Somewhere between here and there is the Little Bighorn Battlefield National Monument and during years of family travel we have been driving past signs enticing us to exit now for the Battle at Little Bighorn and Custer’s Last Stand. Little Bighorn Battlefield National Monument is located in the south eastern portion of Montana just before crossing into north eastern Wyoming.
I am a history buff so anything historical that we can stop off at an enrich the minds of our children while doing it is special to me. The battle at Little Bighorn is where General Custer took his last stand against the Lakota, Sioux, Arapahoe and Cheyenne Warriors. During the dates of June 25th and 26th of 1876, 263 members of the US Army’s 7th Calvary Regiment expired at this location. I am unsure of the number of Native American casualties, however, the tribes were the victors in this particular battle to uphold their way of life.
Visiting Little Bighorn Battlefield National Monument
So on our seventh solid day of being cooped up in the suburban driving with our four kids across the West, we decided to make an unscheduled stop to let the kids stretch their legs. The Little Bighorn Battlefield National Monument tells both sides of the story through site markers, decorations and presence, which is easily noticeable upon entrance. As we pulled into the parking lot next to Custer National Cemetery, we could see a teepee set up at the museum, white headstones and iron artwork up the hill.
Entrance to the National Monument is charged by transportation into the park. If you walk, ride your bike or come in on a motorcycle you will be charged the individual price of $5.00. If you drive into the park in your vehicle then there is a $10 charge for however many people you have crammed in there. This is extremely affordable for a large family like ours. The charge goes up from there on all commercial vehicles including sedans, vans & buses.
The first stop we made was to the extremely busy, but surprisingly clean restroom building in the middle of the parking lot. As a traveling mom of four, a clean restroom is something I am always in search of to keep on the list of approved stops.
We made our way into the bookstore to sign the guest book and get our tour map before heading up the Last Stand Hill. There are no official tour guides, however along the trail there is a cell phone tour. Each information plaque has a corresponding cellphone instruction you can listen to for additional historic information.
As you make your way up Last Stand Hill the kids have a chance to run up the dirt trail to get the wiggles out. There are plenty of stopping points to read the information boards and view the wildlife and wild flowers. We didn’t see any snakes, but there were warnings. The obelisk at the top of Last Stand Hill has the names of all the Calvary soldiers carved into it on all four sides. There is handicap parking at the top of the hill for disabled visitors to be able to participate in almost every aspect of the battle site.
It’s just a short hike over to the Indian Memorial from Last Stand Hill. There is so much Native American symbolism displayed in this portion of the National Monument that was created in 2003. You pass by the “Spirit Gate” connecting the two worlds together as you enter the inner sanctum from the east as the Plains Indians would enter their place of dwelling. There are many writings in this sanctum to develop a better understanding of the Native American way of life that the Cayenne, Lakota Sioux and Arapahoe warriors were fighting to protect. There is also a beautiful living wall of bronze depicting the warriors that looks as if they will ride off into the plains surrounding it.
Throughout the entire hike to Last Stand Hill, Deep Ravine Walking Trail and the driving tour portion of the Little Bighorn National Monument you will see stone markers scattered around the plains marking the places where Soldiers, Native Americans and horses fell during the battle.
After our hike we made our way into the museum to learn more about the Battle at Little Bighorn and watch the 25 minute presentation video. There was so much detail from the excavation of the site and how the remains and artifacts were handled to the detailed lives of those soldiers and warriors involved. The kids were able to see period attire, guns and art work depicting the battle.
Visiting Little Bighorn Battlefield National Monument trip can take as little as 30 minutes of your day or as long as the park stays open. They offer a 25 minute video, a quick uphill walk up Last Stand Hill, a loop around the museum, a walk through the cemetery, a longer hike to the Deep Ravine area, and a 4.5 mile driving tour for the price of admission to the park. There are additional tours options that can be purchased at the bookstore like the Apsaalooke Tours that bus you 5 miles to the Deep Ravine, RenoBenteen Battle site where the Battle at Little Big Horn actually started and end at Last Stand Hill and even a self guided CD tour that can be purchased at the bookstore. No matter your time, this trip is full of historical events that add a bit of ‘sneaky education’ to your family travel.
Fast Facts for Visiting Little Bighorn Battlefield National Monument
The actual location of Little Bighorn Battlefield National Monument is located just a short drive off of I-90 at 756 Battlefield Tour Road, Crow Agency, MT 59022.
It is open year round with the exception of Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Years. The hours of operation change with the seasons, but the park always opens at 8am.
Learn more about the Battle of Little Bighorn
Little Bighorn Battlefield: A History and Guide to the Battle of Little Bighorn: Custer Battlefield National Monument, Montana (National Park Service Handbook)
Where Custer Fell: Photographs of the Little Bighorn Battlefield Then and Now
Uncovering History: Archaeological Investigations at the Little Bighorn
Disclosure- book links are via Amazon affiliate.