Wind Cave National Park Travel Guide

  • Elk Mountain Trail
    Elk Mountain Trail
    by Basaic
  • Boxwork Formations
    Boxwork Formations
    by Basaic
  • Boxwork Formations
    Boxwork Formations
    by Basaic

Wind Cave National Park Things to Do

  • Hiking Trails

    There are about 30 miles of hiking trails in the park ranging from easy to moderately strenuous. I will discuss some of these trails in more detail under Sports Tips.

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  • Lookout Tower

    There is a fire lookout tower in the Northern part of the park. There is a trail leading up to it. The lookout tower is on the National register of Historic Places.

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  • Watch the Wildlife

    There is an abundance of wildlife in the park. Remember these animals are wild and keep your distance.

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  • Now That's an Old Rock

    One of the interesting pullouts along the road through the park discusses the geologic history/formation of the area. If it were not for erosion these hills would be 7500 feet higher (over 14,000 feet). You also probably would not see these pink rocks. These pink rocks are called Granite Pegmatite and were formed about 1.7 billion years ago as a...

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  • East Meets West

    The semi-arid climate and location of the Black Hills offers an interesting mingling of plants and animals from the Eastern and Western United States.

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  • Over the Cave

    There is certainly no hints in the terrain here above, that there is more than 100 miles of cave below. Pretty though.

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  • Life in the Cave

    There are animals that call the cave home. You probably will not see them but you may see evidence of their existence.

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  • Natural Entrance

    This is the original entrance to the cave. It was the only way tourists could enter the cave for a number of years. Not sure I would want to try it.

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  • Wind Cave

    The major attraction here is of course Wind Cave. All tours of the cave are ranger-led tours. Wind Cave is the 4th longest cave system in the world. Only a small part of it is open to the public. Of particular interest to me is how different this cave is than other caves you may have toured. It is basically a "dry cave" so there are not the...

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  • Civilian Conservation Corps

    During the Great Depression in the 1930s, the Civilian Conservation Corps set up a camp here and built the visitors center, these cabins, and made many other improvements to the park. These cabins served as their living quarters. The cabins and many of the buildings in the park are listed in the National Register of Historic Places.

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  • Nature Trail

    There is a short, easy, wheelchair accessible nature trail just outside the visitors center that has signs talking about the plants indigenous to the area.

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  • Meet the People

    Wherever I go I enjoy meeting the people. The rangers at Wind Cave were very nice and I enjoyed talking to them. Ranger Lacey gave the cave tour, and Ranger Marvin was informative and helpful. I do not remember the volunteers name.

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  • Displays in Visitors Center

    There were several very well done, interesting, displays about the geological history and formation of the badlands, the vast difference in its climate and wildlife millions of years ago, and its history of human habitation. I especially liked their educational/hands-on displays for children.

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  • Start at the Visitors Center

    The place to begin your tour of Wind Cave National Park is the visitors center where you can get a brochure and newspaper for the park; look over maps; and get recommendations from the helpful rangers on how to best enjoy your visit based on your interests and the amount of time you have to visit. This is also where you arrange for tours of the...

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  • Wind Cave Nature Hikes

    Wind Cave has several short trails to view the park. The Cold Brook Canyon Trail is recommended for birding but most of the trails give you good views of the park. If you have time do a guided nature hike/talk with the ranger. They take you out to one of the trails for a couple mile hike and discussion of the land above the caves. There are prairie...

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  • Buffalo

    The best buffalo watching has always been on South Dakota 87 between the cave and Custer State Park. Of half dozen visits, we've always seen buffalo along this road. We've also had to wait for the buffalo to get off the road. It's up close and personal.DON'T GET OUT OF YOUR CAR!! These are wild beast. If they feel threatened, they'll turn on you....

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  • Drive the back roads

    County roads 5 and 6 travel across the eastern portion of the park. Here, you can visit the high plains and possibly see buffalo. You'll feel like you're a pioneer out on the prairie. Long views with no human intrusions. Plan to take a while, as the roads are dirt and the speeds are slow. Be sure to check weather conditions before you leave. You...

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  • The Natural Entrance Tour

    This is the tour that we chose to go on when visiting Wind Cave. The tour gathers outside and is led to the "natural entrance" - where the cave was first discovered in 1881 by Jesse and Tom Bingham. This entrance is much too small for most people to fit through, of course, so the park built a tour entrance just to the side of this. You descend down...

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  • Scenic Cave tour - Jewel Cave National...

    This tour is a lighted path with spotlights on various cave formations. There are alot of steps so you will get some exercise. There are lots of various cave formations on this tour. I'd say more than on the Wind Cave tours but very little boxwork which is more prevalent at Wind Cave. If you only have time to do one tour in the 2 parks I would...

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  • Candlelight/Lantern tour Jewel Cave...

