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!
Colorado Springs is a great summer vacation destination, and you need not be a hiker or outdoor enthusiast to enjoy what Colorado Springs has to offer. There is such a variety of available activities that literally, there is something for everyone.
If you’re considering a trip to Colorado Springs, here are 9 awesome experiences to add to your itinerary:
Raft the Arkansas River. I’ll have to admit I was a bit apprehensive about my first river rafting experience. Fortunately, there are several levels of raft trips from which to choose, so whether you’re looking for a big thrill or a more relaxing trip, there are tour companies that can accommodate your needs.
Visit the Royal Gorge. The Royal Gorge Bridge and Park is about an hour from Colorado Springs. This attraction offers an opportunity to walk across the worlds highest suspension bridge which was constructed in 1929. The bridge spans this 1200 foot deep canyon and provides a bird’s eye view of the Arkansas River which continues to carve away at the rock below. We rode the gondolas over the gorge and then crossed back via the bridge. The scenery is spectacular. There is a playground and train ride for children as well as thrill rides for big kids and adults. For more information on visiting the Royal Gorge: Colorado Springs Day Trip: The Royal Gorge
Hike Garden of the Gods. Garden of the Gods is an oasis in the city of Colorado Springs. This public park was designated a National Natural Landmark in 1971 because of its dramatic landscape and sandstone rock formations. This park boasts a fabulous visitor center with a museum and a restaurant. Garden of the Gods offers several easy hiking trails from which to view these magnificent formations. Not surprisingly, this Park is quite popular, so you may want to visit in the morning to avoid some of the crowds.
Tour the Olympic Training Center. I have always loved the Olympics, so the opportunity to tour an actual Olympic training facility was one I just couldn’t pass up. And let me tell you, it was WAY cool! The facility reminded me of a college campus but rather than attend classes, the athletes train! We saw several Olympians training during our tour! This attraction can be quite popular in the summer and tour times do sell out, so plan accordingly. Have I mentioned the Olympic Training Center was REALLY cool!?!? For more information on visiting the Olympic Training Center: Colorado Springs: Olympic Training Center
Tour Cave of the Winds. The main attraction at Cave of the Winds is, of course, a cave. It offers a fun tour of this cave which has an interesting back story. This cave has been entertaining visitors continuously since 1881 making it one of Colorado’s oldest tourist attractions. But, you’ll find more than just a cave here. The ropes course and gemstone panning were just a couple of the other opportunities for fun! For more information on visiting Cave of the Winds: Colorado Springs: Cave of the Winds
Visit the US Air Force Academy. Wow! This is one of those proud to be an American experiences. Don’t miss the movie in the visitor center which provides a glimpse into the daily life of these brave men and women. And the chapel? It is simply spectacular! For more information on visiting the US Air Force Academy: The U.S. Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs
Ride the Cog Railway to Pikes Peak. The Pikes Peak Cog Railway is just plain fun. The views are outstanding as the train climbs to over 14,000 feet far above the treeline. You might even get to see some bighorn sheep. This train ride is a really neat experience! At the top you are given time to walk around and take photos.
Explore the Western Museum of Mining and Industry. Colorado has a rich mining history, and the Western Museum of Mining and Industry provides a glimpse into this history with several interactive exhibits and gives you the opportunity to see industrial machinery from the past in action. There is also a panning station to practice your gold panning. And while we didn’t find gold, we had a blast trying!
Hike Red Rock Canyon Open Space. This is a neat recreational area in Colorado Springs which makes for a great picnic spot. You can also go hiking or biking while you’re there. It’s a nice place to enjoy the outdoors without leaving town!
Did I leave something out? I know I did! I’ll just have to check out more of the incredible adventures in and around Colorado Springs on my next visit!
Cave of the Winds Mountain Park is an family friendly attraction located in Manitou Springs which is about a 15 minute drive from Colorado Springs. We visited Cave of the Winds on our Colorado Springs vacation. It overlooks Williams Canyon and offers more for visitors than just a cave tour. The facilities are designed so that you can spend quite a bit of time at the park. There is a snack bar, restrooms, various activities, and a gift shop. Although, the cave tour is the main attraction.
The cave tour that we chose was the Discovery Tour. On the tour, the guide shared the interesting story of how the cave was discovered. The Discovery Tour is very family friendly. By that, I mean there is no crawling or squeezing through tight spaces which might seem scary or claustrophobic. For those who are more adventurous, there are other tours available.
Other than the cave tour, Cave of the Winds Mountain Park offers a ropes course as well as more thrilling swings/rides over the canyon.
Gemstone panning was a big win with my kiddo. It is fun to purchase a bag of material and sift through it in search of gemstones and colorful rocks. This activity was a great way to pass time as we were waiting on our cave tour to begin. As a bonus, the treasures make nice souvenirs!
Cave of the Winds was a hit with my family. We had a pleasant afternoon enjoying the scenic views as well as the activities. When you’re planning your trip to the Colorado Springs area, be sure to check out Cave of the Winds Mountain Park!