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Wind Cave National Park, SD

National Park Service
Tour Wind Cave by Candlelight
Tour Wind Cave by Candlelight

Experience the cave by candlelight. This tour takes place in a less developed, unlighted part of the cave similar to tours given in the 1890s. Each participant will carry a candle bucket. Because this tour is mostly on unpaved, unlighted trail 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. The tour is only available in the summer season (mid-June through Labor Day) and pre-registration is strongly recommended. These arrangements may only be made by telephone, up to one month in advance of the tour - (605) 745-4600.

NPS Photo by Sheena Harper

The Fairgrounds Tour also visits the upper level of the cave
The Fairgrounds Tour also visits the upper level of the cave

The Fairgrounds 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, frostwork, popcorn, and a few fossils. The tour enters and exits the cave by elevator. This moderately strenuous tour has 450 stairs half up and half down with one flight of 90 step up, and lasts 1½ hours. This tour is only available in the summer season - mid-June through Labor Day.

NPS Photo

Boxwork is abundant along the tours routes in Wind Cave
Boxwork is abundant along the tours routes in Wind Cave

Boxwork is believed to be older than the cave itself. Geologist believe the boxwork formed in tiny cracks in the limestone, then when the cave formed, the water was able to dissolve the limestone, but not able to dissolve the calcite crack fillings, exposing the boxwork that we see today. This unusual feature is seen along all of the cave tours in Wind Cave.

NPS Photo

The Wild Cave Tour (Spelunking) gives visitors the chance to meet the cave on its terms.
The Wild Cave Tour (Spelunking) gives visitors the chance to meet the cave on its terms.

Explore the cave away from the developed trails. On this 4-hour tour visitors will be introduced to basic, safe caving. This tour is only available during the summer season - mid-June through Labor Day. Wear old clothes and gloves, as much of the trip will be crawling. Long pants, long sleeved shirts and sturdy, lace up boots or shoes with non-slip soles are required. The park provides hard hats, lights, and kneepads. Please do not bring jewelry, watches and other valuables on the tour. This tour is limited to 10 people and the minimum age is 16. We require a signed consent form for those 17 and under. Pre-registration is required. Arrangements may only be made by telephone, up to one month in advance of the tour - (605) 745-4600.

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Elk Mountain Campground in the winter
Elk Mountain Campground in the winter

The Elk Mountain Campground is a quiet place with limited facilities. The campground has 65 sites and is open all year, weather permitting. Occupancy is on a first-come, first-served basis; however the campground rarely fills. During the off-season the facilities are limited with only vault toilets. Firewood is available for campers. The campground is located 1 mile north of the park's visitor center.

NPS Photo

Wind Cave
Wind Cave's unique formation called boxwork seen on the Natural Entrance Cave Tour

While many speleothems have formed as water has dripped into the passages, the most conspicuous feature of Wind Cave, boxwork, has formed differently. Boxwork is found in small amounts in other caves, but perhaps in no other cave in the world is boxwork so well-formed and abundant as in Wind Cave. Boxwork is made of thin blades of calcite that project from cave walls and ceilings, forming a honeycomb pattern. The fins intersect one another at various angles, forming "boxes" on all cave surfaces. Boxwork is largely confined to middle layer of Wind Cave and easily seen on all tours.

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Popcorn is seen along the Garden of Eden Cave Tour
Popcorn is seen along the Garden of Eden Cave Tour

All of the major features of Wind Cave, including cave popcorn, boxwork, and flowstone are seen on this tour which enters and leaves the cave by elevator. This one hour tour is our least strenuous with 150 stairs - half up and half down. This is a perfect tour for visitors with a limited amount of time or for people with limited abilities to negotiate steps.

NPS Photo

Campground shelter in D Loop
Campground shelter in D Loop

The Elk Mountain Campground is located one mile north of the visitor center. The campground has 65 sites and is open all year, weather permitting. Occupancy is on a first-come, first-served basis; however the campground rarely fills. Each site accommodates up to eight people. Two sites are available for campers with disabilities. Group camping is available by reservation. For group reservations call the park at 605-745-4600. In the summer the campground has restrooms with cold water and flush toilets but no showers, electrical hook-ups, or dump stations. During the colder months the water is turned off and vault toilets are available. Firewood is available for campers.

