Visiting Little Bighorn Battlefield National Monument
While standing at the top of Last Stand Hill at Little Bighorn Battlefield National Monument, imagine yourself on a wide-open prairie landscape on a hot June day in 1876. As you look down the grassy ridge, you see hostile men on horseback charging toward you. Gunsmoke and dust fill the air. Dirt is being kicked up from behind the horses’ hooves as they speed toward you. People are yelling. Screaming. Dying. All around you is chaos. You can smell the smoke from the rifles. Smell the blood from the slaughter. Taste the dirt in your mouth. Stark realization hits — you will not make it off of this battlefield alive. There is nowhere to run. Nowhere to hide. You drop behind a fallen horse and use its body for a shield. You pick up your gun and fire back. You take your last stand.
Now, bring yourself back to the present. It is peaceful. The meadowlarks are singing. The Rocky Mountains are at attention in the distance. The tall, prairie grass sways in the breeze. Headstones are scattered throughout the rolling hills. Eerie sentinels mark where the warriors and soldiers of the past have fallen. Prayer cloths tied to trees echo remembrance of a historical battle. It is a moment of respect and sombreness.
Written by Charlotte of A Wandering Web. This post was updated on July 17, 2020. This page may contain affiliate links.
Little Bighorn Battlefield National Monument Map
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Interesting Facts About Little Bighorn Battlefield National Monument
- Little Bighorn Battlefield National Monument lies within the Crow Indian Reservation in southeastern Montana, one mile west of I-90/U.S. 87.
- Little Bighorn Battlefield National Monument memorializes one of the last armed efforts of the Northern Plains First Nations to preserve their ancestral way of life.
- The Battle of Little Bighorn was the latest encounter in a conflict lasting for centuries. The struggle began with the arrival of the first Europeans to the continent of North America.
- On June 25, 1876, close to 7,000 Lakota, Cheyenne, and Arapaho (including 1,500 to 2,000 warriors) were encamped below the ridge of the final battle along the Little Bighorn River.
- Amongst the warrior’s leadership was Sitting Bull, Crazy Horse, and other warrior chiefs.
- On the grassy knoll of Last Stand Hill, Lieutenant Colonel George Armstrong Custer and around 41 of his men shoot their horses for shields and make their final stand.
- In the battle, the 7th Calvary lost five companies (C, E, F, and L) under the leadership of Lt. Col. Custer, totaling approximately 210 men.
- After the battle, Lakota and Cheyenne families remove the bodies of their dead (estimated between 60 to 100) and place them in tipis, scaffolds, and hillsides.
Why is Little Bighorn Battlefield a National Park?
Little Bighorn Battlefield National Monument preserves and memorializes the site where the battle took place. It pays homage to both sides of the individuals who were in the battle—First Nations and the US 7th Calvary.
According to the Foundation document, the purpose of the Little Bighorn Battlefield National Monument is:
“to preserve, protect, memorialize, and interpret the cultural and natural resources, including landscape, pertaining to the Battle of Little Bighorn and to provide visitors with an understanding of the events leading up to the battle, the sequence of activities by military and Native American participants on June 25–26, 1876, and the consequences of those fateful days.”
When to Visit Little Bighorn Battlefield National Monument
The best time to visit Little Bighorn Battlefield is from May to September. Montana can have harsh winters and the site is best explored when there is no snow.
Visiting Little Bighorn Battlefield National Monument in the Winter
Winter operating hours of Little Bighorn Battlefield National Monument are from October 1 through March 31.
Operating hours are 8:00 a.m. – 4:30 p.m. The walking trails close at 4:00 p.m. Do note some trails may be completely covered with snow and walking can be difficult during the winter.
Visiting Little Bighorn Battlefield National Monument in the Spring
Spring operating hours are from April 1 through Memorial Day. The entrance at the gate is from 8:00 a.m. – 6:00 p.m. Trails close at 5:30 p.m. Spring can be cool and windy with a chance of snow.
Visiting Little Bighorn Battlefield National Monument in the Summer
Summer hours of operation are from Memorial Day through Labor Day. Operating hours of the park are from 8:00 a.m. – 8:00 p.m. with trails closing at 7:00 p.m. Summer in Montana can be hot and dry so be prepared with sunscreen and water as there is no shade on the walking trails.
Visiting Little Bighorn Battlefield National Monument in the Fall
Operating hours of Little Bighorn Battlefield National Monument in the fall are from Labor Day through September 30. Entrance is allowed from 8:00 a.m. – 6:00 p.m. with trails closing at 5:30 p.m.
Getting There and Getting Around
How to Get to Little Bighorn Battlefield National Monument
Little Bighorn Battlefield National Monument lies within the Crow Indian Reserve in southeastern Montana. To access Little Bighorn Battlefield National Monument by vehicle, take Interstate I-90, Crow Agency Exit 510 at Junction 212, Battlefield Tour Road 756.
The monument site is mainly flat prairie with slight hills, dirt walking paths, and paved driveways. Sturdy shoes are recommended. Be wary of rattlesnakes on the walking paths.
There are also paved roads leading to different areas of the battlefield. Handicapped-accessible parking is available at the top of Last Stand Hill.
How Much Does Little Bighorn Battlefield National Monument Cost?
Entrance fees to the park are $25 per non-commercial vehicle. Motorcycles are $20. Walk-in or bicycle is $15 per person. Commercial van or minibusses are $45 for 7-15 people.
