and the sculpted parts, creating a beautiful scenographic effect. The first of these events is held on 26nd June for the anniversary of the battle of Little Big Horn and the birth of Ruth Ziolkowski, wife of the sculptor. The second and final Night Blast is held on September 6th to commemorate the death of Crazy Horse and the birth of Korczak Ziolkowski.

If you do not want to be satisfied with only seeing the sculpture from a distance, you can also opt for the Rustic Bus Rides which, at a cost of $ 4 per person, will take you to the foot of the mountain from which you can take closer pictures of the sculpture but you will not be able to continue further.

At this point, I imagine that perhaps the most important question has come to mind: can you climb up to the construction site and look the great Indian chief in the eye? The answer in theory is affirmative but, unfortunately, there are very stringent stakes. The first option is in fact to make a donation of at least $ 1.000 to the foundation that takes care of the works. The second, and cheaper option, is to participate in the so-called Crazy Horse Volksmarch or rather a walk that from the Tourist Center reaches the area of ​​the "outstretched arm" of Cavallo Pazzo. This event is held however only twice a year (you can see the updated dates on the official website), so you will have to be particularly lucky to be in the right place at the right time. If you are, be prepared for a walk of about 10 kilometers round trip that will take you from two to four hours, depending on your pace.

History and curiosities of the Crazy Horse Memorial

  • The official start of the works was sanctioned by the explosion of a charge of dynamite on the mountain on June 3, 1948 and, at the ceremony, 5 survivors of the battle of Little Big Horn attended.
  • The sculpture works are financed solely by the entrance tickets to the memorial and by donations. No federal or state contributions have ever been accepted.
  • Four of the ten children who had the sculptor Korczak Ziolkowski still participate in the completion of the memorial today.
  • The next steps in working the mountainside involve focusing on the horse's mane and head and on Cavallo Pazzo's arm, hair and shoulder. They are expected to be completed over a period of 10 to 15 years.

Where to sleep in the area

The city closest to the memorial is, ironically, that of Custer, here are some tips:

  • Bavarian Inn: a hotel that recalls the style of mountain huts on the outside but the interiors still have a modern style. The rooms are well maintained and quite spacious. The property also has two swimming pools, one indoor and one outdoor.
  • Rocket Motel: those who have less pretensions but still do not want to give up good service can opt for this classic American motel which has its strong point in the value for money.

Search for accommodation in Custer


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