Wind Cave National Park Guide

Featuring one of the largest known caves, miles of sunlit prairie, and stunning forests teeming with wildlife, Wind Cave National Park is a place where memories are made!

This national park features the most extensive and intricate caves in the world.

In fact, according to More Than Just Parks, Wind Cave national park is home to 95% of the known boxwork formations (type of cave formations) in the world.

So if you want to witness this unique national park then in this article, we’ll tell you about the best hotels to stay near Wind Cave National Park, the best places to visit, entry pass fees, etc. Let’s jump right in!

Where Is Wind Cave National Park


Park Wind Cave National Park
Founded 1881
Things To DoWind Cave Tours, Scenic Drive, Discover
Hotels Near Wind Cave National Park Rocket Motels, Hotel inns, and Many More.
PriceNo Entry Fee
Validity7 Days
Camping LocationMultiple Locations

Where Is Wind Cave National Park?

Wind Cave National Park is located on US Highway 385, which is 10 miles north of the town of Hot Springs and 22 miles south of Custer in western South Dakota.

If you are traveling by air, then you can book your tickets to Rapid City airport, which is 37.1 miles away.

To reach Wind Cave National Park, you can either take South Dakota Highway 87 or US Highway 385. 

Read: Badlands National Park


Wind Cave National Park is one of the first national parks in America set aside to protect a cave.

The Park was established in 1905 to protect the “Wind Cave”, one of the largest known caves in the world with almost 150 discovered miles of passages. 

Wind Cave National Park is famous for its bizarre calcite formations as well as frostwork and other unique cave features. 

Above the ground, the park encompasses beautiful mixed-grass prairies, attractive hills, Pine Forest and also protects a diverse ecosystem with a variety of eastern and western plant and animal species including bison, coyotes, bobcats, red foxes, minks, and prairie dogs. 1

Wind Cave National Park Cave Tour Video


The existence of Wind Cave hasn’t been a secret to local Native American groups and they consider it to be sacred for many centuries.

Settlers Tom and Jesse Bingham are credited with the modern discovery of the Cave’s natural entrance in 1881.

They accidentally found it after hearing a sound from a small hole in the ground, the cave’s only natural opening.

It was later found that the sound was caused by the wind, which inspired the cave’s name. The cave was extensively explored in the 1890s and 1903.

An adventurer named Alvin McDonald discovered the extensive network of passages with boxwork, frostwork formations, and many other amazing features.

In 1889, the McDonald family began developing and preparing the cave for tourism. The cave was opened for visitors in 1892 and received a great response.

On January 9, 1903, the park was designated as a national park, making it one of the oldest in the country and the first one devoted to preserving the cave. 

Read: Banff National Park

Best Things to do 

There’s a lot to see and do at Wind Cave National Park and in the surrounding area: 

Wind Cave Tours

As the name implies, Wind Cave is the main highlight of this park. With over 150 miles of passages, it is the third-largest cave in the United States and the sixth-longest cave in the world.

The cave displays an outstanding collection of bizarre rock formations including stalagmites, stalactites, and a variety of minerals.

One of the most unusual cave formations that you find inside the cave is the “boxwork” composed of thin calcite fins resembling honeycombs.

The Park offers six different cave tours ranging from easy to strenuous including special tours for people with special needs. 

Go on a Scenic Drive

If you want to enjoy the scenic natural beauty of it, take a scenic drive through the park.

The drive takes visitors through the serene forest all the way up to the Ranking Ridge Fire Tower and offers incredible scenery along the route that will leave you speechless.

If you have no issue with gravel road, you can continue the drive on the Needles Highway or the Iron Mountain Road in Custer State Park to witness some more jaw-dropping views.

Beware of the local traffic that sometimes gets stubborn. 


One of the best ways to appreciate the park’s spectacular vistas and catch a glimpse of its wildlife is to hike one of its many trails.

It boasts 11 well-maintained trails with varying difficulty levels ranging from easy to strenuous to facilitate hikers with different ability levels.

