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17 Hidden Gems of Wind Cave National Parks: Must Visit

Are you bored with exploring natural beauty in terms of long green fields, trees, soil, and beach sides, and would you like to have some more beautiful yet amazing places? Ok! then you are at the right place.

Here we will go to uncover one of the most amazing treasures of Nature, “Wind cave national parks.” Wind Cave National Park is one of the world’s oldest, largest, and longest cave systems.

However, only about 5% of the cave has been explored. It is believed to have the world’s largest concentration of famous and rare cast structures.

Located where the Great Northern Plains meet the Black Hills, this stunning national park covers 80,000 acres of subterranean wonder and spectacular scenery. Calcite layers are very similar to honeycombs and are rarely found elsewhere on Earth.

In addition to the longest cave-like honeycomb, Wind Cave National Park has six inner lakes that make this place even more beautiful. Experts say the Wind Cave and the nearby Gem Cave must cross at another location.

There are different types of tours available to guide visitors. Wind Cave National Park has a lot to offer, including unique flora that is easy to spot thanks to its vast terrain, rolling hills, stunning ponderosa pine forests and mixed grasslands teeming with fauna.

About Wind Cave National Parks

Ten miles (16 km) north of the town of Hot Springs in western South Dakota, Wind cave national park is a territory in America.

President Theodore Roosevelt established the park in 1903 and was termed the seventh national Park and the first cave-designated national park worldwide.

Calcite formations known as boxwork makes this place notable, and 95 per cent of the world’s discovered boxwork formations are found in Wind Cave. The continuously moving air is what gives it the name of “breathe‘ caves.

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Image from Depositphotos/Wirepec

As for the history of Wind Cave National Park, it was first discovered in 1881 when two brothers, Tom and Jesse Bingham, noticed howling winds through a hole in the ground. Meanwhile, they felt a rock approaching and, according to legend, the wind from the cave was so strong that it blew the hat off the brothers’ heads.

The Cave of the Winds is the oldest cave in the world. However, although there is no evidence that it was discovered in 1881, the Lakota and other tribes who lived in the area are mentioned in Lakota oral histories for generations.

To make your visit more and more fruitful, we have highlighted all the necessary details like activities to do in the National Park, places to visit, and cave tours. It may help you to plan things accordingly.

Geography of the Wind Caves

The beautiful Wind cave national Park spreads under 34,000 acres and is located near the Black Hills of South Dakota, south of Custer State Park.

The Park has two main roads, SD-87 and US-385; once you are on these roads, you will see the grasslands, several hiking trails, and guarantee to see the Bison.

The Park has two gravel roads, NPS5 and NPS6. The Visitors Center is the hub where you can purchase the wild cave tour tickets and for places like Natural entrance tour tickets, fairgrounds tour tickets, etc.

Activities to Explore in Wind Cave National Park

Wind Cave National Park is not only known for its beautiful long caves and wildlife viewing but for the adventure and activities that make this place popular among visitors and netizens.

Wind Cave National Park - Website, Screenshot
Wind Cave National Park – Website, Screenshot

Here, we have some best activities to explore in Wind cave National Park.

1. Wind Cave Tours

Exploring Wind cave is the hardest yet most adventurous of all the cave tours. It would be best if you had to put on kneecaps and hard hats and wind your way through tight nooks and crannies as you learn the techniques of modern caving throughout the journey.

2. Entrance Tour

You will have to step 300 stairs that are 2/3 miles long when you enter the caves.

The path takes down the visitors through the original entrance of the caves. Throughout the stairs, you will learn about the discovery of the cave in the early days.

The Natural Entrance Tour also offers the opportunity to see the cave’s famous ‘Boxwork‘ and other interesting things.

3. Fairgrounds Tour

Wind Cave National Park
Photo by Igor Sporynin on Unsplash

The most comprehensive and longest tour, along with 450 stairs, is Fairground Tour. While exploring the fairgrounds, you must take the necessary items with you and leave the older adults at Visitor Center due to the high number of stairs.

Throughout the tour, you will dwell deep into these subterranean wonders that help you feel for the vast networks of tunnels and caverns that comprise Wind Caves.

4. Hiking at Rankin Ridge Trail

Do you love hiking and witnessing spectacular views?

Then do not compromise to visit Rankin Ridge. Rankin Ridge is the most popular place to hike. At the top of the hill, you will encounter a fire tower with an interruptive sign with information about the land and surroundings.

