Wind Cave National Park is a smaller park. It is not enough to keep families busy for an entire vacation. The Wind Caves are a great excuse to get to South Dakota, though! It is located near Custer, South Dakota, which has more than enough to build a vacation around!
Wind Cave National Park has a variety of tours built for a variety of abilities, ages, and time frames. Everyone can find something that works for them! Most of the tours are first-come, first-serve. During the busy season, a tour starts within every half hour, but it might not be the tour that works best for your family. If you get to the visitor’s center early in the day, chances are really good (but not guaranteed) that you will get on the tour you want. You can check out tour descriptions and seasonal schedules here.
The Candlelight Tour and Wild Cave Tour are the only tours that are reservable. I would highly suggest reserving these ahead of time if you are interested. These tours have very limited space and also come with special instructions, like clothing or footwear requirements. They are the most exciting tours, though! The Wild Cave Tour is an actual caving experience, where participants go off the beaten path into more primitive parts of the cave. Some crawling through tight spaces is required.
Kenon and I did the Candlelight Tour. This tour also goes through a more primitive part of the cave, though no crawling is required. The path is dirt and uneven and the only lights are held in each participant’s hands, like in the first days when the cave was newly discovered. The tour group is smaller and the cave is more natural. I highly recommend this tour! It’s a cool experience to carry the lanterns just like in the early days of the cave.
The cave is the main attraction in the park but there is some hiking. There is a lot of wildlife in the park, such as bison, elk, and pronghorns.
There is also one campground in the park. We didn’t stay here but we did drive through it. It’s really pretty, fairly small and uncrowded, and overall seems very pleasant. There are also backcountry camping permits available.
Things to do outside of the park:
- Custer State Park: Wind Cave National Parks butts right up against Custer State Park. You can drive out of one and into the other. Each of them has its own entrance fee, though. Custer State Park has attractions like Needles Highway, Sylvan Lake, hiking, wildlife viewing, and camping. It is very busy during the summer! If you plan on camping, make your reservations far in advance.
- Jewel Cave National Monument: This is currently the longest cave system in the world! Located right outside of Custer.
- Mount Rushmore National Memorial: You know it, you love it! Gotta make a trip to see the faces!
- Hill City: Hill City is home to wineries, breweries, great restaurants, and unique attraction for kids.
- Badlands National Park: Don’t miss this stop if you are in South Dakota!
Thi is just a start to the list! South Dakota has so much to offer.