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Wind Cave National Park

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Overview

One of the United States' oldest national parks, Wind Cave National Park is home to a secret world hidden below its scenic prairie. Above ground, visitors can explore the many trails that wind through grasslands and forested rolling hills that are inhabited by elk, bison, and pronghorn. Beneath this prairie wonderland lies one of the largest and most complex cave systems in the world - Wind Cave. Native Americans and early European explorers were drawn to the cave by the whistling wind that can be heard at its entrance. Visitors will be amazed by the incredible formations found in Wind Cave, and will undoubtedly enjoy the beautiful landscape and rich history that Wind Cave National Park has to offer.

To learn more about Wind Cave National Park, visit www.nps.gov.

Local Info

Visitor Center:
Wind Cave Visitor Center is opened daily, year round except on Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year's Day. The visitor center is open from 8 am to 4:30 pm with expanded hours during the summer. All cave tours leave from the visitor center. For more information on visitor center amenities and current hours of operation, click here.

Visiting Tips

Wind Cave National Park is open 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. Roads within the park are generally open all year long, but winter conditions can affect road status. For up to date road conditions, call the Wind Cave Visitor Center at (605) 745-1134.

Summers in the park are typically hot and dry, although thunderstorms, some producing large hail, are common. The park receives most of its rain in the spring; fall is a bit drier with warm days and cool evenings. The temperature inside Wind Cave is consistently 54 degrees year-round, and visitors should plan accordingly if planning on taking a cave tour. Long waits for cave tours can be expected during the summer. Consider visiting the cave during the morning to avoid the longest lines. Weekends are great times to come to the park during the summer as Tuesdays and Wednesdays are the most crowded days.

Fees & Passes:
There is no entry fee for Wind Cave National Park. Tickets are required for cave tours and there is a fee for camping in the park. To learn more about park fees click here.

Camping & Lodging

Camping:
The Elk Mountain Campground is the only campground in Wind Cave National Park and is open year round. Campsites are available on a first come, first served basis but the campground does not usually fill up. Running water (including potable water) and flush toilets are available in the summer. For more information on camping in the park, click here.

Backcountry camping is allowed in the northwest area of the park. A free permit is required for all backcountry camping and can be obtained at the visitor center. Check out the park's website for more information.

Lodging:
There is no lodging offered within the park. A variety of lodging options are located in the nearby towns of Hot Springs and Custer.

Food & Drink

There are no dining options located within the park. Visitors looking for grocery stores, gas stations, and restaurants will find plenty of options in the nearby towns of Hot Springs and Custer.

Outfitters, Tours, & Shuttles

Wind Cave National Park offers a variety of ranger-led programs that vary by season. To learn more about these ranger-led programs and to see the current events calendar, click here. All tours of Wind Cave are led by rangers and depart from the visitor center. Tickets for cave tours are required and are distributed on a first come, first served basis. Reservations are recommended for the Candlelight and Wild Cave tours. Call (605) 745-4600 to make a reservation or visit the park's website for more information.

  • Natural Entrance Cave Tour: A moderate tour that is the most popular and great for families.
  • Fairgrounds Cave Tour: A more strenuous tour with the widest array of features and the most stairs.
  • Garden of Eden Cave Tour: An easy tour ideal for those with limited time or abilities.
  • Candlelight Cave Tour: A more strenuous tour with some off-trail travel. Minimum age is 8 years old).
  • Wild Cave Tour: Very strenuous with some crawling required. Minimum age is 16 (with signed parent permission).

Other Activities

With over 30 miles of hiking trails to explore above ground, and plenty to see below the surface in Wind Cave, visitors will have plenty of ways to explore the park. Additionally, backcountry camping and horseback riding are two other popular activities within the park. For those looking to extend their exploration of the area outside of the park, there are several other noteworthy national park units and state parks located nearby; click here for more information on these nearby attractions. Other options include mountain biking up the road in Rapid City or rock climbing around the park.

