Scenic Tour

View of colorful and irregular cave walls from the Torture Room along the Scenic Tour route.  The Scenic Tour is the most popular ranger-guided tour of Jewel Cave.
The Scenic Tour route is the most popular ranger-guided tour of Jewel Cave.

NPS Photo - Eric Dodd

The Scenic Tour is the most popular tour of Jewel Cave.

The Scenic Tour route provides an opportunity to visit various cave chambers and passages decorated with calcite crystals and other speleothems. This tour is considered a modern day walking tour along a paved trail with electric lighting. The tour enters and leaves the cave by elevator in the Visitor Center. The Scenic Tour is moderately strenuous and lasts 1 hour and 20 minutes.

The tour route involves walking up and down 734 stair steps along a 1/2 mile loop, (equivalent to 40 flights of stairs). During the Scenic Tour, you will see two types of calcite crystals known as nailhead spar and dogtooth spar, which are the "jewels" of Jewel Cave. In addition, you can view boxwork, cave popcorn, flowstone, stalactites, stalagmites, draperies, and a long ribbon drapery called the cave bacon. With each visit, you will learn more about the cave formations, discovery and continuous exploration.

Preparing for a Scenic Tour

  • 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 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, have a fear of heights or elevators should talk with a park ranger before selecting this tour. All tour participants must be able to navigate the 723 stair steps along the tour route unassisted.
  • It is recommended to take younger children on the Discovery Talk. Infants and toddlers can be carried in a front-carrier only and the child must remain in the carrier throughout the duration of the Scenic Tour. Parents are not allowed to carry a child of any age on this tour without a front-carrier.
  • 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. 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. The reason for this is because Jewel Cave has been identified as a WNS-positive site.

Last updated: August 21, 2020

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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