Seeking some natural adventure that isn’t far from the hotels close to Mount Rushmore? The Jewel Cave is perfect for both casual explorers and devoted spelunkers. Take a standard tour, lantern tour or go spelunking deeper into the cave!
The National Park Service offers several tour options, including a brief tour for the handicapped and an all-day spelunking expedition for those who really like to get down and dirty. Most people take the one-hour walk through and make Jewel Cave part of a one-day outing to the Custer area. Adults, more than children, enjoy the spectacular jewel-like structures that give this cave its name. Children tend to enjoy Wind Cave more because Wind Cave has larger rooms.
Scenic Tour -- This tour visits the chambers with calcite crystals and other speleothems. The trail is a half-mile loop that includes 723 stair steps. It takes about one hour and is limited to 30 tour members. It is considered moderately strenuous. Low-heeled, rubber-soled shoes are recommended for the tour. Tours are started on a first-come, first-served basis, so expect some waiting in summer.
Lantern Tour -- This 1930s-style tour enters and leaves through the historic entrance, and visitors view the cave from an unpaved trail. The half-mile long tour is considered strenuous and includes steep wooden steps. The only light provided is by lantern. The tour takes nearly 2 hours. Tour groups are limited to 20 persons, and participants must be at least 6 years old. Tours are started on a first-come, first-served basis. The tour is available in summer only.
Spelunking Tour -- This tour lasts 3 to 4 hours and includes sections with some belly crawling. Participants must be physically fit and able to crawl through a 8.5-inch by 24-inch opening. Minimum age is 16. The tour is considered extremely strenuous. Claustrophobics need not apply. Groups are limited to 5 persons. Bring lace-up boots (sturdy, above ankle, rubber-soled and lug-soled), long pants or coveralls, a long-sleeved shirt, a change of clothing, shoes, and a plastic bag for carrying soiled clothes and boots from the visitor center after the tour. Gloves, soft knee pads and elbow pads are required and must be provided by the participant. Clean clothes and shoes must be brought to the visitor center when you check in for the tour. Reservations are required.
The Roosevelt Inn is devoted to providing you with a clean and comfortable stay as you adventure through the Black Hills. If you are looking for hotels close to Mount Rushmore, we are only 2 miles away from the entrance!
Distance from Roosevelt Inn: 31 Miles
Time Needed: Standard tour is one-hour; lantern tour is 2 hours. The spelunking tour takes most of the day. Allow about 40 minutes of travel time each way between the hotel and the cave.
Best Time To Go: Anytime but check with the National Park Service for the current schedule. Tours in summer leave every 20 minutes or so, but there may be a waiting time before you can join the a tour. In the off-season, tours are limited to twice a day.
Directions: Follow US 16A and Hwy 244 to US 385. Then take 385 south to Custer. Jewel Cave is 10 miles west of Custer on US 16
Cost: Varies with type of tour
Highlights: Spectacular crystal formations, spelunking tours
Description: Adults appreciate the formations, however kids may prefer the bigger rooms at Wind Cave. Much of Jewel Cave has not been explored, and now it is believed that this could be the largest cave in the world. Each year spelunking expeditions explore and map more passages.
Address: Jewel Cave National Monument, RR 1 Box 60AA, Custer, SD 57730.
Learn More: https://www.nps.gov/jeca/index.htm