Maps & Guidebooks

To download a free visitor guide to help plan your visit, click here.

Gems in Wind Cave National Park - 2

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gem Favorite Boxwork can be seen on the cave ceiling.

Wind Cave Guided Tours

(13) Hot Spr…, SD
gem Favorite A bison nibbles at roadside greenery near the prairie dog town.

Blacktail Prairie Dog Town

(6) Hot Spr…, SD

Recommended Routes in Wind Cave National Park - 3

Hiking Project is built by hikers like you. Add Your Recommended Routes

Favorite It gets a little rocky and steep.
Intermediate/Difficult

Sanctuary/ Centennial/ Highland Creek Loop

11.2 mi 18.0 km 839' Up 255.58 m Up 839' Down 255.78 m Down

Hot Spr…, SD
Favorite Pronghorn at Wind Cave NP.
Intermediate

Lookout Point Loop

4.9 mi 7.8 km 429' Up 130.91 m Up 428' Down 130.56 m Down

Hot Spr…, SD
Favorite Wind Cave National Park
Intermediate

Boland Ridge Trail

5.3 mi 8.6 km 632' Up 192.52 m Up 632' Down 192.61 m Down

Hot Spr…, SD

Wind Cave National Park Hiking

  • 51 Miles 83 Kilometers of Trail
  • 3 Recommended Routes
  • 2 Gems Gems
  • 6 Easy Trails Easy Trails
  • 7 Intermediate Trails Intermediate Trails
  • 0 Difficult Trails Difficult Trails
Hiking Project is built by hikers like you. Share what you know about this area!

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Trails in Wind Cave National Park - 10

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1.0 mi 1.6 km #1Rankin Ridge Trail
Easy/Intermediate
Hot Springs, SD
Easy/Intermediate
Hot Springs, SD
8.7 mi 14.0 km #2Highland Creek Trail
Intermediate
Hot Springs, SD
Intermediate
Hot Springs, SD
1.5 mi 2.5 km #3Cold Brook Canyon Trail
Easy/Intermediate
Hot Springs, SD
Easy/Intermediate
Hot Springs, SD
3.6 mi 5.8 km #4Sanctuary Trail
Easy
Hot Springs, SD
Easy
Hot Springs, SD
3.7 mi 5.9 km #5East Bison Flats Trail
Intermediate
Hot Springs, SD
Intermediate
Hot Springs, SD
2.2 mi 3.6 km #6Lookout Point Trail
Intermediate
Hot Springs, SD
Intermediate
Hot Springs, SD
0.7 mi 1.1 km #7Prairie Vista Trail
Easy/Intermediate
Hot Springs, SD
Easy/Intermediate
Hot Springs, SD
1.9 mi 3.0 km #8Wind Cave Canyon Trail
Easy/Intermediate
Hot Springs, SD
Easy/Intermediate
Hot Springs, SD
6.0 mi 9.6 km #9Centennial Trail
Intermediate
Hot Springs, SD
Intermediate
Hot Springs, SD
0.7 mi 1.2 km #10Elk Mountain Nature Trail
Easy
Hot Springs, SD
Easy
Hot Springs, SD

Photos of Wind Cave National Park - 31

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Bisons in Black Hills National Forest
Sep 27, 2017 near Hot Spr…, SD
Wind Cave National Park
Apr 3, 2020 near Buffalo…, SD
Looking east from Rankin Ridge Trail
Dec 3, 2018 near Pringle, SD
Pronghorn at Wind Cave NP.
Oct 1, 2015 near Hot Spr…, SD
Bison seen near the Rankin Ridge Trailhead
Dec 26, 2018 near Pringle, SD
Bison right on the trail!
Aug 6, 2020 near Hot Spr…, SD
This was the extent of the canyon. Very wide and open, but beautiful.
Jun 18, 2016 near Pringle, SD
Trail heading through prairie.
Jun 18, 2016 near Pringle, SD