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. For the current tour schedule go to Operating Hours and Seasons. Advance reservations are available on 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.

The Scenic Tour route provides an opportunity to visit various cave chambers and passages decorated with calcite crystals and wet formations. It begins in the "Target Room" (the room where the Discovery Tour takes place) and continues from there as 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), uneven ground, and minor slopes. 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 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 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 734 stair steps along the tour route unassisted.
  • It is recommended to take younger children on the Discovery Tour. Infants and toddlers can participate in a Scenic Tour only if carried in a front-carrier 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 through a decontamination tray to prevent the spread of white-nose syndrome (WNS), which is a fungal disease that impact 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.

Last updated: January 10, 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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