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As you can imagine, THE thing to do at Wind Cave National Park is to go underground and inside Wind Cave!

 

Best things to do in Wind Cave National Park: Wind Cave tours. south dakota travel blog

Best things to do in Wind Cave National Park: Wind Cave tours. south dakota travel blog

 

Wind Cave National Park is one of the official national parks in South Dakota.

 

Things to do in Wind Cave National Park: driving through wind cave national park. south dakota travel blog

 

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 Wind 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.

 

Things to do in Wind Cave National Park: driving through wind cave national park. south dakota travel blog

 

Wind Cave National Park and Custer State Park directly connect. (Stay at a camping cabin in Custer State Park and make a day trip to Wind Cave!)

 

 

 

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 Wind Cave.

Wind Cave is on the southern side of the Black Hills.

 

 

Can you go inside Wind Cave without a tour?

So one of the most important things to know about Wind Cave is that you cannot go inside Wind Cave without a guided tour.

You cannot go inside Wind Cave on your own.

So in order to see inside Wind Cave, you must sign up for a cave tour! Your tour guide will be a national park ranger.

In order to make a trip to Wind Cave really worth it, you need to do a cave tour. Yes, it is a cool experience to walk inside Wind Cave!

And then the other important thing to know is that Wind Cave tours do sell out.

So planning is required!

In summer 2021, the only way to buy the Wind Cave tour tickets was to show up at the Wind Cave visitor center.

But this can always change, so it’s important to check for updated Wind Cave ticket info from the National Park Service website.

You may also try calling the Wind Cave visitor center to speak with a park ranger to ask about the likelihood of Wind Cave tours filling up.

This can give you an idea of how to plan your day.

The listed phone number for the Wind Cave visitor center is 605-745-4600.

 

 

More below about making a trip to Wind Cave!

 

 

 

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See the best of South Dakota outdoors: See South Dakota underground:

 

 

2 of the best things to do in Wind Cave National Park

You can do these things with a few hours or half day in Wind Cave National Park… or less!

 

 

1. Walk inside Wind Cave

Best things to do in Wind Cave National Park: Wind Cave tours. south dakota travel blog

 

The specific cave tours that are offered at Wind Cave when you are there will depend on cave access at that time.

When I went to Wind 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 Jewel Cave!)

But there was one cave tour that was offered, so I did that one. It was the Natural Entrance cave tour.

 

Best things to do in Wind Cave National Park: Wind Cave tours. south dakota travel blog

Best things to do in Wind Cave National Park: Wind Cave tours. south dakota travel blog

Best things to do in Wind Cave National Park: Wind Cave tours. south dakota travel blog

Best things to do in Wind Cave National Park: Wind Cave tours. south dakota travel blog

 

Out of the 3 Wind Cave tours that were listed in summer 2021 when I went, my preferred cave tour would have been the Fairgrounds cave tour.

For 2022, another cave tour seems like it might be offered. The Candlelight cave tour also looks like one I might have chosen if I had the chance!

If you find yourself with time before the start of your Wind Cave tour, you can also have a walk through the visitor center to learn more about Wind Cave!

 

Things to do in Wind Cave National Park: wind cave visitor center museum. south dakota travel blog

 

 

2. Walk from the Wind Cave Visitor Center to see the Wind Cave natural entrance

Things to do in Wind Cave National Park: wind cave natural entrance. south dakota travel blog

 

It is called the “natural entrance” of Wind 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 Wind Cave natural entrance on your own without a tour.

You will not see much, but it is considered significant as one of the few natural entrances of Wind Cave.

It’s also said to be a largest natural entrance to Wind Cave… but it is not that large! The National Park Service says it’s 10 inches wide!

If you get up close to this Wind Cave entrance, you can feel the breeze (the WIND!) coming from the hole!

This Wind Cave natural entrance is located near the Wind Cave Visitor Center. You’ll want through the visitor center and exit through another door down the stairs to get to it. When you’re at the visitor center, you can ask the park ranger about it for more specific directions. You can get to it by going around the visitor center too.

If you will be doing the natural entrance cave tour, then you will see the natural entrance. The cave tour will make a stop at the natural entrance.

 

And then also if you want to make even more time…

Wind Cave National Park above ground: Hiking in Wind Cave National Park

Hike in Wind Cave National Park for a chance to see wildlife!

 

Hiking to see buffalo in Wind Cave National Park

There are buffalo in Wind Cave National Park.

Whether or not you can see buffalo when you are in Wind Cave National Park may have a little to do with luck since buffalo are free to do what they want!

 

Things to do in Wind Cave National Park: Hiking in Wind Cave National Park. Where to see buffalo in Wind Cave National Park. south dakota travel blog
👆 Hiking in Wind Cave National Park along the Cold Brook Canyon Trail: Spot the buffalo!

 

Things to do in Wind Cave National Park: Hiking in Wind Cave National Park. Where to see buffalo in Wind Cave National Park. south dakota travel blog

 

But I saw buffalo while hiking the Cold Brook Canyon Trail, the Centennial Trail, and the East Bison Flats Trail. 

 

 

 

Hiking to a prairie dog town in Wind Cave National Park

You have a better guarantee of seeing prairie dogs in prairie dog towns since these “towns” in a specific area are their home!

You will know you have reached the prairie dog town because you will see lots of mounds of dirt.

 

Things to do in Wind Cave National Park: Hiking in Wind Cave National Park. Where to see prairie dog town in Wind Cave National Park. south dakota travel blog
👆 Hiking in Wind Cave National Park along the Cold Brook Canyon Trail: Spot the prairie dog!

 

Things to do in Wind Cave National Park: Hiking in Wind Cave National Park. Where to see prairie dog town in Wind Cave National Park. south dakota travel blog

 

There was a prairie dog town along the Cold Brook Canyon Trail, and I saw several prairie dogs there.

 

 

Camping in Wind Cave National Park

Things to do in Wind Cave National Park: camping in wind cave national park campground. elk mountain campground. south dakota travel blog

 

If you are making it a camping trip in South Dakota, then you can go camping in Wind Cave National Park!

It’s called the Elk Mountain Campground.

As of 2021, the Wind Cave campground is a first-come first-serve campground, and it was not possible to make reservations.

When I went camping at Wind Cave in August 2021, the campground was quite empty. I stayed for 2 nights.

According to a Wind Cave park ranger, it hadn’t been filling up all summer.

 

 

Cost to visit Wind Cave National Park

In 2021, the cost to enter Wind Cave National Park was free, but there are fees for the cave tours.

You can see the Wind Cave natural entrance for free since you can go to that on your own.

You can also do the hiking trails in Wind Cave National Park for free.

If you have an annual national park pass, it won’t do you any good at Wind Cave National Park, as it gives you no discount on the cave tours and since there is free entry to the park itself.

 

How much do the Wind Cave tours cost?

The cost of a Wind Cave tour will depend on which tour you decide on. The cost of tickets for the regular Wind Cave tours is around $15 per person, with kids being half that.

The Wind Cave Garden of Eden Tour is $14 per person.

The Wind Cave Natural Entrance Tour is $16 per person.

The Wind Cave Fairgrounds Tour is $16 per person.

The Wind Cave Candlelight Tour is $16 per person.

There is also a Wild Caving Tour at Wind Cave that costs $45 per person.

See current fees.

 

 

And that’s a little bit about a trip to Wind Cave!

 

If you are interested in Wind Cave National Park, you may also be interested in these activities in South Dakota and beyond:

 

HAPPY WALKING AROUND WIND CAVE INSIDE AND ABOVE GROUND!

 

 

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