Historic Lantern Tour

A family enjoys the Historic Lantern Tour route in Jewel Cave.  This tour is offered only during the summer months.
A family enjoys the Historic Lantern Tour route in Jewel Cave. This tour is offered only during the summer months.

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Historic Lantern Tours will start back up during the 2024 summer season. Advance reservations are available on recreation.gov and are highly recommended. Availability of walk-up tickets is not guaranteed. The booking window closes at noon the day before, and can potentially close earlier if the tour sells out. All cave access is by guided tour only.

The Historic Lantern Tour is an adventurous tour into Jewel Cave.

Step back in to the past on the Historic Lantern Tour where your Park Ranger is dressed in a 1930s-style uniform. This adventure gives you a sense of what it was like to tour the cave in earlier days. Visitors enter and leave the cave through the historic entrance using an unpaved trail. The only light is provided by a lantern most tour participants carry. This tour is considered strenuous and lasts about 1 hour and 45 minutes.

The tour route is approximately 1/2 mile long through low, narrow passages, and includes roughly 500 steep wooden steps (ladder-like stairs). Some of the stairs require participants to go down backwards. This tour requires some bending, stooping, and duck walking along an unpaved, rocky trail. There is an age requirement, which is strictly enforced for safety reasons, youth must be 8 years old or older.

Each Historic Lantern Tour allows for a maximum of 15 participants. This tour is offered during the second full week of June through Labor Day Monday in September. A majority of the tour tickets are sold in advance on recreation.gov. If you purchase tickets from
recreation.gov for this tour, please check in at the Historic Area. If staffing is available additional tour tickets are sold on a first come, first served basis on the day of the tour (same day tickets) at the ticket kiosk near the visitor center parking lot. These need to be purchased at least 30 minutes before tour time. Participants must be at the Historic Area, which is one mile west of the visitor center, at least 15 minutes before the tour time and prepared for the cave tour.

Preparing for a Historic Lantern Tour

  • Wear tennis shoes, sneakers, or hiking boots to participate in a cave tour. No hiking sandals with openings or any type of shoes with any openings (other than the one your foot goes into) are acceptable. If questionable, park rangers may ask that you change your footwear before taking part in the tour. If the visitor does not have appropriate footwear, they will be denied access to the cave tour.
  • Wear long pants and a light jacket or sweater. The cave temperature is 49°F or 9°C. Wear appropriate clothing to spend an hour and twenty minutes in the cool temperatures.
  • Persons who have heart or respiratory conditions, foot or lower joint problems, have recently been hospitalized or have claustrophobia should talk with a park ranger before selecting this tour. All tour participants must be able to navigate the stairs unassisted.
  • Due to the rugged nature of the cave and for personal safety, please leave large cameras, all bags, and other items secured in your vehicle. Cameras must fit in your pocket.
  • All participants are required to walk through a decontamination tray to prevent the spread of white-nose syndrome (WNS), which is a fungal disease that impacts bats. All shoes, clothes, or gear worn in Jewel Cave may not be allowed in any other caves or mines. This includes private caves and mines within South Dakota and around the world. Furthermore, clothing and footwear used in Jewel Cave will NOT be allowed on the Candlelight Tour or the Wild Cave Tour at nearby Wind Cave National Park.
  • There is limited parking at The Historic Area. Maximum vehicle length in this lot is 20 feet.

Last updated: April 9, 2024

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Contact Info

Mailing Address:

11149 U.S. Hwy. 16
Building B12

Custer, SD 57730


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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