Guided Tours

Due to an elevator construction project, cave tours are not available at this time. Elevator repairs are expected to run through at least June 2021. See below for information regarding cave tours for summer 2021 and beyond. All cave access is by guided tour only.

 
concrete walking area in a large cave room
The Target Room, as seen on the Discovery Tour at Jewel Cave National Monument.

NPS photo

Summer 2021

A modified version of the Discovery Tour will be offered beginning in late May 2021 while elevator repairs are completed. These walk-in/walk-out tours will meet on the visitor center patio. A ranger will lead the tour on a moderately-strenuous 1/3-mile trail hike to the cave, which includes 180 ft. of elevation loss. Tours will enter the cave via a man-made portal for a 20-minute tour of a large cave room. Tours will exit the cave via the same route, concluding the ranger-led portion of the tour. Visitors can retrace their steps up the trail to the visitor center at their own pace, regaining 180 ft. of elevation in the process.

• This tour is not recommended for persons with heart or respiratory conditions, foot or lower joint problems, or who have been hospitalized recently. This tour is not wheelchair accessible.

• In accordance with CDC guidance, face coverings must be worn by individuals over the age of two years in the Portal Cave Entrance and in outdoor areas when social distancing cannot be maintained.

• Infants and toddlers can be carried in the cave in a front-carrier only. While in the cave, parents are not allowed to carry a child of any age without a front-carrier.

• Wear tennis shoes, sneakers, or hiking boots. Sandals, flip flops, or other shoes that are not securely fastened to the foot are not allowed on any cave tour. If questionable, park rangers may ask that you change your footwear before taking part in the tour.

• Wear a light jacket or sweater. The cave temperature is 49°F or 9°C. Wear appropriate clothing to spend twenty minutes in the cool temperatures.

• All visitors exiting Jewel Cave are required to walk across a decontamination mat to prevent the spread of White Nose Syndrome (WNS), which is a bat disease.

• The fully accessible standard Discovery Tour will be offered as soon as elevators are available for public use.
 
Guided Tours Image JECA
A Park Ranger gives a guided tour to visitors at Jewel Cave National Monument.

NPS Staff Photo

General Cave Tour Information

The following information applies when tour operations are back to normal. Due to an elevator repair project and the suspension of tours, no reservations are available at this time through recreation.gov.

Ranger-guided tours are required to enter Jewel Cave, and the various tours are offered at scheduled times, which vary by season. Throughout the year, cave tours often fill to capacity by late morning. For this reason, visitors are encouraged to make advanced tour reservations through Recreation.gov. Advanced reservations are only available for Scenic Tours and can be made up to 24 hours before your arrival date, or up to 90 days in advance. Reservations for Scenic Tours are available for the tour times on the hour, beginning at 10 a.m. and followed with 11 a.m., 12 p.m., 1 p.m., etc.

Tickets for the Historic Lantern Tours, Discovery Talks, and some Scenic Tours are available on-site, in person, on a first come, first served basis; advanced reservations are not taken over the phone by park staff. Please be advised that all cave tour tickets are limited by tour type and time, and all tour options often sell out by late morning.

*Due to the Covid-19 Pandemic, the Wild Caving Tour will not be offered during the 2021 year.

 

Prepare Yourself for the Cave Tours

  • To prevent the spread of White Nose Syndrome (WNS), which is a bat disease, all cave tour participants will walk across a decontamination mat when exiting Jewel Cave. NOTE: Other cave sites may not allow visitors to enter their resource with the same boots, clothing, or personal devices that have been inside Jewel Cave.
  • Know Your Limits! All cave tour participants (of all ages) must be able to navigate the tour routes unassisted. Cave tours are moderately strenuous and not recommended for anyone with health conditions, poor balance, mobility concerns, or those with physical limitations (i.e., climbing stairs, recent surgery, and illness).
  • Sandals, flip flops, slides, or other shoes that are not securely fastened to the foot are not allowed on any cave tour. If questionable, park rangers will ask that you change your footwear before taking part in a cave tour.
  • The temperature inside Jewel Cave is 49 degrees F / 9 degrees C year-round. Visitors are encouraged to wear long pants and a sweatshirt, sweater, or light jacket.
  • Photography is permitted along the Scenic Tour and during Discovery Talks; however, visitors are encouraged to use small cameras and/or cell phones to avoid large lenses, bags, etc. Pictures are not allowed on any stairs within the cave.
  • There are NO REFUNDS for missed tours or late arrivals. Visitors are encouraged to plan their schedules carefully and be on-site at least 30 minutes prior to their scheduled tour time.
  • Historic Lantern Tours / Tennis shoes, sneakers, or hiking boots are required on the Historic Lantern Tour. Open-toed shoes (i.e., sandals, Crocs, Teva footwear, and some styles of Keen) are not acceptable.
  • Historic Lantern Tours / Due to several steep stairs, large cameras and bags are not allowed on Historic Lantern Tours. If questionable, park rangers will ask that these items be left in the security of a personal vehicle.
  • Historic Lantern Tours / Tour tickets are purchased near the visitor center; however, the cave tour takes place at the Jewel Cave Historic Area, which is located about one mile west of the main entrance to the visitor center parking lot.
  • Wild Caving Tours / Specific guidance is provided to all participants before arrival to the monument. Visitors taking part in this tour are encouraged to review the guidance and follow the instructions carefully in preparation for the adventure.

Important Information Regarding Young Children

  • Children may NOT be carried on any portion of the Scenic Tour route. Furthermore, strollers, diaper bags, and backpack carriers are not allowed in Jewel Cave. For this reason, the Discovery Talk is recommended for those with infants, toddlers, and young children.
  • Infants and toddlers can be carried using a front-carrier only, and the child must remain in the carrier throughout the duration of the Scenic Tour.
  • If you are unsure of the cave tours, the monument also provides a Junior Ranger and Pee Wee Ranger Program for kids of all ages, along with patio talks and ranger-guided surface hikes during the summer months.

What NOT to Bring

  • Backpacks, purses, handbags, diaper bags, weapons, hiking sticks, and walking poles are not allowed inside Jewel Cave. For your safety, as well as the protection of the cave resources, these items need to be left in the security of a personal vehicle.
  • Food, gum, candy, drinks, tobacco products, monopods, tripods, Go-Pro sticks, large flashlights, and pets are not allowed inside Jewel Cave. These items need to be left in the security of a personal vehicle.

Last updated: March 29, 2021

Contact the Park

Mailing Address:

11149 U.S. Hwy. 16
Building B12

Custer, SD 57730

Phone:

(605) 673-8300
The main phone line connects visitors with staff at the visitor center. Throughout the year, the phone line is monitored by staff on a daily basis, excluding holidays and days with limited visitor services. Please be advised that after-hours messages are not taken on the system; visitors are encouraged to call the visitor center during normal operations and speak with a park ranger for assistance.

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