Backcountry Camping

The backcountry of Wind Cave National Park offers visitors a great opportunity to experience and enjoy the abundant resources of the park. Backcountry camping is limited to the northwest area of the park. This area, north of Beaver Creek, east of Hwy. 87, south of NPS 5 and west of Highland Creek Trail, is outlined in red on the map. Within this area are several different habitats - prairie, forest, and riparian - with a variety of plants and animals living there. There are maintained and marked trails within that section and throughout the park, however, the entire park is open to hiking.
Backcountry Camping Map

The backcountry camping region in Wind Cave National Park is outlined in red on this map.




All backcountry campers must have a backcountry use permit in their possession. These permits are free and can be obtained at the Wind Cave visitor center information desk or at the Centennial trailheads. Permits help park managers gather information needed to make wise resource management decisions. Because the mission of the park service is to preserve and protect the natural resources, a variety of needs must be considered.

Minimum Impact Camping

Please practice low impact camping and hiking techniques. Leave no trace of your visit, make no changes.

Resource Protection

Do not disturb or remove plants, wildlife, antlers or bones, or any other cultural or natural feature. These features are all part of the ecosystem and are important to the park history or for the survival of other animals and plants. They are protected by federal law.


Pets, bicycles, motorized equipment, firearms, and hunting are prohibited in the backcountry.


We recommend that you carry all the drinking water you will need. There are only a few water sources within the park. Any water obtained in the backcountry should be boiled or filtered.


No open fires are allowed in the backcountry. All cooking must be done on self-contained fuel stoves. Campfires leave permanent scars on the land and are frequently the cause of wildfires. The threat of wildfire is moderate to extreme most of the year.


All backcountry campsites must be at least 1/4 mile from, and out of sight of any paved or improved dirt road. Campsites also must be 100 feet away from any trail or any water source.


All litter must be packed out of the backcountry and disposed of properly. The park's visitor center, picnic area, and Elk Mountain Campground have receptacles for recyclable items. Litter is unsightly and ruins the park experience for everyone. Please remember, cigarette butts are litter, too.


While in the backcountry, be alert for the presence of bison (buffalo). These animals may appear tame, but they are extremely unpredictable! During the summer mating season they are particularly dangerous and may charge without warning. Campsites should be located away from wallows or mineral licks since bison tend to frequent these areas. Always give bison plenty of room. Do not approach these animals!


Be aware of the possible presence of prairie rattlesnakes. While these animals are timid, they, like any wild animal, can be dangerous if surprised or provoked. Rattlesnakes can be found anywhere in the park, but be particularly alert when near cliffs, rocky areas and prairie dog towns.


Ticks, mosquitoes, and deer flies can be plentiful in the park. They are generally found in the wetter areas of the park.

Maintained Trails

  1. Cold Brook Canyon Trail - 1.4 miles one way, moderately strenuous
  2. Wind Cave Canyon Trail - 1.8 miles one way, easy
  3. East Bison Flats Trail - 3.7 miles one way, moderately strenuous
  4. Lookout Point Trail - 1.9 miles one way, moderately strenuous
  5. Sanctuary Trail - 3.6 miles one way, moderately strenuous
  6. Centennial Trail - 6 miles one way, moderately strenuous
  7. Highland Creek Trail - 8.6 miles one way, moderately strenuous
  8. Boland Ridge Trail - 2.7 miles one way, very strenuous
  9. Elk Mountain Trail - 1 mile loop, easy
  10. Rankin Ridge Trail - 1 mile loop, moderately strenuous
  11. Prairie Vista Trail - 1 mile loop, moderately strenuous (starts in Picnic Area near Visitor Center)

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