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Trip to Crazy Horse Memorial South Dakota

Plan a trip to Crazy Horse Memorial, South Dakota? This post shares everything you need to know about visiting the Chief Crazy Horse monument in the Black Hills. The Crazy Horse Memorial is the world’s Largest Mountain Carving in Progress. It makes an impression. Moreover, it’s only 17 miles southwest of Mount Rushmore, so it’s worth adding it to your South Dakota road trip itinerary. This non-profit project is dedicated to North American Indians and presents their stories.

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huge sculpture of the Crazy Horse Memorial in South Dakota

Trip to Crazy Horse Memorial – Hidden Gem of South Dakota

When my partner Chris and I were planning our road trip through South Dakota, we didn’t know much about this state. We did not think it offered so many wonderful places worth seeing, especially in the Black Hills of the South Dakota area. And it is definitely worth a lot of time and attention.

Of course, we had heard about Mount Rushmore National Memorial, which has statues of four Presidents of the USA. It was on our bucket list. We knew it was worth visiting Badlands National Park, and we visited it in winter. It was absolutely fabulous and spectacular, and here are our photos from winter in Badlands.

But we’ve never heard of the Crazy Horse Memorial before. As we sat in a little diner in Wall, eating lunch and telling the locals about our months-long RV adventure through the US and Canada, one of them asked: Have you seen the Crazy Horse already? We had no idea what Crazy Horse was. I answered: No. What is it?
He said: Crazy Horse is a monument of the spirit of the Sioux Nation and their great Chief Crazy Horse. And it’s worth the money to see it. Here you can see pictures of the Crazy Horse Memorial.

We were surprised and decided to read more about this place add the Crazy Horse Memorial to our plan.

Crazy Horse Memorial in South Dakota view from a distance.
a white prototype of the sculpture of Crazy Hores, of what it will look like after being carved into a huge rock

Trip to Crazy Horse Memorial in South Dakota – Facts

Crazy Horse Monument in Numbers

  • Beginning date – June 3, 1948
  • Planned Height – 563 ft, 172 m
  • Planned Length – 641 ft, 195 m
  • Crazy Horse’s eyes are 17 feet (5 m) wide.
  • The head of Crazy Horse will is 87 feet (27 m) high. To compare – the heads of the four U.S. Presidents at Mount Rushmore are each 60 feet (18 m) high.
  • The arm of Crazy Horse will be 263 feet (80 m) long.
  • The granite Thunderhead Mountain, which is carved the Crazy Horse monument, is 6,532 feet (1990 m) and ranks the 27th highest mountain in South Dakota.
  • End Date – unknown.

When completed, the Crazy Horse Memorial will become the world’s second tallest statue, after the Statue of Unity. It will stand 8 feet taller than the Washington Monument and be nearly 10 times larger than Mount Rushmore. The official website has more facts.

Who was Crazy Horse?

Chief Crazy Horse was a Native American war leader of the Oglala Lakota. He is one of the most notable and iconic Native American tribal members. Crazy Horse fought against the encroachments of the US Federal government on the territories and way of life of the Lakota people.

He also fought against the U.S. military in the Fetterman Fight in December 1866 and in the Battle of the Little Bighorn in June 1876. He surrendered to U.S. troops under General Crook in May 1877. A military guard fatally wounded him.

The History of the Crazy Horse Memorial in South Dakota

Henry Standing Bear, an Oglala Lakota chief, well-known statesman, and elder in the Native American community, wanted to build the Crazy Horse Memorial in the Black Hills of South Dakota. It wasn’t easy. He had been looking for years for a perfect mountain, the funds, and the sculptor for the monument.

In 1931, Luther Standing Bear, Henry’s brother, wrote even to sculptor Gutzon Borglum, who was carving the heads of four American presidents at Mount Rushmore.

According to Wikipedia, Luther Standing Bear wrote that it would be “most fitting to have the face of Crazy Horse sculpted there. Crazy Horse is the real patriot of the Sioux tribe and the only one worthy to place by the side of Washington and Lincoln.” But Borglum never replied.

