South Dakota Attractions】Wind Cave National Park Wind Cave National Park 1-Day Travel Guide

Wind Cave National Park Day Trip Itinerary

Wind Cave National Park (Wind Cave National ParkWind Cave National Park is located in the southwestern part of South Dakota, between the Black hills scenic area. The park was established in 1902 under President Roosevelt's presidency, so it has a long history. The main selling point is the huge cave system under the ground, the whole length of 104 miles, is one of the world's longest cave system, because there has been a strong wind blowing out of the cave, so called the wind tunnel. black hills scenic area in the vicinity of the Black Hills National Forest, Custer State Park, Angostura State Park, Mt, Angostura State Park, Mt Rushmore, Jewel Cave and many other attractions in the vicinity of the Black hills area, which is suitable to arrange a few days to play together.

(Note: President Roosevelt, Sr. lived near Dakota when he was young and loved the natural environment so much that many of the national parks and refuges in the area were related to him, if you are interested, you can refer to my previous post.Roosevelt National ParkThe Administration's response to this question is as follows)

You don't need a ticket to enter Wind Cave National Park, but you must take a guided tour to visit the caves. There are five types of cave tours: Garden of Eden, Natural Entrance, Fairground, Candlelight, and Caving, but some of the tours don't open during the off-season, so you have to go there first before you go.The official website of the National Park explainsConfirmation. Regardless of the type of tour, tickets are first come, first serve and must be purchased at the Visitor Center on the day of the tour. The main difference between each tour is the time spent and the caves visited. The longer the tour, the more detailed it is and the more physical effort it takes, but according to Ranger, most of the caves are similar, so unless you are obsessed with different caves, you can just pick the one that suits your needs.

Wind cave national park,Wind cave national park,Fairground tour 1

The ground of the park is mainly prairie, prairie landscape, but there are a lot of wild animals, especially the Prairie dogs, how long you will spend in the park depends on the time of the cave tour. Most of the park ground is undeveloped grassland, even if you drive the road is not much, waiting for the cave tour, you can walk the nearby trails, or drive to the undeveloped grassland to see animals, if you only see a cave, it will take almost half a day more than a little time. Our itinerary this time is roughly as follows.

  • Early in the morning, I went to the Visitor Center to buy a ticket, visited the Visitor Center to see Alvin's story, and went to the back of the Visitor Center to see the Natural Entrance and the wind tunnel on the ground.
  • Going up Rankin ridge trail.
  • Drive NPS Route 5 for wildlife.
  • Return to the Visitor Center at noon to join the Fairground tour.

The whole day was spent in Wind Cave National Park until the end of the day at 2:00 p.m. The route was organized in such a way that it was just enough to make a loop around Wind Cave National Park.

Visitor Center

The first stop in Wind Cave National Park is to buy a ticket at the Visitor Center. After buying the ticket, we suggest you take some time to look at the static exhibits here, the history of this place is quite interesting, and there is a detailed introduction of the cave geology.

The earliest explorer of this side of Wind Cave was Alvin McDonalds, who came here with his family in 1889 as a teenager, the McDonalds family came here because his father was employed by the South Dakota Mining Company to explore the area and dig for minerals. Upon arriving at the site, Alvin realized the cave system was huge and for some reason he had a personal obsession with caves, so as a 16 year old boy he began to explore the cave system like crazy, and over the years explored nearly 20 miles of caves in the dark by himself, leaving behind a detailed diary of his exploits. Although the system was so large that in 1891 he announced in his journals that he had given up on the idea of finding the end of the cave, it is admirable that he did so. In those days, the only way to explore was to go into the darkness of the cave alone with an oil lamp and a rope tied to his body and crawl on the ground!

Later, because of the mining company's economic difficulties (and in fact, there are no deposits here), the McDonalds family took the mining company to apply for the right to reclaim the caves here to operate the business of adventure tourism, and a man called Stabler wanted to make money, but also built a hotel. In the process, Alvin went to Chicago to participate in the exposition, but contracted tropical fever, and soon after returning home, he died at the young age of 20, so in fact, he only explored this side of the four years only, can be said to be a life dedicated to the cave. At the end of the story, the McDonalds family had a series of ownership disputes with the mining company and Stabler, and in the end, the local judge simply ruled that there were no mineral deposits or people to open up the cave seriously, and canceled all the rights of all the people, and the whole piece of cave land was returned to the state, and the national park that we see now was created.

