National Park Getaway: Wind Cave National Park

By Tom Farrell, Chief of Interpretation

NPS caver on hands and knees next to cave formation known as cratework
Explorers continue to map more than 3,000 unexplored passageways. Visitors can explore the cave on one of the many ranger tours for a chance to see rare cave formations, such as cratework.

NPS Photo

Explore your dual personality by visiting two parks in one! Bison and boxwork define Wind Cave National Park and highlight the distinctive worlds that comprise one of the country's oldest national parks. Follow a ranger into the depths with one of five different tours offered throughout the summer, but don't expect to see typical cave formations. Instead be prepared to see a rare honeycombed formation called boxwork hanging from the ceiling and walls. (In some places the boxwork is so large, it's called cratework!)

Beat the crowds by stopping early in the day for a tour and remember the park is busiest on Tuesdays and Wednesdays and any day it rains. For those 16 years old and over, crawl out of your comfort zone by taking a Wild Cave Tour and explore the labyrinth of passageways found in the cave's backcountry. Wind Cave is a special place. Learn about the importance of it to the American Indians by watching Ranger Sina tell the Lakota Emergence Story.

Adult bison and calf crossing road in front of vehicles
A Wind Cave-style traffic jam is often a welcomed chance to see wildlife, including the park's resident herd of bison.

NPS Photo

Early summer is a time of green grass and red bison calves. Take a few minutes and watch bison calves while immersing yourself in the world of the park's mixed-grass prairie. Don't just focus on what you see, take a few minutes and listen to the sounds of the prairie. It is amazing how loud bison are! (You'd think they'd talk with a Bronx accent, considering our bison were reintroduced in 1913 from the Bronx Zoo.) Take a drive along NPS 5 & 6, gravel roads in the park's backcountry, and maybe you'll discover what it's like having your car surrounded by bison. Late in the month of June, the bison's mating season, the rut, begins. By chance you might witness 2,000-pound bulls fighting for dominance. Be careful though! Bison can run 35 mph and are very unpredictable. Stay a safe distance away. If the bison stops what it's doing and looks at you, you're too close. Remember your visit isn't over when the sun sets. Watch a full moon rise over the prairie while listening for coyotes howling in the distance.
Rolling grasslands
Above ground, the park offers stunning views of the legendary Black Hills with many opportunities for hiking, camping, wildlife watching, and ranger-led activities.

NPS Photo

If you want to get away from people, get away from the asphalt. We have 30 miles of hiking trails through a variety of terrain, or experience the park's backcountry from your home with these 360-degree photo spheres of some of our more popular trails.

Camp in the park's Elk Mountain Campground. We can't say the campground has never filled, but no one's ever been turned away. After dinner, partake in a classic park experience by attending an evening campfire program given by one of our rangers.

Wind Cave National Park is located approximately 70 miles south of Rapid City, South Dakota.in the southern Black Hills. For directions or more information, visit our website. We hope you come for a visit, because Wind Cave is a park you can really get into, literally!