After a few years of searching for the right rock for the Crazy Horse monument, the Indians decided to offer their fertile land in exchange for granite rock, known as the Thunderhead Mountain in the Black Hills. They offered the US government 900 acres (365 ha) and got a positive response.

Standing Bear didn’t want any funding from government sources. He asked influential Americans interested in the welfare of American Indians to fund the project privately.

But they still didn’t have a sculptor. So, in November 1939, Henry Standing Bear wrote to the Polish-American sculptor Korczak Ziolkowski. He worked on Mount Rushmore under Gutzon Borglum. Standing Bear offered the sculptor participation in the Crazy Horse project and paid honor to Crazy Horse by carving him into a huge mountain.

Korczak Ziolkowski accepted the offer, and in the spring of 1940, he came to Standing Bear for a few weeks to discuss the project assumptions and the appearance of the Crazy Horse monument.

Who was Korczak Ziolkowski?

Korczak Ziolkowski was a self-taught sculptor, architect, and engineer. He was born in 1908 in Boston to Polish immigrants, but he was orphaned after his parents’ untimely death. He grew up in foster homes, where he was forced to work. At the age of 16, Korczak set out on his own. He worked hard to finish school.

He worked as a carpenter in a shipyard, which taught him much about carving. Korczak never took a formal lesson in sculpture or art. But he educated himself in the fine arts by studying the Old Masters.

After the death of a well-known Boston Judge, Korczak created a marble bust of him. But the fame gave him a marble portrait of Paderewski: Study of an Immortal. He won first prize for this sculpture at the 1939 New York World’s Fair.

When Ziolkowski arrived in the Black Hills in 1946, there was no water, no electricity, or roads. Pure wilderness with huge granite mountains and lots of trees. He cleared the way through the forest by hand. What’s more, he lived in primitive conditions.

He built primitive wooden ladders, several hundred steps to climb to the top of the mountain, and worked on the Crazy Horse sculpture. Korczak single-jacked or hand-drilled the holes for the first blast, which took off only 10 tons of rock. The first blast took place on June 3, 1948.

He devoted all of his adult life to the sculpture of the Crazy Horse Monument. His whole family, including his wife Ruth and his 10 children, was involved in the work. He died in 1982 without completing his work.

Crazy Horse Memorial Foundation

After Korczak Ziolkowski’s death, his wife Ruth and seven of their ten children continued work on the Crazy Horse project.

The Crazy Horse Memorial is non-profit and does not accept federal or state funding. The Memorial Foundation finances the project by charging fees for its visitor centers and donations.

The federal government twice offered Korczak-Ziolkowski US$10 million for the project. But he refused to accept the funds, faithful to Standing Bear’s will. Why? He feared that federal involvement would overturn the memorial’s educational and cultural goals. The Crazy Horse Memorial is more than a granite statue.

Ruth Ziolkowski died in 2014 at the age of 87. Their daughter Monique Ziolkowski, who is also a sculptor, became CEO of Crazy Horse Memorial. The Ziolkowski family continues its work.

The Crazy Horse Memorial preserves and promotes the history, culture, and traditions of Native American people.

in the foreground, a bronze Crazy Horse figurine standing on a platform in the museum, and in the background, a huge scale in which work on the Crazy Horse sculpture is still ongoing.

Trip to Crazy Horse Memorial in South Dakota – Directions

Crazy Horse Memorial is in the Black Hills of southwestern South Dakota. Is only 17 miles southwest of Mount Rushmore National Memorial. From Rapid City is 38 miles.

  • From Mount Rushmore, take Highway 244.
  • If you drive from Deadwood, take Highway 385.
  • From Rapid City, Custer, Hill City, and Sturgis, take Highway 16.

