Wind Cave National Park showcases a unique cave system that has features unlike any other cave cave in the world. In this article, find all you need to know to visit Wind Cave National Park.
About Wind Cave National Park
Wind Cave is a very long cave, being one of the biggest cave systems in the world. It is called the Wind Cave because air can blow out of the cave or go into the cave depending on the weather. The cave is known to begin seeing visitors in 1890’s. Alvin McDonald was the first known to document the inside of the cave. The cave is also considered sacred to many tribes, including the Lakota and Cheyenne tribes.
How to Get to Wind Cave National Park
The best way to get to Wind Cave National Park is by car. If flying into the area, the closest big airport is in Rapid City, SD which is a little over an hour away from the Wind Cave National Park Visitor Center. There are several different car rental options from the Rapid City Airport.
Where to Stay at Wind Cave National Park
There is one campground in the park called Elk Mountain Campground. As of July 2021, it is first come first serve.
Other lodging options can be found in the nearby town of Custer, which is a little less than 30 minutes away. Custer has various lodging options ranging from hotels to camping. We stayed in Custer when we visited Wind Cave National Park and really enjoyed the town. See more about Custer here.
What to Do at Wind Cave National Park
Take a Cave Tour
The only way to access the inside of Wind Cave is to take a guided tour through the National Park Service. As of July 2021, there were 3 tours available. The tours range from an hour to an hour and thirty minutes. Tours can be booked in person at the visitor center. There are only so many tickets offered per day, so make sure you arrive early to have a better chance of getting tickets! Tickets range from $10-$12 for adults.
All tours have stairs involved. The tours each visit different parts of the cave. We took the “Natural Entrance Tour” which was unlike any other tour experience we have had. This cave tour is actually mainly walking with very little talking points from the guide. The pathways are narrow, but well marked and solid thanks to the work of the Civilian Conservation Corps in the 1930’s.
This cave has several features that are unique and worth noting. Wind Cave is known for the “boxwork,” formations that appear like cross hatches made of rock on the ceilings in the caves. The boxwork features are very fragile and appear intricate when viewing. Another formation that can be seen in the Wind Cave is cave popcorn. Cave popcorn is made of rock formations that look like small pieces of popcorn attached to rocks. These 2 formations can be seen on most of the cave tours that are offered by Wind Cave National Park.
Did you know? Another name for “cave features” is “speleothems”
View the Caves Natural Entrance and Learn the History
The Visitor Center has resources and displays to help you learn the history of the cave. Be sure to check this area out. From the Visitor Center, you can take a path out to the natural entrance of the cave. Here there is more information about how the cave was discovered and explains more about the name “Wind Cave.” The natural entrance to the cave is very tiny and only the size for a small human to squeeze through. Early visitors entered the cave in this way, which must have been a little scary! Luckily today, there are bigger entrances that make it more accessible to visitors. From the natural entrance of the cave, depending on the weather, you may feel a slight breeze coming from the small entrance.
See the Prairie Dogs and Wildlife
On the way to the Wind Cave National Park Visitor Center from Custer, there is a pull-off for Prairie Dog Canyon. Be sure to stop here to see some really adorable prairie dogs cuddling, playing, and running around with each other. Bison can also be seen in the park, typically south of the Visitor Center, however we did not see bison during our visit.
Notes on Wind Cave National Park
Wind Cave National Park is an interesting place to visit, as it has some unique sights to see! However, it is one of the smaller parks to visit, so it would be worthwhile to combine your trip with some other nearby attractions such as Custer State Park, Badlands National Park, Mount Rushmore National Monument, or Jewel Cave National Monument.
What do you think we missed? What’s your favorite part about Wind Cave National Park?
Thanks for reading!