The Visitor Center also provides detailed explanations of the various structures in the caves. The rock structures in the wind caves were formed by natural forces over hundreds of millions of years, and it is not easy to form a cave system. There must first be limestone in the caves, and then seawater must dissolve it to form the passages after the seawater recedes, and to form the subsequent structures, rainwater must continuously seep into the ground through the cracks. Therefore, this kind of complex and large cave system is not easy to see.

In addition, compared to other cave systems, the most famous boxwork structure here, this beehive-like structure is rarely seen anywhere else in the world, and there are 95% of boxwork worldwide in Wind Cave National Park.

Natural Entrance and Wind Tunnels

When you go out of the visitor center, you can go to the back and walk to a wind tunnel that you can see from the ground. Here we can hear the sound of the wind, and if we get closer, we can feel the strong wind blowing from the ground. Underneath this small hole is a large cave system where the wind is always strong due to the pressure. Above here is where a McDonalds hotel used to be built.

Next to the wind cave, there is an entrance about one person high, this is the natural entrance, when the McDonalds family operated here, Alvin went in through here. The current natural entrance tour is also through here, but the tour was not open when we came here.

There is also Alvin's grave on the hill opposite the inn, overlooking the entrance to his favorite cave.

Wind cave national park,Wind cave national park,Fairground tour 18

Fairground Tour

Fairground tour is a 1.5 hour tour, compared to other tours, it's a longer tour with more stairs to climb, the official website says it's streneous, but the actual walk is fine, if you are a regular hiker you should feel that it's moderately difficult at most, but it's not suitable for the elderly. At the beginning of the tour, ranger took us downstairs by elevator, and after opening the door, we entered a huge cave.

The route was laid in 1930, and the surrounding structures are generally well preserved, with some places being a little narrower and requiring you to turn sideways to cross. After walking around, I felt that Alvin was able to navigate through these narrow crevices in the rocks, probably because he is a young man who is relatively small.

The actual Boxwork is really spectacular, and the fairground tour can also see frostwork and cave popcorn structures.

There was one more scare before the end of the tour, when the elevator broke down. Because there are many tourists, they took the elevator in groups. After the first group went up with ranger, we waited for more than 10 minutes inside the cave, and some of us were already panicking, it was like a horror movie scene! It was a horror movie scene! But luckily, it was only for 10 minutes or so, it was just a false alarm.

Finally, you should step on the sterilized mat when you come out, this is to avoid affecting the ecology of other cave bats.

Wind cave national park,Wind cave national park,Fairground tour 35

Rankin ridge trail

Ranking ridge trail is one of the few ground trails in Wind Cave National Park. It is a 1-mile loop trail with easy difficulty, but there are some steps in a few places, so it should be considered between easy and medium difficulty, and all the way to the top, you are walking in the pine trees, which is quite comfortable under the clear winter sky.

There is a lookout tower at the center of the trail, and the view from this side is quite wide, with the entire grassland and forest below, and in the distance, if you look carefully, you can also see theBadlands national park.


Drive along highway 87 to the north side of the park, and you can connect to NPS highway 5 on the east side. This side is dirt road, the whole road is open in the undeveloped grassland, there are a lot of prairie dogs in the middle of the road, more spectacular than other places Prairie dogs town, it is a good place to drive to see wildlife. If you don't know the location, you can use Google map to locate Centenial trail #89 will drive to this road (but don't really have to go to walk that trail).

Not long after I drove on NPS 5, I met Prairie dogs in the center of the road, which are afraid of the sound of cars and usually hide in the holes when the car drives by, but they will come out and run around again as soon as the car stops. A little further on, there is a huge Prairie dogs town, which you can't get enough of.

There were also large herds of sheep and cows. We came at around noon, which is not the most active time for the animals, but the number of animals was already very large.NPS 5 from the north to the south will drive out of the National Park, but eventually you can go back to the 385, and drive into the National Park from the south entrance.

Further reading

Other Nearby Attractions

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