One of the oldest national parks in the USA with its prairies and the famous Wind Cave is located in the Black Hills in the state of South Dakota. Wind Cave National Park connects South Dakota directly to Custer State Park.
Beneath the prairie of the southern Black Hills is Wind Cave, a National Park designation. To the west of this is another large cave, Jewel Cave. The national park was established in 1903 under US President Theodore Roosevelt.
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With a length of around 202 km, the Wind Cave in the Black Hills is the fourth longest cave in the USA and seventh longest in the world.
The cave is famous for its ceiling, which is constructed like a honeycomb pattern. The honeycombs are visually reminiscent of a honeycomb. This unique formation is referred to as boxwork. This boxwork occurrence of Wind Cave Cave in Wind Cave NP is the largest in the world.
The cave has a mysterious and fascinating appearance with its crystals, labyrinthine underground chamber system and honeycomb ceiling.
A special feature of this cave is the strong wind that alternately blows in and out of the cave and supplies the cave with fresh air. In addition, the exchange of wind creates a whistling sound, which is how the cave was discovered in 1881. This wind gives the cave and national park its name.
Above ground, Wind Cave National Park consists of 28,295 hectares of prairie with beautifully forested slopes, pine forests and rock formations. The prairie is considered a nature reserve in which a lot of animals and plants are at home.
The wooded prairie is home to an array of wildlife including bison, elk, elk, pronghorn, black-footed polecat, rattlesnakes and prairie dogs. In the early 1900’s bison, pronghorn and elk were reintroduced to Wind Cave National Park. Many animals are readily visible to visitors on the prairie, as more than 60 percent of the park is open grassland.
If you are walking in Wind Cave National Park, beware of the bison or give them your space, the bison can be unpredictable, especially when they have young.
The park has 30 miles of hiking trails. The park’s trails include the Wind Cave Canyon Trail for bird watching, and the East Bison Flats Trail and Lookout Point Trail. The Highland Creek Trail with nature trails is the longest trail into the park. The Rankin Ridge Nature Trail leads to the park’s highest point, the Rankin Ridge Lookout Tower, which offers beautiful views of the Black Hills to the northwest and the Badlands prairies to the east.
Three roads lead the visitor through Wind Cave National Park. The Wildlife Loop Road, Iron Mountain Road, and the Needles Highway.
In the cave it is recommended to wear good hiking shoes, long pants and something warm to wear, as the temperature in the cave is constant at 12 °C. The 70-mile labyrinth of passageways in Wind Cave is the main attraction of Wind Cave National Park.
Tours of the cave system and hikes through the prairie are available year-round. Tours start at the Visitor Center, beforehand you can find out more about the National Park and its history at the Visitor Center.
The cave and visitor center are open year-round except for Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Years. However, from the end of September to May there are fewer cave tours than in summer and spring.
Admission to the park is free, but there is a fee for guided tours of the cave.
Climate & Weather
Wind Cave National Park experiences warm summers with cool nights and mild winters with little snow. The weather in autumn and spring is changeable.
Peak season in Wind Cave National Park is June through September.
Accommodation and camping
There are no accommodation options in the park. Hotel accommodation is available 30 km northwest in Cluster and 13 km south in Hot Spring.
You can camp in Wind Cave National Park at the Elk Mountain Camping ground. It’s a mile from the Visitor Center. The campsite is operated on a first-come, first-served basis. Elk Mountain Campground offers campers a unique opportunity to see the plants and animals of the southern Black Hills.
Backcountry camping is permitted, but only with a permit obtained at the visitor center.
Wind Cave National Park is located 6 miles north of Hot Springs in South Dakota. 11 miles north of Hot Springs on US Highway 385 is the Visitor Center.
From Rapid City, take Interstate 90, exit onto US Route 79 south and follow it south for approximately 50 miles to US Route 385 north. From here it goes through Hot Springs into Wind Cave National Park.
From the west via US Route 16 west and then US Route 385 south. Visitors from Nebraska simply follow US Route 385 North into the park.
Wind Cave National Park attraction address
Wind Cave National Park
RR1, Box 190-WCNP
Hot Springs, South Dakota 57747-9430