Wind Cave National Park
One of America’s oldest national parks, Wind Cave National Park in South Dakota, offers visitors watchable wildlife, hiking, camping and a Wind Cave - one of the longest and most complex caves in the world. It’s a unique formation rarely found elsewhere, and is a must-see for nature lovers and travelers everywhere!
Wind Cave National Park also includes the largest remaining natural mixed-grass prairie in the US, and has 28,295 acres of wildlife sanctuary, making it possible to visit and view bison, elk and other wildlife in their natural habitat. Below ground, the Wind Cave has 140.47 miles of explored cave passageways, making it the sixth-longest in the world. It also features 95% of the world’s discovered boxwork formations and is recognized as the densest cave system in the world.
The weather in the Wind Cave National Park and the accompanying southern Black Hills are generally warmer and drier than the nearby northern hills. Spring and fall weather varies from sunny and warm to cool, rainy and windy, with temperatures ranging from 50s-60s for the high and 40s and 50s for the low. The summertime has warm daytime temperatures and cool evenings, ranging from the 70s-80s and in the 50s for the lows. In June and July, severe thunderstorms with large hail and severe lightning are common. In the wintertime, there is an average of 30 inches of annual snow and temperatures in the 30s-40s and lows in the teens.
There are several towns and communities nearby Wind Cave National Park as well as a few National Park Service Sites, so there is plenty to do both inside the park and outside of it! Whether you’re looking for a historical experience like Deadwood, one of America’s longest ongoing historic preservation projects, or a small, mountain town like Hill City, there’s plenty to do or see in the area.
Where To Stay
There are plenty of options when it comes time to rest your head down at night! The Wind Cave National Park has one campground within the park, and the Custer State Park, to the north of Wind Cave, also has campgrounds. Additionally, Black Hills National Forest, nearby the park, has numerous campgrounds. Here are some of our favorites:
Within Windcave National Park
Within Custer State Park
Within Black Hills National Forest
RV Rentals Near Wind Cave National Park
Nearby RV Rentals
Hit the Trails
Wind Cave National Park offers over 30 miles of hiking trails which vary between mixed-grass prairie and ponderosa pine forest. Viewing large wildlife is common on the trails, as bison, elk and mountain lions roam throughout the park. Keep in mind that the animals are wild and should be viewed with caution, and regulations require at least 25 yards from bison and elk. For more information about hiking in the Wind Cave National Park, click here.
Here we’ve chosen some of our favorite hiking trails.
Wind Cave National Park Trails
Distance: 1.2 miles, one way
Terrain: Easy trail, the short loop winds around the Elk Mountain Campground. Leashed pets are permitted on this trail.
Cold Brook Canyon
Distance: 1.4 miles, one way
Terrain: Moderate trail with an initial descent that drops into the canyon. Hike features a prairie dog town and falcon and other raptors nesting along the cliffs.
Distance: 3.6 miles, one way
Terrain: Difficult trail, follows rolling prairie and crosses a large prairie dog town. Trail ends where it meets the Highland Creek Trail, which is the longest and most diverse trail in the park.
Distance: 8.6 miles, one way
Terrain: The longest and most diverse trail in the park, the hike encompasses both prairies and forests in addition to riparian habitats along Highland and Beaver Creeks and the Wind Cave Canyon.
Distance: 2.6 miles, one way
Terrain: This strenuous trail offers panoramic views of the Black Hills to the west and the Great Plains to the east. Elk are also often seen along the trail.
Distance: 1 mile, one way
Terrain: The highest point in the park, this nature trail offers spectacular views. It’s an easy hike and great option for families or those with a limited time to explore the park.
Wind Cave Canyon
Distance: 1.8 miles, one way
Terrain: A former road, this trail follows Wind Cave Canyon to the park boundary, and the limestone cliffs provide nesting areas for birds.
East Bison Flats
Distance: 3.7 miles, one way
Terrain: This strenuous hike offers stunning, panoramic views of the prairie, Buffalo Gap and the Black Hills.
Distance: 2.2 miles, one way
Terrain: This moderate hike follows along the rolling hills of the prairie before descending to Beaver Creek. Can be combined with parts of the Highland Creek and Centennial trails for a 4.5-mile loop.
What to Do
Once you’ve explored the sights above and below ground at Wind Cave National Park, there is plenty more to see and do in the area. Whether it’s another nature experience at a nearby national or state park or simply grabbing a delicious meal with friends and family, there’s something great to do before or after the park.
After a long day of nature-inspired fun, a good meal will probably hit the spot! Here are some of our favorite places to grab a delicious meal nearby Wind Cave National Park, in the nearby towns of Hot Springs and Custer.
Type: Elevated Steakhouse Fare
Location: Hot Springs
Type: Café and Bakery, Breakfast and Lunch
Location: Hot Springs
Type: American, Homestyle
Location: Hot Springs
If perusing the racks at a unique store is more your speed when enjoying nature at the National Park, the nearby communities in Hot Springs and Custer will have plenty of stores to keep you busy! Here are some worth a visit.
