THING TO DO

Guided Cave Tours

Ranger leading people down stairs during cave tour.
Park Ranger leads a group of visitors down stairs during a cave tour at Jewel Cave.

NPS Staff Photo

Due to an elevator repair project, all advanced reservations for the Scenic Tours are suspended until further notice. A Modified Discovery Tour is currently being offered on a first come, first served basis. More information can be found at Guided Tours. All cave access is by guided tour only.

Exploring the underground wonder of Jewel Cave is only possible on a guided cave tour. There are four tour options available. Be sure to read the details of each and choose the one that best fits your interests and group abilities. There are shoe or bag limitations on each tour, be prepared before you arrive.

Jewel Cave National Monument offers advanced ticket sales for a limited number of cave tours. Advanced sales are only available for the Scenic Tour and are offered for the scheduled times on the hour, such as 10 a.m., 11 a.m., etc. Please be advised that tour times change throughout the year due to visitation and available staffing.

Visitors can purchase Scenic Tour tickets 72 hours ahead of their expected arrival date and up to 90 days in advance through Recreation.gov. Ticket prices are the same for reservations or first come first serve tickets purchased on-site. However, all financial transactions with reservations are administered by Recreation.gov.
Details
Each guided tour presents different challenges. All ages are welcome on both the Scenic Tour and Discovery Tour, but please be aware that the Scenic Tour is a 1/2 mile walking tour with over 700 stairs. The Scenic Tour is a timed activity, therefore any participants must be able to navigate the stairs and keep pace with the group on their own. If this is a concern, the Discovery Tour would be perfect for your group! The Historic Lantern Tour has a minimum age of 8 years old for safety of the participants and the resource. The Wild Caving Tour has a minimum age of 16 years old for safety of the participants and the resource.
There are no entrance fees to the monument; however, there is an activity fee charged for each participant on the guided cave tours. More information can be found on our Fees & Passes page.
Jewel Cave National Monument offers advanced ticket sales for a limited number of cave tours through Recreation.gov. Advanced sales are only available for the Scenic Tour and are offered for the scheduled times on the hour. Visitors can purchase Scenic Tour tickets in advance between 72 hours and 90 days using Recreation.gov.
Due to COVID-19, all advanced reservations for the Scenic Tours are suspended until further notice. A Modified Discovery Tour is currently offered on a first come, first served basis.

Tours are offered year-round; however, tour availability changes seasonally. Please contact the Visitor Center for the most up to date schedule. 
Accessibility Information
Due to the elevator renovation project, there are no wheelchair accessible tour options at this time. As soon as the project is completed, the accessible tour will resume. 

The Discovery Tour is wheelchair accessible and service animal friendly. There are no stairs required on this tour. The smaller group size allows visitors to interact with the ranger more directly and have a more personalized experience. A wheelchair is available in the Visitor Center for visitors to use on the Discovery Talk if needed.
Metal walkway and stairs going through a cave room.
The Scenic Tour route is the most popular ranger-guided tour of Jewel Cave.

NPS Photo / Eric Dodd

Scenic Tour

This tour is moderately strenuous and lasts 1 hour and 20 minutes. The tour enters and leaves the cave by elevator in the visitor center. The tour route involves walking up and down 734 stair steps along a 1/2 mile paved trail. This tour provides an opportunity to visit chambers decorated with calcite crystals and other speleothems with electric lighting. Scenic Tours are limited to 30 people per tour. It is recommended to take children five and under on the Discovery Talk. Parents may not carry a child of any age on the Scenic Tour, except in a front carrier. Children must stay in the carrier at all times. All tour participants must be able to navigate the 723 stair steps along the tour route unassisted.

Ranger talking to three people on rock platform
The Discovery Tour is a great option for those with limited time or health concerns.

NPS Photo

Discovery Tour

This 20-minute program is a brief introduction to Jewel Cave's natural and cultural histories within one large cave room. This easy cave visit enters and exits by elevator. The Discovery Tour is limited to 20 people. We recommend this talk for families with young children, and visitors with limited time or health concerns. This program takes place in the cave's Target Room, which is accessible by wheelchair.

People with lanterns lean over a stair rail in a cave
The Historic Lantern Tour is great for those who want a bit more adventure and are okay with tight spaces. Participants carry their own lanterns throughout the tour.

NPS Photo

Lantern Tour

The Lantern Tour (summer only) is a 1930's style adventure. Visitors, carrying lanterns provided by the Monument, enter and exit the cave through the historic entrance. This tour is considered strenuous and lasts 1 hour and 45 minutes. The tour route is ~ 1/2 mile and includes steep, narrow steps (about 600). Visitors must be in good health and physical condition. The tour requires bending, stooping, duck walking, and navigation of steep wooden ladders. The Lantern Tour is limited to 20 people per tour. Children ages seven and under will not be allowed to participate on the Lantern Tour. Parents may not carry a child of any age. All tour participants must be 8 years old or older, and all participants must be able to navigate the tour route unassisted. Tennis shoes or hiking boots are required for this tour.

Caver in a tight squeeze in cave
The Wild Caving Tour is the most strenuous tour at Jewel Cave and provides an experience similar to the cave explorers!

NPS Photo

Wild Caving Tour

This 3 to 4-hour strenuous tour is designed for visitors who want the thrill of experiencing the cave in its natural state. Participants scramble over cave "breakdown," chimney between walls, climb semi-vertical rocks (rope-assisted), and belly crawl through tight passages along a 2/3 mile route. Participants must be in good health and physical condition. Participants are required to fit through a passage 8 1/2 inches high by 24 inches wide.

Participants must provide and wear specific caving clothes and boots. Tours may be cancelled due to a lack of required participants; proper caving equipment;or unforeseen incidents. Tour size is limited to a minimum of 2 visitors and a maximum of 5 visitors. Reservations are required for this tour, up to 28 days prior to the scheduled tour. Reservations are made by calling the visitor center at (605) 673-8300 and speaking with park staff. Limited tours are offered from mid-June to the end of August.

Last updated: June 20, 2021