Although Wind Cave National Park is best known as one of the largest caves in the world, there is plenty of scenic beauty above ground as well. The 28,295-acre park includes a mix of prairie grasses and pine stands within its gently rolling hills, and it is well populated with buffalo and other wildlife. Wind Cave National Park is south of Custer State Park, and it takes just over an hour to get to the visitor center from Mount Rushmore hotels.
The cave has some spectacularly large rooms and is a favorite with children. The main features of the cave are the winds, which gusting in or out depending on the barometric pressure, and the rare boxwork formations. Only two caves in the world are known to have them.
During the summer season, a number of different cave tours are available. These include:
Garden of Eden Cave Tour - This is the most common tour. It is a one-hour tour that enters and leaves the cave by elevator and hits the highlights. It is considered slightly strenuous with 150 stairs.
Natural Entrance Cave Tour - Visitors walk through the middle level of the cave where boxwork is abundant. This tour begins at the walk-in entrance and exits by elevator. This moderately strenuous 1¼ hour tour has 300 stairs (mostly down).
Fairgrounds Cave Tour - This tour includes some of the larger rooms found in the developed area of the cave. Visitors will see examples of many cave formations, including Wind Cave boxwork. The tour enters and exits the cave by elevator. This moderately strenuous tour has 450 stairs and lasts 1½ hours.
Historic Candlelight Cave Tour - This tour takes place in a less developed, unlighted part of the cave. Each participant will carry a candle bucket. Shoes with non-slip soles are required. No sandals! This tour is limited to 10 people and the minimum age is 8. This strenuous tour covers one mile of rugged trail and lasts 2 hours. Reservations are strongly recommended.
Wild Cave Spelunking Tour - Much of this 4-hour tour involves crawling, so it may not be for everyone. Visitors are introduced to basic, safe caving. Clothing requirements include long pants, long-sleeved shirts, lace-up boots or shoes with non-slip soles and gloves. The park provides hard hats, lights and kneepads. The tour is limited to 10 people and the minimum age is 16. Reservations are required.
Tours for Visitors with Special Needs- This tour includes only limited areas of the cave that are accessible to wheelchairs.
The park itself, just to the south of Custer State Park, is home to an abundance of wildlife, including a good sized buffalo herd and several prairie dog villages. The area above ground is scenic and a favorite with hikers.
If you are trying to find Mount Rushmore hotels that are more than just a bedroom, consider staying with us. We want our customers to make the most out of their Black Hills exploration. We are alway accessible for tourism tips and guidance!
Distance from Roosevelt Inn: 27 miles
Time Needed: Several hours or all day
Best Time To Go: Anytime but check with National Park Service for the current cave tour schedule. In summer, tours depart every 20 minutes or so but there's usually a wait before you can join one. In the off season, the visitor center is open from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. with tours scheduled at 10 a.m., 1 p.m. and 3 p.m.
Directions: Follow US 16A and Hwy 244 to US 385. Then take 385 south about 18 miles to park entrance
Cost: There are no fees to drive through or hike in the park. There are however fees for camping and various tours, see text above.
Highlights: Cave tours, wildlife, scenery
Description: According to the National Park Service, Wind Cave is the 10th largest cave in the world. The cave is open for basic tours all year, however the historic and spelunking tours are available only in summer.
Info: 605-745-4600; Wind Cave National Park, RR1, Box 190-wcnp, Hot Springs, SD, 57747-9430