As you can imagine, THE thing to do at Jewel Cave National Monument is to go underground and inside Jewel Cave!
It’s also one of the caves in South Dakota that is managed by the National Park Service.
It can be reasonable for people to visit Jewel Cave as a day trip from some many of the best places to visit in South Dakota, like from Custer State Park, Mount Rushmore National Memorial, and Rapid City SD.
Stay at a camping cabin in Custer State Park and make a day trip to Jewel Cave!
If you are camping at Wind Cave National Park, then it’s also very reasonable to make it a day trip to Jewel Cave from Wind Cave too.
And although it gets a little further away, you could even make it a day trip from Badlands National Park.
If you are driving from the Badlands to Yellowstone National Park, you can make a detour to spend a few days in the Black Hills of South Dakota. And during that time, you can also go to Jewel Cave.
Jewel Cave is on the southern side of the Black Hills.
Can you go inside Jewel Cave without a tour?
So one of the most important things to know about Jewel Cave is that you cannot go inside Jewel Cave without a guided tour.
You cannot go inside Jewel Cave on your own.
So in order to see inside Jewel Cave, you must sign up for a cave tour! Your tour guide will be a national park ranger. (Or at least anything meaningful inside Jewel Cave. You actually can see a little inside Jewel Cave on your own, more on that below!)
In order to make a trip to Jewel Cave really worth it, you need to do a cave tour. Yes, it is a cool experience to walk inside Jewel Cave!
And then the other important thing to know is that Jewel Cave tours do sell out.
So planning is required!
In summer 2021, the only way to buy the Jewel Cave tour tickets was to show up at the Jewel Cave visitor center.
But it seems for 2022, you may be able to buy tickets online.
So it’s important to check for updated Jewel Cave ticket info from the National Park Service website.
You may also try calling the Jewel Cave visitor center to speak with a park ranger to ask about the likelihood of Jewel Cave tours filling up.
This can give you an idea of how to plan your day.
The listed phone number for the Jewel Cave visitor center is 605-673-8300.
More below about making a trip to Jewel Cave!
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See the best of South Dakota outdoors:
- Best places to visit in South Dakota for VIEWS
- Planning a South Dakota camping trip
- Best things to do in the Black Hills for views
- Best things to do in Badlands National Park for views
- Camping cabins in South Dakota state parks
2 of the best things to do in Jewel Cave National Monument park
You can do these things with a few hours or half day in Jewel Cave National Monument… or less!
1. Walk inside Jewel Cave
The specific cave tours that are offered at Jewel Cave when you are there will depend on cave access at that time.
When I went to Jewel Cave in August 2021, there was a broken elevator and this meant that not all cave tours were offered. (It was a similar situation at Wind Cave!)
While not all cave tours were offered, there were other cave tours available.
That said, even with the limited cave tours in Jewel Cave available, I was happy about the cave tours that were available!
There were 2 cave tours offered, and I did both of them.
My favorite walk inside Jewel Cave was the historic lantern cave tour.
The National Park Service calls this the “adventure cave tour.”
You are holding a lantern as your only light to guide your way through the cave!
If you find yourself with time before the start of your Jewel Cave tour, you can also have a walk through the visitor center to learn more about Jewel Cave!
See more about this Jewel Cave activity: Historic lantern Jewel Cave tour
2. Hike the Canyons Trail to see the Jewel Cave natural entrance
It is called the “natural entrance” of Jewel Cave as this is the “natural” cave opening from the outside, as opposed to other man-made cave opening for some cave tours.
You can see the Jewel Cave natural entrance on your own without a tour.
So this is a way to get a peek inside Jewel Cave.
But it is really just a peek. You won’t be able to go inside or see anything significant. (It’s gated and locked.)
Still, it is a cool experience, and if you find yourself with extra time before your cave tour, then this is something to do.
You can feel the cool breeze coming from this Jewel Cave entrance. If you’re visiting Jewel Cave on a hot summer day, it’s like natural AC!
The Jewel Cave natural entrance is located along the Canyons Trail.
You can make it a short hike to see Jewel Cave, or you can do the full Canyons Trail loop.
If you want to make it a short hike, then you’ll start the hike from the Historic Area within Jewel Cave National Monument.
If you want to do the full trail, then you can start from the Historic Area, or you can start from the Jewel Cave Visitor Center.
If you will be doing the historic lantern cave tour, then you will see the natural entrance. You will go to enter Jewel Cave through the natural entrance.
Still, it can be fun to see the natural cave entrance without the crowd! (aka without the people in your cave tour group.)
See more about this Jewel Cave activity: Jewel Cave natural entrance
Cost to visit Jewel Cave National Monument
In 2021, the cost to enter Jewel Cave National Monument was free, but there are fees for the cave tours.
You can see the Jewel Cave natural entrance for free since you can go to that on your own.
You can also do the hiking trails in Jewel Cave National Monument for free.
If you have an annual national park pass, it won’t do you any good at Jewel Cave National Monument, as it gives you no discount on the cave tours and since there is free entry to the park itself.
How much do the Jewel Cave tours cost?
The cost of a Jewel Cave tour will depend on which tour you decide on. The cost of tickets for the regular Jewel Cave tours range from $6 to $16 per person, with kids being half that.
The Jewel Cave Discovery Tour is $6 per person.
The Jewel Cave Scenic Tour is $16 per person.
The Jewel Cave lantern tour is $16 per person.
There is also a Wild Caving Tour at Jewel Cave that costs $45 per person.
And that’s a little bit about a trip to Jewel Cave!
If you’re interested in Jewel Cave National Monument, you may also be interested in these activities:
- Things to do in Wind Cave National Park
- Things to do in the Black Hills for views
- Can you see Crazy Horse Memorial from the road?
- Things to do in Badlands National Park for VIEWS!
- Things to do in Black Hills National Forest
- Things to do in Custer State Park for views
- The Mammoth Site
- Things to do in Devils Tower National Monument for views
- Things to do for views in Mount Rushmore National Memorial
- Sylvan Lake
- Best hikes in Custer State Park
- The Needles and driving through the Needles Eye Tunnel
HAPPY WALKING AROUND JEWEL CAVE INSIDE AND ABOVE GROUND!
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Plan more of your trip to South Dakota and beyond
- Best places to visit in the Badlands and Black Hills
- Quick things to do in Badlands National Park for views
- Things to do in the Black Hills for views
- Things to do in Custer State Park for views of the Black Hills
- Things to do in Mount Rushmore
- Driving from Badlands National Park to Mount Rushmore
- Driving from Mount Rushmore to Yellowstone
- 7 day drive across Wyoming
- Things to do in Theodore Roosevelt National Park (North Dakota)