Wind Cave was designated a National Park in 1903 by Theodore Roosevelt. Wind Cave National Park is located in South Dakota near the Black Hills and shares a border with Custer State Park.
Wind Cave National Park offers three different ranger guided walking tours. These tours are rated easy to strenuous based on the amount of walking and number of stairs, so you can choose the cave tour that is best for your family. Tour descriptions are available on the Wind Cave National Park website.
Wind Cave National Park Tours Trip Tip
If you are traveling during the busy summer season, be sure to arrive early at the Wind Cave National Park Visitor Center to purchase tickets for a cave tour. Each tour has a limited number of tickets available for the day. Arriving early will give you a better chance to get your pick of tours and times. If you’re traveling with a child with a 4th grade pass, be sure to mention it at the tour desk!
When it comes to shopping on a trip, I am a total tourist! My favorite souvenirs are travel tee shirts! Over the years, I’ve amassed quite a collection. In Tip & Tee, I share some of my treasures and a Trip Tip for that destination!
Tom and Jesse Bingham came across an unassuming hole in 1881. As the story goes, the wind from this hole blew Tom’s hat right off his head. A few days later, that hat was sucked in the hole in by the wind.
This hole was an opening to Wind Cave. Wind Cave National Park is the world’s 6th largest known cave system with over 140 miles of explored passages. It also has the distinction of being the first cave to be designated as a national park.
Wind Cave was named for the pronounced way the cave breathes. The air pressure inside the cave is constantly working to equalize with the air pressure outside the cave which creates its wind.
One Wind Cave’s unique features is the intricate boxwork, or honeycombed calcite formations which fill the cave. This South Dakota cave system has the largest concentration of these lace like formations in the world. Wind Cave is unlike any other cave I’ve visited!
The park service offers several tour options. We selected the Wind Cave Fairgrounds Tour. Tickets for the Wind Cave Fairgrounds Tour or any of the other tours available may be purchased at the tour desk in the visitor center. If someone traveling in your party has a 4th grade pass, be sure to mention it when you purchase your tickets.
The Wind Cave Fairgrounds Tour is rated as one of the more difficult walking tours due to the number of stairs. There are 450 stairs on the Wind Cave Fairgrounds Tour. Those stairs are both up and down and occur throughout the 2/3 mile tour.
I recommend arriving early in the day to purchase tour tickets. Tickets are limited and available on a first come first serve basis. While we waited for our tour time, we enjoyed exploring the exhibits in the visitors center.
The Wind Cave Fairgrounds Tour begins in the Elevator Building. Since everyone in the tour cannot fit in the elevator at the same time, we descended in groups.
Throughout the Wind Cave Fairgrounds Tour, the park ranger pointed out the cave’s unique features and talked about Wind Cave’s rich history.
Of course, as with any other cave tour I’ve been on, there is the obligatory turning off the lights to showcase the darkness. Fortunately, on the Wind Cave Fairgrounds Tour, we were actually seated on some small bleachers during the blackout. Side note: I would rather skip the dark portion of the cave tour. I get it. It is super dark in there. No need to demonstrate!
The Wind Cave Fairgrounds Tour lasts about hour and a half. Fortunately, after the tour is over, you get out the way you came, the elevator!
I did not find the Wind Cave Fairgrounds Tour to be all that strenuous. We stopped numerous times throughout the tour to look at formations and to hear cave history. In my opinion, a person in reasonable health with no mobility challenges should be ok on this tour.
Wind Cave National Park is an incredible place both above and below ground. Whether you choose the Wind Cave Fairgrounds Tour or one of the other tour options, you’ll be amazed at the spectacular intricacy of the formations in this cave.
Be sure to check out this Fun Fact about Wind Cave National Park!
The main attraction at Wind Cave National Park is, of course, the cave itself. This incredible cave system boasts the largest concentration of rare boxwork formations in the world. With all those passages, it is one colossal underground maze. In your excitement to tour the cave, don’t miss what’s on top!
Above Wind Cave sits a rich mixed grass prairie. This grassland is a great place to watch wildlife. Many species of mammals reside in Wind Cave National Park. As you drive through the park, be on the lookout for bison, elk pronghorns, prairie dogs, and coyotes.
Prairie dog towns are not hard to spot. If you see several mounds of dirt in a cluster, chances are prairie dogs will be bobbing up and down nearby. During our visit, we were fortunate enough to see a coyote stalking a prairie dog town and the prairie dogs watching intently for predators.
As you visit Wind Cave National Park allow some time to enjoy the treasures which lie above ground. With so many wildlife viewing opportunities and 30 miles of hiking trails, the world above ground is just as incredible as what lies beneath!
The bison, commonly referred to the as the American buffalo, was officially designated the National Mammal of the United States in 2016. Custer State Park in the Black Hills of South Dakota is one of the best places to see these magnificent mammals.
Buffalo were introduced to Custer State Park in 1936. The small herd originally included 36 animals. Today, Custer State Park buffalo herd includes approximately 1300 bison. Each September, the park holds the Buffalo Roundup where animals are examined, branded, and culled to maintain the health of the population. Whether you’re fortunate enough to visit during the roundup or at another time of the year, observing this American icon is sure to be a highlight of your visit to Custer State Park.
Badlands National Park boasts one of the largest mammal fossil deposits in the world! Park visitors can even join in the fossil hunting fun. Badlands has an open hike policy, so you are not required to stay on designated trails! This policy, rare in a national park, actually encourages visitors to go off trail to search for fossils. As a result, every year photos of park visitors and their fossil finds are added to the wall of fame in the Badlands National Park visitor center.