The hiking trails wind through scenic grasslands, and forested rolling hills inhabited by a variety of wild animals including bison, elk, and pronghorn. You can also enjoy cross-country hiking in the entire park.  


Camping in this park is a great way to truly experience the jaw-dropping beauty of Wind Cave and spend some relaxing time under the stars.

There are several camping grounds inside and outside the park that offers visitors a full experience of being out in nature.

There are 61 camping sites in the park that allows both tent and RV camping, however, there are no hookups in the park 

Wildlife Watching

It is an excellent destination for wild enthusiasts and photographers. It boasts a wide variety of wildlife.

Highway 385 is one of the best places to spot wild animals such as prairie dogs, bison, coyotes, mule, elk, wild turkeys, and numerous species of hawks.

It is also home to the prairie rattlesnakes, which are extremely poisonous so be careful while roaming around. 2

Hear it From Reddit Users

Wind Cave, South Dakota
by u/PuppyJuicers in NationalPark

Best Time to Visit 

It is an all-year-round destination. Autumn is the best time to visit the park because of lesser crowds, warm weather, and cooler nights.

The biggest crowds come in summer from June to September. The colder months are the least crowded and you can easily explore the Wind Cave, thanks to its temperature which remains constant at 53 °F. 


Make sure to download the PDF Map of this park, showing all the entry and exit points, roads, trails, and visitor centers.

If you are interested in checking out some areas in Back Hills, you should grab a geographic Trails illustrated map

Hotels Near Wind Cave National Park

Here are some great hotels located near the park that offers some great accommodation and amenities: 

Rocket Motel

Hills Inn

River Falls Lodging 

Baymont by Wyndham Hot Springs

K Bar S Lodge

Best Western Buffalo Ridge Inn 


It has only one camping ground inside: Elk Mountain Campground located in both open and forested environments.

It has 61 campsites and offers unique opportunities to view the diverse flora and fauna of the Black Hills.

Some of the sites also support RV camping but there are no hooks ups available. Camping is first-come-first-served.

For more information or to make reservations visit the NPS website


The weather at this place is generally warm in the southern region and warm in the northern side.

If you’re planning to visit in winter, be prepared to bundle up as the temperature ranges from 14 to 40°F with 6 inches of snowfall. 

Summer brings warm daytime temperatures with cooler nights. Severe thunderstorms may occur during June and July with severe lighting so make sure to check the current weather before visiting.

Spring and Fall days vary from sunny to cool, windy and rainy. 3

Read: Olympic National Park

Read: Bryce Canyon National Park

Entry Pass and Reservations 

There are no entry fees to drive through or hike in the Win Cave National Park, however, fees are associated with visiting the cave or camping in the campground.

Park is open for visitors 24 hours a day, year-round. 

Checklist of things to bring

Here’s are some essentials you need to pack with you to make your trip secure and comfortable:

  1. Day backpack 
  2. Comfortable clothes
  3. Hiking boots
  4. Tent
  5. Sleeping bag
  6. Sunscreen & Sunglasses
  7. Water bottles
  8. Snacks
  9. Binoculars
  10. Pocket knife
  11. Headlamp/ flashlight
  12. Insect repellent
  13. First-aid kit
  14.  Park’s Map & compass

Frequently Asked Questions

How long do I need to tour the Wind Cave?

The tour starts with entering the cave near the natural entrance. The length of the tour is 2/3 miles long and it lasts around 1¼ hours. 

Which cave tour is best at Wind Cave National Park?

The Natural Entrance Cave tour is the most popular tour due to its moderate difficulty level.

It takes visitors through a narrow passage and covers about 2/3 of a mile in an hour. 

When should I arrive at the Wind Cave National Park?

To avoid crowds and long waits, it’s best to visit the cave during the early hours of the day. 

NPC Overall Rating


The National Planning Cycles is committed to producing high-quality content that follows industry standards. We do this by using primary sources, such as white papers and government data alongside original reporting from reputable publishers that were appropriate for the accuracy of information while still being unbiased. We have an editorial policy that includes verifiable facts with due credit given where applicable.


Leave a Comment