The entrance along US Highway 16/385 (the Crazy Horse Memorial Highway) is 9 miles south of Hill City and 4 miles north of Custer.
The Crazy Horse monument address is – 12151 Avenue of the Chiefs, Crazy Horse, SD 57730.

welcome sing to Crazy Horse with inscription on it that Crazy Hores Memorial is not a federal or state-supported project.
road sign with directions to Crazy Horse Memorial in South Dakota

Crazy Horse Memorial Opening Hours

The Crazy Horse Memorial is open year-round.
Welcome Center and The Museums of the Memorial is open:

  • 8 am – 7 pm from March 17th to May 11th
  • 8 am – 8 pm from May 12th to May 27th
  • from 8 am – approximately 30 minutes after the Laser Light Show from May 28th to September 6th
  • 8 am – 8 pm from September 7th to October 3rd
  • from 8 am – 6 pm from October 4th

Bus to Base: The bus to the base, from which you can take a closer look at the Mountain, usually runs from 9 am to 6:00/7:00 pm if weather and road conditions permit. However, check the schedule on the official website.

There is also a Gift Shop with high-quality souvenirs and Laughing Water Restaurant. Is owned by Korczak’s Heritage, Inc., a privately-owned business with royalties to Crazy Horse Memorial Foundation. We ate a very tasty lunch there with a view of a great Crazy Horse monument.

Crazy Horse Memorial in  South Dakota
Construction machines on top of a massive mountain with a carving process of Crazy Horse.

How much does Crazy Horse Memorial cost?

The most important is to know that Crazy Horse Memorial is only sustained by admission and private contributions. So, if you buy a ticket, you support Crazy Horse Memorial’s mission to protect and preserve the culture, tradition, and living heritage of the indigenous people of North America.

Admission Fee to Crazy Horse Memorial

Admission to Crazy Horse includes:

  • access to three museums,
  • an orientation film,
  • viewing of the sculpture from the veranda and the wall of windows,
  • scheduled cultural programming,
  • the laser light show at dark in season (If you want to watch the laser show, you should go a few hours before sunset to see Crazy Horse Memorial and the museum before it gets dark.)

The Season is from May 28th to October 11th. And the prices are:

  • $35.00: 3 or more people in a vehicle
  • $30.00: 2 people in a vehicle
  • $15.00: 1 person in a vehicle
  • $10.00: Per person on a motorcycle, bicycle, or walking

In low season, prices are lower by an average of $3-5.

Bus to Base Fee of Crazy Horse Memorial

If you want to see the Crazy Horse Memorial from a closer distance, you can take a special bus to it. It’s called Bus to the Base. Rustic bus rides to the bottom of Crazy Horse Mountain for a close-up view. This is an additional $4 per person. It’s a 25-minute round-trip.

Trip to the Top of Crazy Horse Memorial

You can also make a donation and take a Guided Van Ride. It’s a Trip to the Top of Crazy Horse Mountain, where you can see the progress of work up close. You can stay face-to-face with Chief Crazy Horse and see the statue’s size.

The cost is $125 per person. Call the Memorial at 605-673-4681 to schedule your Van Rides in advance (weather and road conditions permitting).

bronze statue of Crazy Horse Memorial

How long does it take to see Crazy Horse Memorial?

You need at least two to four hours to make a trip to Crazy Horse Memorial, South Dakota.

When you enter, you will be invited to watch a documentary in a cinema room. It presents the history of the creation of the Crazy Horse monument and the beginnings of its construction. Moreover, it presents the silhouette of Crazy Horse and the sculptor Korczak Ziolkowski. The film is sensational. It also perfectly explains the conflicts with the Indians and their difficult fate in these lands.

Indian Museum of North America
Indian Museum of North America

Then you can take a tour up the mountain to see Crazy Horse Memorial up close and personal. Or you can watch it and admire it from the bottom of the museum area. There are no tours at the top in the winter.

The museum is also worth seeing. It contains a vibrant and unique collection of art and the history of North American Indians. It’s more than a museum. It’s an Indian Museum of North America and the Native American Educational & Cultural Center which also provides educational and cultural programming. You’ll be amazed by Native American Indian artifacts, the beautiful wood interior, or teepee replica.

Indian Museum of North America
Indian Museum of North America

Can you see Crazy Horse Memorial without paying?

Can you see Crazy Horse Memorial from the road? Yes. The Crazy Horse Memorial is visible from a distance. When you drive, before the entrance gates is possible to see a Crazy Horse. You can check it on our photos below. I used a zoom lens to do these pictures. But it’s really worth your money and visit. It’s amazing to get closer to the Crazy Horse Memorial and see its magnitude. It makes an impression.

the view of monumental sculpture from the road to Crazy Horse Memorial
road to the Crazy Horse Memorial in 
 South Dakota

Will the Crazy Horse Memorial ever be finished?