While hiking to Rankin Ridge trail, you will ascend through Ponderosa pine forests and Boulders before the view opens up to the rolling hill of the Prairie dogs. The Badlands National Park and Buffalo Gap can be seen from the top of the point.

5. Bison Watching

Wind Cave National Park
Photo By Sophia Simoes on Unsplash

Yes! It is interesting to watch Bison alone or in groups, but from a long distance, a safe place is a must.

It is almost impossible that these majestic mammals, called Bison, are not to be seen on a trip to Wind Cave. However, taking photographs and shooting them is a good idea, but they are big and have the power to harm your vehicle as well as you.

So, be careful while getting closer to them.

6. Camping under the Sky and Stars

Camping under the blue sky in the lap of beautiful green fields is a must to have last long memories. The Wind Cave National park has two safe campgrounds: Elk Mountain and Backcountry Camping.

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Photo by Tommy Lisbin on Unsplash

Elk Mountain Campground has 62 sites, and RV sites 42, including amities like trash, Bathrooms, year-round firewood sales, and seasonal potable water.

If you would not like to have camped at Backcountry Camping, then taking a relaxation at the Elk Mountain campground is a better way to explore the nightlife at Wind cave.

7. Hiking at Boland Ridge Trail

Eight hundred feet and 5 miles, Boland Ridge Trails is perfect for hiking lovers that serve not only the beautiful view but offers panoramic views of black hill city and rolling plains just a few distances away.

Hiking - Wind Cave National Park
Photo by Toomas Tartes on Unsplash

However, the hiking trails welcome visitors throughout the year, but May, June, and September are the best months to explore this place because the temperature is generally mild.

8. Garden of Eden Cave Tour

The Garden of Eden Cave tour is one of the shortest yet most interesting tours throughout the Wind cave.

This place offers plenty of famous caves of Boxwork and the opportunity to learn about the history and heritage of the caves in less time. It has 150 stairs and a 1/3 mile long way to tour these fascinating caves.

9. Geology Tour

Geology Tour is a 20-mile long gravel road that winds through the heart of the caves park. You will also get closer to Wind cave national park wildlife, including Bison. The place has a history of telling the park through interpretive signs and various rock formations.

Driving to the Geology tour takes 30 minutes to 1 hour and is suitable for all types of cars and vehicles. This 20-mile distance will give you a beautiful view to your eyes and peace in your soul.

10. Prairie Dogs Watching

Watching Prairie dogs while yipping, digging, and frolicking amidst the waving prairie grass is the best thing to watch.

However, the Wind Cave offers plenty of Prairie dogs, but you can watch them in bulk in their town at Cold Brook Canyon, Rankin Ridge, prairie dog towns, and Sanctuary trails.

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Photo by Brian Beckwith on Unsplash

Note: They are cute and charming but do not get closer to them or feed them directly. Please maintain a distance while watching them.

11. Bird Watching

Wind Cave is home to more than 100 species of permanent birds and many seasonal birds migrating after the season.

The western meadowlark is the most common bird you will see or hear. Eastern and mountain bluebirds are often spotted through the roads and fences. Apart from these, multiple types of woodpeckers and hawks are the major species to watch.

12. Elk Watching

Have you ever heard of the Elk murmuring? No, this place allows you to watch and listen to the Elk.

Wind Cave National Parks - Elk
Photo by Y S on Unsplash

Wind Cave is home to an Elk population because its atmosphere is perfect. The best places to spot Elk are Boland Ridge and Elk mountain campground.

Apart from these two, Cold Brook Canyon also offers elk watching. The month of September and October is the best time to spot and hear the bugling of elk in the Park.

13. Driving at NPS 5

Driving down to NPS 5 is one of the most scenic drives in Wind cave national park.

You can consider it as a crash tour of Wind caves. This road takes you on the journey to the best views of the park and of Bison, prairie dogs, Elk, and some of the best pronghorn viewing areas.

14. Hiking to Lookout Point Trail

Look out, Point! It is the best thing to do so far in Wind Cave.

Hiking to the Lookout point will give you the best experience of the entire park tour. From this point, you can see the whole park’s beauty, including a rolling ridge, pine forest, and grassy Meadows. The best thing is that you can drive up the parking lot and walk 23-30 steps.

