Thing to Do

Wind Cave Geology Driving Tour

a gravel road winds across the prairie with rolling forested hills in the distance
The geology driving tour allows visitors to explore the park while learning about the park's geology

NPS Photo / Callie Tominsky

The earth is constantly changing. While some geologic changes can be observed, most occur very slowly and are imperceptible during a human lifetime. Because of this, geologists use the rock record to explain the complex geologic history of our planet. Studying rock types and layers provides insight into the geologic, climatic and biologic changes that have occurred on the earth.

On this driving tour, you will examine the rock record of Wind Cave National Park. Please note that the stops are presented in the most convenient driving order, not in geologic order.

You may also pick up a printout with the stops and a geologic timeline from the visitor center.
60-90 Minutes
Self-Guided Tours - Auto
Pets are not allowed in the backcountry, however, leashed pets are allowed in parking areas and on established roads.

Do not leave pets unattended in your vehicle.
Entrance fees may apply, see Fees & Passes information.
Periods of heavy snowfall may cause park roads to close temporarily in the winter. Winter maintenence is not performed on the gravel backcountry roads NPS 5 and 6.
Time of Day
Day, Dawn, Dusk
Accessibility Information
Visitors using wheelchairs can view Wind Cave's natural entrance. During business hours, access is available via a ramp and paved sidewalk leaving from the visitor center. The natural entrance is approximately 225 yards from the building. After hours, visitors can view the natural entrance via a wide gravel path with a fairly level grade at the picnic area. The natural entrance is approximately 150 yards from the picnic area.

Wind Cave Canyon Trail is a gravel service road with uneven terrain and occasionally steep grade that may be difficult for those using wheelchairs. This road is not accessible by vehicle, however, some of the canyon's geology can be seen by parking at the trailhead.

NPS 5 is a gravel road with rugged, loose terrain and several gravel pullouts. This terrain may be difficult for those using wheelchairs. 

Wind Cave National Park

a fan shaped shell fossil in stone surrounded by others like it
Fossils from ancient sea creatures such as this brachiopod speak of the rich geologic history of the Black Hills.

NPS Photo

During the Paleozoic Era, this area was a basin covered by a shallow sea that, over millions of years, deposited a thick blanket of sediments over the Precambrian igneous and metamorphic rocks. Then, about 70 million years ago, the earth's crust began to uplift into a dome. This uplift may have occurred when tectonic plates collided, forming the Rocky Mountains. As the force of the colliding plates increased, the Eastern plate rippled and formed the dome shaped Black Hills. Erosion eventually carried away many sediments in the central area of the hills, exposing the Precambrian rocks. Many of these stages of development can be readily seen in the park.

This 20 mile driving tour begins at the visitor center and takes you along the western and northern sides of the park, ending at a scenic viewpoint on gravel road NPS 5. Backcountry roads NPS 5 and 6 are are generally well-maintained and suitable for most passenger cars and trucks. However, winter maintenance is not performed on these gravel roads, and periods of heavy snowfall may temporarily close some park roads. Two of the stops require some walking with little change in elevation. There are no facilities that sell gas in the park. Be sure you have plenty of gas to complete the tour before starting.

Geology Driving Tour Stops

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    Last updated: July 19, 2023