America the Beautiful Passes
If you plan on seeing more than one of the U.S. National Parks, it is highly recommended to purchase an American the Beautiful Park Pass for $80. This pass admits everyone in the vehicle to every National Park in the country for no additional charge. The pass is valid a year from the date of purchase and is non-transferable.
How Much Time Should You Spend Visiting Little Bighorn Battlefield National Monument?
A minimum of two hours is recommended at Little Bighorn Battlefield. You need time to visit the museum to learn the history before exploring the prairie site. Also, the area is 765.34 acres (3.097 km2) and you need time to walk the trails and drive the auto-tour route to get the full effect of what it would have been like on that fateful day in June of 1876.
One Day at Little Bighorn Battlefield National Monument
One day is sufficient to visit the monument. Highlights of the park are Custer National Cemetery, Deep Ravine Trail, 7th Cavalry Memorial at the top of Last Stand Hill, the Indian Memorial, and exploring the battlefield with numerous headstones scattered throughout.
Places to Stay Near Little Bighorn Battlefield National Monument
Billings is the closest major center to Little Bighorn Battlefield National Monument. We stayed at Extended Stay America on the west end of Billings at 4950 Southgate Drive 59101-4667. It was a clean, budget-friendly hotel with friendly, helpful staff.
What to Pack for Visiting Little Bighorn Battlefield National Monument
It is easy to pack for a visit to Little Bighorn Battlefield. The norm for a regular, easy hike would be sturdy shoes, hats, sunglasses, water, and a light snack to keep your energy up. There are no camping or picnicking facilities in the park.
For more of my recommendations, check out my post on my favorite outdoor gear.
General Packing List
- A reusable water bottle
- Moisture-wicking Layers: You’ll want short- and long-sleeve shirts to wear underneath your jacket. In the summer, you may also want a tank top. Choose polyester over cotton.
- Jacket: I always have a packable down with me on trips. I also love this new jacket I got a few months ago, as it’s very light yet warm. Synthetic is a good alternative to down if you’re worried about rain or snow.
- Hiking Pants or Shorts: My favorite hiking pants can be found here. As a taller woman, I also love Columbia’s pants because they offer long sizes.
- Hat: Depending on the season, you’ll need a winter hat or summer hat.
- Gloves or Mittens: Gloves are critical if you’re visiting in the winter.
- Wool Socks: Smartwool is my favorite brand for wool socks. Make sure to get wool so your feet stay warm and dry.
- Camera: I had my trusty Canon Rebel T5i, my Canon Powershot SX620, and a GoPro with me on my most recent trip to the Everglades.
- Tripod: If you’re hoping to take decent photos of sunsets or wildlife, I’d strongly recommend carrying a tripod with you.
- Hiking Boots and Sandals: I love my Keens, and will never choose another brand for my everyday boots. I always camp in Crocs because they’re comfortable and lightweight.
- Backpack: I recommend this simple North Face pack, but you may also want this water-resistant Patagonia pack if you’ll be doing a lot of water-based activities. Check out my post on the best daypacks for women for more options.
Every hiker should always carry the ten essentials with them. These include:
- Navigation systems: map, compass, and/or GPS
- Sun protection: sunscreen and/or ballcap
- Insulating layers: synthetic or down jacket, rain jacket, hat, gloves, and leggings
- Illumination (flashlight or headlamp)
- First-aid kit
- Something to light a fire: lighter, waterproof matches, and/or fire starter
- Repair kits and tools: pocket knife, duct tape, screwdriver, and/or scissors
- Emergency shelter: tent, bivy, tarp, and/or space blanket
- Nutrition: food for both meals and snacks
- Hydration: water bottle, water treatment (LifeStraw or SteriPen), and water
Little Bighorn Battlefield National Monument Hikes
Most trails surround Last Stand Hill since it is a memorial site. Less than half a mile from the Last Stand Hill 7th Calvary Memorial is the Indian Memorial with a short, flat trail that can be hiked with ease.
Deep Ravine Trail
Along the trail is where you will witness many headstones on the main battlefield where Custer’s troops withdrew to Last Stand Hill. The white marble markers are for the army personnel and the red granite markers are for the fallen Lakota and Cheyenne warriors. The trail is easy walking as it is generally flat leading down to the ravine.
Start: Access Deep Ravine Trail approximately halfway up the hill on your way to Last Stand Hill.
Distance: ½-mile round trip (0.8 km)
Tour Road is a paved drive to the Reno-Benteen Battlefield, which was the second stage of the Battle of Little Bighorn. There are waysides on the drive where you can pull over and read for different historical sections of the battle.
Start: At the top of Last Stand Hill from the parking lot.
Distance: 4.5 miles round-trip (7.24 km)
More Things to Do in Little Bighorn Battlefield National Monument
- Guided Tours with Apsaalooke Tours operated by the Crow Tribe
- Custer National Cemetery
- Talk to park rangers at the museum to help plan your day
Visiting Little Bighorn Battlefield National Monument is a chance to learn about the turbulent past of America. It is a different experience than visiting a park based on beautiful natural landscapes. Little Bighorn protects cultural and historic resources for future generations. Little Bighorn Battlefield is where you can picture an epic battle in your mind and learn the stories of those who survived and died on the fields of the Montana prairie.
Meet the Author: Charlotte from A Wandering Web
Charlotte Tweed is the CEO (Chief Exploring Officer) of A Wandering Web Travels and the author and photographer of the engaging travel blog, A Wandering Web. As a recently published author, her mission is to transform your life with travel—one destination, one adventure, one story at a time.
All photos and content in this post are credited to Charlotte unless otherwise stated.
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