    This cave tour is similar to the wind cave tour only in that you use a bucket with a candle in it. For this tour you will need to squeeze through some tighter passages. However it's not a caving tour so you won't be crawling around on your knees and stomach very long if at all.The tour takes you into the cave via the original cave entrance. You...

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  • Candlelight tour in Wind Cave

    Wind Cave in Summer offers several different cave tours of various lengths and difficulty. For candlelight tour you walk a portion of the in lighted sections which are part of the Fairgrounds tour where you can see boxwork and popcorn and If I remember correct some cave bacon. Then they light your candle that sits in a can and you move on through...

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Wind Cave National Park Warnings and Dangers

  • Don't play with the Buffalo

    These are dangerous creatures. They have little fear and they don't like to be bothered. There's a story of how unpredicatable they are:Yellowstone National Park (about 1985)A buffalo was lying out in a field a short distance from the road. Many cars stopped. Many got out to take pictures. Over the hour(s) that the bull lay 'sleeping' in the field,...

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  • Heat

    We visited in June but South Dakota is known for extremes in temperatures. In June you can highs in the 50s to highs over 100F. When it gets hot it doesn't seem to be a dry heat, it's the wet sticky kind. Drink plenty of water and try to find ways to stay cool during the summer months.

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  • Wind Cave National Park Hotels

    0 Hotels in Wind Cave National Park

Wind Cave National Park Tourist Traps

  • paulscuba's Profile Photo

    by paulscuba Written Jul 3, 2003

    Ok this really isn't a tourist trap but unless you are really interested in forest succession after a forest fire these hikes can be a bit black. Not every trail is bad but since the big forest fire they still have one trail closed an the others have washouts.

    Fun Alternatives: If you enjoy hiking, try Wind Cave or find a book on hikes in the black hills. The book I have lists trails in the surrounding national Forests and State Parks.

    Related to:
    • Hiking and Walking
    • National/State Park

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Wind Cave National Park Off The Beaten Path

  • And Last. . .

    If you were not familiar with this sculpture, the Crazy Horse monument is a 60-year-old work in progress. Construction began about the time Mount Rushmore was completed, but received less fanfare and support. Plans are still alive to complete the likeness of the Lakota chief on his granite steed.

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  • Most Likely Your Reason for Coming

    There is nothing in Wind Cave in terms of scenery or wildlife that you did not already see everywhere outside the park. Buffalo, pronghorn, prairie dogs and coyote are familiar ambassadors to these environs. North of this tiny national park begin the granite towers where America's foremost sculptors have carved more meaningful attractions, starting...

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  • Off the Beaten Path -- and Then Some

    Most of the attractions in this part of the country are taken in turn, but they are spread out among the western counties of South Dakota and the eastern edges of Wyoming. If you are stopping at Wind Cave, there is no reason to miss the chance to visit Devil's Tower north of Sundance, Wyoming, the westernmost site generally included in a tour of...

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Wind Cave National Park Sports & Outdoors

  • Sanctuary Trail

    The last trail I will mention is the Sanctuary Trail. This is a moderately strenuous trail that is 3.5 miles one way. Look for signs of early homesteaders as you walk this trail. Good walking shoes, water, sunscreen, a hat, insect repellant, a snack, weather appropriate clothing, don't forget your camera!

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  • Lookout Point Trail

    This trail leads up to the lookout tower. It starts out easy enough but gets more difficult. Good walking shoes, water, sunscreen, a hat, insect repellant, a snack, weather appropriate clothing, don't forget your camera!

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  • Elk Mountain Trail

    This is a moderately strenuous trail that circles the campground. It is also about the best place in the park to see Elk, although they are still frequently a no show like they were this trip. Good walking shoes, water, sunscreen, a hat, insect repellant, a snack, weather appropriate clothing, don't forget your camera!

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Wind Cave National Park Favorites

  • Wind Cave National Park

    There are two parks under the National Park Service, involving caves, right near each other in the Black Hills part of Southwest South Dakota. They are Jewel Cave and Wind Cave. There is a bit of difference between the two caves and the formations therein and both are worth visiting but if you only have time to choose one, I would recommend Wind...

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  • Custer State Park

    Custer State Park is just north of Wind Cave National Park. It's a fully feature park. Lodging, hiking, fishing, off-road, boating, camping, sightseeing, and wildlife.Things to do:Peter Norbeck Scenic Byway (Needles Highway)Wildlife Loop Road Scenic Byway (Buffalo Corrals)Visitor Centers (Peter Norbeck Center, or the Wildlife Station Visitor...

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  • National Parks Pass

    Since this area has many National Parks, if you plan to visit several parks in a year time, get a parks pass. It costs $50. You get free admission to most parks. It does not give you a discount on cave tours and you still have to pay the ahem. **parking fee** at Mt. Rushmore. Even if we won't spend 50 on park admissions we get it in order to...

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