NPS Photo

The Fairgrounds Tours also visit the upper layers of Wind Cave
The Fairgrounds Tours also visit the upper layers of Wind Cave

The Fairgrounds 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, frostwork, popcorn, and a few fossils. The tour enters and exits the cave by elevator. This moderately strenuous tour has 450 stairs half up and half down with one flight of 90 step up, and lasts 1½ hours. This tour is only available in the summer season - mid-June through Labor Day.

NPS Photo

Walk through the cave on the Natural Entrance Cave Tour
Walk through the cave on the 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). All cave tours are ranger-guided and leave from the visitor center.

NPS Photo

Share the many unusual features of the cave with your children.
Share the many unusual features of the cave with your children.

Sharing the many unusual features of the cave with your children provides them the opportunity to enjoy our natural world in a safe environment. Seeing the cave on a guided tour is an adventure your children will always remember. You can even go beyond the normal tour and challenge yourselves on a more strenuous trip such as the Candlelight Tour (for youngsters 8 or older) or, for young adults 16 and older, the Wild Cave Tour. Cave tours provide a great way to experience and learn about the underground world. National parks are special places protected for us and future generations to enjoy. Enjoy the park and share those experiences with others.

NPS Photo

Campsite in Elk Mountain Campground
Campsite in Elk Mountain Campground

Elk Mountain Campground is a quiet place located on the edge of the prairie. Campers can find campsites in the forest or the open prairie. The campground has 65 sites and is open all year, weather permitting. Occupancy is on a first-come, first-served basis; however the campground rarely fills. In the warmer months, the campground has restrooms with cold water and flush toilets but no showers, electrical hook-ups, or dump stations. During the off-season the facilities are limited with only vault toilets. Firewood is available for campers. Two sites are available for campers with disabilities.

NPS Photo

Elk Mountain Campground
Elk Mountain Campground

Located on the edge of the prairie and forest campers can find campsites that meet their needs.

NPS Photo

Candlelight Tour of Wind Cave
Candlelight Tour of Wind Cave

Experience the cave by candlelight. This tour takes place in a less developed, unlighted part of the cave similar to tours given in the 1890s. Each participant will carry a candle bucket. Because of the nature of this tour route 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. These tours are only available in the summer season - mid-June to Labor Day. Pre-registration is strongly recommended. These arrangements may only be made by telephone, up to one month in advance of the tour - (605) 745-4600.

NPS Photo by Sheena Harper

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Wind Cave National Park

Swaying prairie grasses, forested hillsides, and an array of wildlife such as bison, elk, and prairie dogs welcome visitors to one of our country's oldest national parks and one of its few remaining intact...[more]

Address

Wind Cave National Park
26611 U.S. Highway 385
Hot Springs, SD 57747
Phone:(605) 745 4600
Email:ted_firkins@nps.gov

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Directions

http://www.nps.gov/anac/planyourvisit/directions.htm Wind Cave National Park is located 6 miles north of Hot Springs, SD. The Visitor center is 11 miles north of Hot Springs just off US Hwy 385. Do not trust your GPS to find the visitor center. Visitor center coordinates - N43 33' 22" W103 28' 38". If you are traveling on I-90: At Rapid City, SD, exit onto US Hwy 79 south. Follow Hwy 79 south about 50 miles to US Hwy 385. Turn right onto Hwy 385 North, going through Hot Springs and into Wind Cave National Park. Follow signs to the visitor center for cave tours and general information. Visitors can also follow Route 16 west from Rapid City to US Hwy 385, south through Hill City and Custer. The park is about 20 miles south of Custer. Be aware - many GPS units locate the visitor center north on Hwy 87. From Nebraska follow US Hwy 385 north to the park. Visitors may also travel through Custer State Park on State Road 36 and 87. These winding roads are slower, but provide scenic views of the area.

Activities
  • AUTO TOURING AUTO TOURING
  • BIKING BIKING
  • CAMPING CAMPING
  • HIKING HIKING
  • HORSEBACK RIDING HORSEBACK RIDING
  • PHOTOGRAPHY PHOTOGRAPHY
  • WILDLIFE VIEWING WILDLIFE VIEWING
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