Tip & Tee: Wind Cave National Park Tours

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!

For more information on Wind Cave National Park, check out Wind Cave Fairgrounds Tour and Fun Fact: Wind Cave National Park!

Wind Cave National Park Tee Trip
Wind Cave National Park Tee Trip – I LOVE the bison shape on this shirt!

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!

Wind Cave Fairgrounds Tour

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.

Wind Cave Natural Entrance
The natural entrance to Wind Cave and origin of the legendary hat story

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 National Park Sign

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.

Wind Cave Air Flow Conditions
Visitor Center display shows the current air flow in or out of the cave.

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!

Boxwork on the Wind Cave Fairgrounds Tour
Intricate Wind Cave boxwork

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.

Wind Cave Fairgrounds Tour Map
Map showing the Wind Cave Fairgrounds Tour route

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.

Boxwork on the Wind Cave Fairgrounds 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.

Map of Wind Cave National Park
Map of explored passages of Wind Cave in the visitor 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.

Wind Cave Fairgrounds Tour Elevator
The Wind Cave Fairgrounds Tour elevator

Throughout the Wind Cave Fairgrounds Tour, the park ranger pointed out the cave’s unique features and talked about Wind Cave’s rich history.

Wind Cave Fairground Tour
At the age of 16, Alvin McDonald began exploring Wind Cave and continued until his death at age 20.  He explored 8 to 10 miles of Wind Cave and left his initials on the ceiling in this room in code.

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!

Wind Cave Fairgrounds Tour

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!

Boxwork on the Wind Cave Fairgrounds Tour

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-19 trip

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.

Boxwork on the Wind Cave Fairgrounds Tour

Be sure to check out this Fun Fact about Wind Cave National Park!

9 Awesome Experiences in Colorado Springs 

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:

  1. 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.River Rafting on the Arkansas River

    River rafting
    We floated with Echo Canyon River Expeditions.
  2. 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 GorgeRoyal Gorge Park in Coloradoroyal gorge 1-3 trip
  3. 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.Colorado Spring Garden of the Gods TripGarden of the Gods Colorado Springs Trip
  4. 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

    Olympic Training Center Campus
    View of the Olympic Training Center campus from atop the Visitor Center.
  5. 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 WindsCave of the Winds Colorado Springs
  6. 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

    The Cadet Chapel at the US Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs.
    The Cadet Chapel
  7. 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.
  8. 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!Western Museum of Mining and Industry

    Colorado Springs Travel-29
    Unfortunately, we found only fool’s gold!
  9. 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! Red Rock Canyon Open SpaceColorado Springs Travel-5

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!

Colorado Springs: Cave of the Winds

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!

Gem stones at Cave of the Windscave-of-the-winds-1-trip

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!