Dave’s Rock Shop
Bring home a souvenir from your trip, straight from nature itself. At Dave’s Rock Shop, you can find quality rocks, minerals, crystals, fossils, and polished stones, all that can be used for home décor, jewelry and much more.
Claw, Antler and Hide Co.
This unique store specializes in deer, elk, bear and buffalo claws, antlers, pelts, horns, leathers, jewelry and much more.
Lucy and the Green Wolf
At this store, you can find a variety of organic and earth-friendly goods, including hand-made, upcycled, recycled and reusable ones. Specializes in one-of-a-kind pieces and has a mission to support and inspire sustainable living by offering goods to help reduce negative social and environmental impact.
Location: Hot Springs
Fall River Fibers
If you love to knit or craft, this store is a must-stop. They offer a wide variety of fibers for spinning and weaving in addition to yarns, books, dyes, patterns, knitting, and crochet supplies.
Location: Hot Springs
The Park Store at Wind Cave National Park offers a variety of items about the park and the local community. All purchases help support interpretive programming at the national park.
Location: Wind Cave National Park
If you catch a rainy day or are just ready to soak up some culture, there are museums to help you learn more about the regional culture and history.
The Mammoth Site in Hot Springs has the largest concentration of mammoths in the world. Visitors can tour the indoor active dig site where research and excavations are continuing and view Ice Age fossils. Guided tours and enhanced educational experiences are also offered.
Learn more about the history of the local community by visiting the Fall River Pioneer Museum. It features 25 exhibit areas with historic treasures like original art, handcrafted tools, old washing machines, wood cook stoves and much more from the Fall River County and beyond. There is also an authentic 19th-century classroom and general store.
This museum is an American history museum, located in the original Custer County Courthouse, which served as the government center in the county from 1881-1973. Exhibits include regional history, culture, and industry.
There is no shortage of beautiful sights to see in the area around Wind Cave National Park, including two other state and national parks. Here are some of our favorite sights worth adding to your agenda.
Jewel Cave National Monument
Located about 50 minutes from the National Park, the Jewel Cave is the third longest cave in the world. Guided cave tours are offered.
Located about one hour from Wind Cave National Park is an American monument most are familiar with – Mount Rushmore. View the stunning figures of George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt and Abraham Lincoln up close and in person in the Black Hills.
Custer State Park
This state park encompasses 71,000 acres in the Black Hills and is home to abundant wildlife. In Custer State Park, visitors can enjoy camping, hiking, biking, swimming, fishing and much more.
Black Hills National Forest
The Black Hills National Forest is located in western South Dakota and northeastern Wyoming and consists of 1.2 million acres. Visitors can view forested hills, mountains, rock formations, canyons, lakes and much more.
Cascade Falls and Swimming Hole
The clean, clear water in the Cascade Falls swimming hole is the only place along the Cascade Creek recommending for swimming. Fed by natural spring water, the water is always warm and around 67 degrees. In addition to being a great place to swim, you can view rare plants and enjoy a picnic meal.
How to Get There
There are several options for getting to Wind Cave National Park. Keep in mind that the Visitor Center of the National Park is located 11 miles north of Hot Springs off U.S. Hwy 385. Do not use your GPS to find the visitor center, instead, follow park signs.
From Rapid City directly, follow Route 79 south approximately 50 miles to U.S. Route 385, turn right onto U.S. Route 385 North, then continue through Hot Springs. Then, follow U.S. Hwy 385 another 6 miles north and into Wind Cave National Park. Once in the park follow signs to the visitor center for cave tours and general park information.
From Rapid City via the Black Hills, follow U.S. Hwy. 16 south and west to U.S. Hwy. 385. Turn left on US Hwy. 385 south to Hill City and continue south through Custer City. The park is about 20 miles south of Custer, SD off U.S. Hwy 385. Once in the park follow signs to the visitor center for cave tours and general park information.
From western Nebraska, follow U.S. Hwy 385 north through Hot Springs, SD to the park, and once in the park follow signs to the visitor center for cave tours and general park information.
From Custer State Park, follow State Road 87 south into Wind Cave National Park, and once in the park follow signs to the visitor center for cave tours and general park information.
The nearest commercial airport to the park is in Rapid City, South Dakota. The airport offers car rentals.
Another way to travel to Wind Cave National Park is by RV. When you rent an RV, you’ll have the ability to travel at your own pace and stay comfortable. Plus, you will be able to get a front-row seat and actually stay IN the park! Don’t own an RV? No worries, RV rentals are available across the
Entering the Park
There is no fee to enter Wind Cave National Park, but there are fees for cave tours and camping. Click here for more information.
We are so excited for your trip to Wind Cave National Park! At RVshare, we love giving others the opportunity to get outdoors and make memories with loved ones in unique natural settings. RVing is the best way to have an exceptional, comfortable and unique experience – right in the front row seat to your destination.
No matter how you’re visiting Wind Cave National Park, we’d love to hear all about your experience! Send us photos at [email protected], tag us on social media, share amazing details, and anything else you want others to know about your experience for a chance to be featured on our blog or social media channels.