Wind Cave National Park
With 100 miles of labyrinth-like tunnels, Wind Cave ranks as the 5th largest, and has more boxwork calcite formations than any other known cave in the world.
Counted among the longest caves in the world, Wind Cave features an unusual type of calcite crystal formation called boxwork, which creates a honeycomb appearance. This cave takes its name from the barometric winds found at the entrance, and is one of the many wonders of the Black Hills. Surrounding the cave is Wind Cave National Park, where you can explore one of the last untouched expanses of the American prairie.
Since 1903, when it became the first National Park protecting a cave, Wind Cave has welcomed visitors to explore its mysteries.
Wind Cave Tours
Exploring the Wind Cave at your own pace is possible with a choice of 5 different tour options ranging from easy to very strenuous.
- The Garden of Eden Tour is an all ages tour, and is the least strenuous, but does involve about 150 stairs. Take the elevator down for a one hour tour that includes the magnificent boxwork formations.
- The Natural Entrance Cave Tour takes you down about 300 stairs into the cave for a 1.25 hour tour that exits by the elevator. This all ages tour takes you through some of the most abundant areas of boxwork formations.
- The Fairgrounds Cave Tour last a little longer at 1.5 hours and involves about 450 stairs, making it a little more strenuous. This tour takes you through some of the large rooms in the cave where you will see multiple different types of formations.
- The Historic Candlelight Cave Tour lets you experience the magic of the cave as it must have appeared to early explorers of its depths. This tour has a minimum age of 8, and explores less developed, unlighted parts by use of candle buckets.
- The Wild Cave Tour is for those with a taste for adventure. This 4 hour exploration of the undeveloped depths of the cave is for those 16 and up, and requires safety gear and good physical condition. Visitors will see parts of the cave rarely illuminated and seen.
Wind Cave also offers tours for those with special needs, taking visitors through wheelchair accessible parts of the cave.
Exploring Above the Cave
The mixed grass prairie of the National Park surrounding the cave takes visitors back in time to a wilderness where bison and other creatures roam freely.
Over 30 miles of trails meander through the Black Hills here, ranging from easy interpretive trails to backcountry hiking.
From the Wind Cave Visitor Center you can take the easy 1-mile Prairie Vista Trail, or take the strenuous but scenic 8.6-mile Highland Creek Trail through a mix of landscape that encompasses all that the area has to offer. Many more trails are available with lengths and difficulty levels in between, or feel free to hike cross-country and find your own path. The Visitor Center has the maps and information needed to safely make your way through the park.
Wind Cave National Park is home to a variety of wildlife as well as beautiful flowers and other prairie plants, all waiting to be discovered under the South Dakota sky. Bison roam the grasslands as they did hundreds of years ago, joined by deer, antelope, and many other majestic creatures, and visitors often sight them along the way.
Visiting Wind Cave National Park
No fee is charged for visiting the park to hike or enjoy the views, but there are fees for the guided tours of the cave, which are first come, first served. Overnight camping is at the Elk Mountain campground, which charges camping fees. Campsites offer no services but flush toilets and running water are available during the summer months.
Wind Cave National Park is open throughout the year. No matter when you visit, the Cave maintains a temperature of 53 degrees, although outside the weather varies greatly from season to season.
Getting to Wind Cave National Park
Located south of Rapid City, SD and only a few miles north of Hot Springs, SD, Wind Cave is on the southern end of the Black Hills. The scenic drive from Rapid City will take you past both Mount Rushmore and Custer State Park. The Wind Cave Visitors Center can be found off Highway 385, 11 miles north of Hot Springs, SD.
Thanks to the many attractions in the area, lodging is plentiful and can be found in Hot Springs, Rapid City, or any of the other surrounding towns and cities.