• Wind Cave National Park - Two Worlds

    Wind Cave

    National Park South Dakota

Plan A Field Trip

Ranger Mike Laycock with tour at Model Room in Wind Cave

Ranger Mike Laycock with tour at Model Room in Wind Cave

NPS Photo

Caves are mysterious, dark, and packed with wonders to discover! They are home to many interesting formations (speleothems) and unusual life forms.Wind Cave National Park is excited to be part of your school's continuing efforts towards excellence. The National Park Service has a strong tradition of education and we are proud to promote parks as classrooms. To assist local educators with their curriculums,we have designed previsit lessons which will help students discover what caves are, how speleothems form, what might live in a cave, and what Wind Cave is like.

Wind Cave National Park offers educational tours or field trips of the cave throughout the year. These tours last about 1 1/2 hours. We have designed previsit activities for to help you and your students prepare for the trip. The information is helpful in providing background information for you and your students to better understand the unique features of Wind Cave. Reservations may be made by calling 605-745-1131. Wind Cave is open all year, except Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year's Days.Please visit Group Tour Reservations for more information.

If you would like to schedule a field trip to the cave we suggest that you contact the park early and be flexible in scheduling as all group reservations are done on a first-come, first-serve basis. To arrange a trip to Wind Cave please call 605-745-1131. Please review all rules and responsibilities and safety messages with your students before arriving at the park.

The park's Environmental Education program "Connections" is offered in late April and early May only. The program allows students and teachers to discover relationships between the mixed-grass prairie, the ponderosa pine forest, the cave, the plants, and the animals that live in these unique habitats, and themselves. Students generally spend most of the school day at the park, with the program lasting 4 to 5 hours. The program includes required pre- and post-visit activities. Reservations are accepted beginning early March and may be made by calling 605-745-1131.

The park also offers Water in the Environment, a comprehensive hydrology program that involves students in activities that will provide them with an understanding of the water cycle. These hands-on activities demonstrate how much of the planet is made of water and how scarce fresh water is. This program is also offered in May and students generally spend 4 to 5 hours in the park. Pre- and post-visit activities are provided to the teachers. Reservations are accepted beginning early March and may be made by calling 605-745-1131.

High school trigonometry students can use their skills learning to map part of one of the world's longest caves. Working in small groups, students in pre-calculus classes use a compass, clinometer, and measuring tape to collect data in the cave before using their trigonometry skills to develop a cave map. "We find this is a great way to bring to life some of the concepts we teach in the classroom," said one of Custer High School math teachers. "It takes the lesson out of the classroom and places it into a real-world scenario." Students first determine the vertical distance between the cave's Lower and Middle Elevator Landings by traversing passages, stairs, and rooms that connect the two landings. Next they collected data that allowed them to draw a map of the Garden of Eden Tour Route. This program is offered throughout the school year. Reservations may be made by calling 605-745-1131.

All of the park's educational programs are designed to reinforce classroom studies and can be adjusted to coincide with particular school subjects. There are no fees to participate in the Connections or Hydrology programs. There are fees for cave tours, however if your field trip relates to the resources of the park fee waivers may be available.

School group in cave

School group in cave

NPS Photo

To Make a Reservation for a Tour

To avoid overbooking tours, teachers must contact the park to make a reservation to participate on a tour. Tours are limited to 40 people (including teachers and students). Groups larger than 40 people (students and adults) will be divided. We will attempt (depending up availability of rangers to lead the tour) to provide back-to-back tours for large groups. However, that is not guaranteed. We may need to present a tour to part of the group in the morning and another tour in the afternoon. Be aware that in April and May, September, and October the park receives numerous requests for educational tours and fee waivers. All reservations are made on a first-come, first-served basis and should be made at least three weeks in advance. We recommend that you call early.

When choosing a tour time, remember that we require all groups arrive at the park visitor center at least half an hour before the tours begin. These tours are scheduled and you will be sharing the tour with others. It will begin on time and cannot be changed to accommodate your needs. Please visit Group Tour Reservations for more information.

Please bring one chaperone for every ten students. Choose your chaperones carefully; tours are moderately strenuous.

Field trips are most educational and successful when you and your students have a good idea of what to expect before you step off the bus. We have expectations too. Please review the following list and all of the rules and responsibilities and safety messages with your students before your visit.

  • Reservations must be made prior to your visit.
  • Students are expected to behave in a proper manner and respect the park's resources and other visitors' experiences.
  • Students may not touch the rocks or walls of the cave or step of the trail. Please explain to them the reasons why before they come to the park.
  • Teachers are required to actively participate and chaperone their students at all times.
  • Large classes may need to be divided into smaller groups; each group must be chaperoned.
  • Students are asked to walk and use "inside voices" while they are in the visitor center.
  • Cameras are welcome. Please ask your students to be responsible when using their cameras that they do not flash the camera in the eyes of other tour participants and they refrain from using the camera when the ranger and the group are talking together.
  • No food, drink, or gum is allowed in the cave.
  • Please help your students respect the park rules and responsibilities.

Caves are a rich source of yet-to-be discovered knowledge of the world around us. The National Park Service has an extensive Cave and Karst Program Education Program which emphasizes stewardship, responsibility, science, cooperation, coordination, and education. For additional, general information about National Park Service Caves, you can visit http://www.nature.nps.gov/geology/caves/education.cfm.

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