It’s a difficult question. Many people ask it when visiting the monument and then comparing photos from earlier years. It is difficult to notice the differences, so you wonder if there is any progress in the works under the Crazy Horse sculpture at all. The Crazy Horse Memorial in the Black Hills of South Dakota has been under construction since 1948. The monument is far from finished.

The only part of the statue that is complete is Crazy Horse’s face. It took 50 years to sculpt it. A dedication ceremony and unveiling of the face took place on June 3, 1998, on the 50th anniversary of the Memorial’s first blast.

It will surely take years to finish the monument. Crazy Horse Memorial’s completion date is not known. The Crazy Horse Memorial project is privately funded from visitors’ money. There is no government funding. So it’s all depends on donations and the number of visitors. But work is delayed not only by the lack of funds. Specialists also found some damage in the center of the granite rock, making the work more difficult than expected.

Some point to the end date of 2050 or even later.

Where to stay when Visiting Crazy Horse Memorial

Rapid City is only 38 miles from Crazy Horse Memorial. It’s a perfect place to stop because the city is worth your time and visit. It’s known as the “Gateway to the Black Hills.” Rapid City is the second-most populous city in South Dakota so that you will find a large selection of lodging for every budget and type. We stayed in Super 8, and it was great for us, clean, and the price was affordable. On the map below you can find best offers.

Where to stay near Crazy Horse Memorial in South Dakota?

When planning a trip to Crazy Horse Memorial in South Dakota, the best choice for staying in the area is Custer. It’s 4 miles from the Crazy Horse Memorial.

Bavarian Inn Black Hills and Best Western Buffalo Ridge Inn are great hotels.

entrance to museum of Crazy Horse Memorial


  1. Very interesting and amazing artwork. Happy to hear that this non-profit project is dedicated to North American Indians and presents their stories.

  2. We only got to see the Crazy Horse Memorial from the road when we were on our way out.  And we did not know anything about it before we visited.  We never knew it was still being developed and would look totally different on a return visit.  We will make sure we check it out when it is finished. Whenever that might be!

  3. Mount Rushmore is world-famous and all the more after National Treasure movie. Interesting to know about Crazy Horse Memorial so close to it. It would be interesting to know a monument of that size, with its carving in progress.10 times larger than Mount Rushmore? Whoa! The history of the Crazy Horse, the sculptor and everything about this is very interesting and intreiguing. I really wouldn’t miss it on my visit to the region. 

  4. Very informative post about Crazy Horse. I’ve often heard about this Indian Chief, but didn’t know he had a monument carved in granite high up in the Thunderhead Mountain of South Dakota. It looks really impressive, especially when seen from the road. Glad to hear there is lodging just 4 miles away from the memorial. I’d like to visit it someday.

  5. Like you I have never heard about the Crazy Horse Memorial before. But after reading your post about it I would really like to visit it. The museum about the Native Americans would also be very interesting. Great that you had a good time in South Dakota.

  6. When we visited the Black Hills two summers ago, we only saw the Crazy Horse Monument from outside. We went there in 2004 and from all the pictures we saw between 2004 and 2019, we didn’t see anything different. I guess I will wait until they finish the monument, but unfortunately they don’t even know when they can finish it.

  7. Oh wow, I have never heard this place either! Very interesting to see that they are still in a middle of building. Not sure how I feel about them sort of destroying the nature but I would definitely want to visit if I was in the area. The place has a very interesting history. 

  8. he Crazy Horse Memorial seems a nice place to be in. I had heard about this from a friend but didn’t know much. So it was nice to get a feel. Native Americans museum would be of interest to me as history has always fascinated me.

  9. It is one thing to have a story behind the inspiration for a memorial and another to have one of the creator. It was interesting to read about the sculptor and his family and their life mission. I can imagine how tall this is likely to be when you say it will be 2nd to the Statue of Unity. Glad you brought this to my attention

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