15. Highland Creek Trail

The 13.6 miles long Highland Creek Trail is the hardest and longest trail in Wind Cave National Park. The solitude and scenic terrain are huge draws to this loop, and the chances of seeing amazing wildlife along the route are pretty high.

16. Candlelight Tour

Wind Cave National Park
Photo by Wander Fleur on Unsplash

You need 2 hours to complete the candlelight tour to explore the more and more remote areas of the cave by Candlelight. You can take the help of a park ranger to purchase the candlelight tour tickets; they prefer smaller groups.

17. Exploring the Point where the Wind Caves Discovered

Last but not least! See the place where the story of Wind caves starts. Here, you can learn about the story of two brothers who had discovered the wind caves approached by the hole. The National Park Service at the opening documented the origin story of this place.

Facts of Wind Cave National Parks

Wind caves are the third longest cave in the United States and the seventh largest cave system in the world. The natural Boxwork made this place unique across the globe. Wind cave provides 95 per cent of rare boxwork formations around the world.

The place gets its name from the Lakota, the netizens of the Black Hills. They believe a spirit lodge is underground; they have a story about living here before the world’s creation. In the civilized Lakota, this place is called “Maka Oniya or Breathing Earth” as wind below the caves’ entrance.

Boxwork comprises natural calcite formed in a thin blade creating honeycomb patterns or box-like structures. The presence of limestone and surrounding bedrock is slowly eroded, revealing these calcite veins.

Wind Cave National Park has become the hometown of several species, including Elk, Bison, 100 species of birds, Coyotes, Pronghorns, and the largest mixed-grass prairies in the USA.

How to Purchase the Tour Tickets of Wind Cave National Parks?

Wind Cave National Park
Photo by Benjamin Sharpe on Unsplash

You can not buy or book advance tickets online or via phone; the visitor centre can grab them. They are following the first-come-first-served and offering offers from Visitor centre hours.

The tickets can be booked 2 hours before the tour starts in the hot springs and summer. The visitor centre is open year-round between 8 am and 4:30 pm, and the entrance fees are zero, but it offers different prices every time.

Vistas of Wind Cave National Park in Different Seasons

You can explore the wind cave national park in any season or weather, and it is open all year round. But some seasons are less desirable to admire the ideal beauty of the park. Moreover, we have elaborated on the all-weather here, and you can choose your favourite one!

1. Summer Season

The summer season attracts the maximum number of visitors and is popular among netizens also. The unpredictable pattern of weather and soaring temperatures is all set to make this place more attractive.

Before heading in summer, keep an eye on weather updates as well. Afternoon thunderstorms in June and July are common and sometimes accompanied by large hails. The season is much crowdy, so please arrive at the park plenty early to secure a cave tour.

2. Spring Season

Most people avoid visiting Wind Cave National Park in the spring because the weather is pleasant, and a large variety of cave tours are also offered. It is known as the shoulder season at Wind Cave.

Wind Cave National Park
Photo by Studio Dekorasyon on Unsplash

The spring season is your month for those who avoid the busiest months without sacrificing the experience! Don’t forget that this is the wettest season of the year, and rainy days are common during these months.

3. Autumn Fall Season

Autumn means a decrease in temperature as well as in the crowd. It will be the best season to explore the caves the as the fall foliage in the Black Hills is seriously spectacular. Some tour packages offer very few packages but reaching out as early as possible can be very helpful.

4. Winter Season

Wind Cave National Park is open during the winter despite the snowy conditions. Due to the frigid temperatures, winters witnessed fewer visitors. Due to the snow, the season is also potentially dangerous depending on road conditions. However, if you’re looking for solitude at Wind Cave National Park, the winter is your best to have a blasting fun visit.

Key Takeaways

However, all the tours and parks in wind caves are the best and worth the time and money, but if you can not explore every part of the park roads, we would like to suggest help from the park rangers.

Moreover, the first cave to explore should be Natural Entrance Tour. Here, you can see the natural opening of the cave and formations of extensive Boxwork, and it can be covered in less time because it is shorter than other cave tours.

Apart from the above spots, you can also have fun in Mount Rushmore, Custer State Park, Jewel Cave, and Crazy Horse memorial. The Wind Cave National Park is a Hidden Gem among all the national parks in the United States.

Also read: Best Waterfalls in Oregon

Last Updated on February 27, 2023 by Priya Das