Thing to Do

Visit Wind Cave's Natural Entrance

a small hole in a stone depression next to a large sign and short rock wall
Wind Cave's natural entrance is a deeply spiritual place to many people.

NPS Photo / Lennie Ramacher

Despite its length and complexity, Wind Cave has very few natural entrances. The largest and most well-known naturally formed entrance is only about ten inches wide. Visitors can still view this entrance without going on a tour. This is a very spiritual place to many different native people and is considered the birthplace of the Lakota nation.
Details
Pets are prohibited in the visitor center unless they are a certified service animal. Emotional support animals are not service animals and are not allowed in the visitor center.

Leashed pets are allowed on the trail between the picnic area and the natural entrance.
Entrance fees may apply, see Fees & Passes information.
The natural entrance can be viewed all day via the trail from the picnic area even when the visitor center is closed. During normal business hours, tour groups may be gathered at the natural entrance.
Accessibility Information
The natural entrance is able to be viewed by those using wheelchairs. During business hours, it can be accessed via a ramp and paved sidewalk leaving from the visitor center. The natural entrance is approximately 225 yards from the building.

After hours, the natural entrance can also be viewed 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 National Park

How to Get There


During normal business hours, the natural entrance can be reached by starting in the visitor center. Exit the doors on the lower level of the building at the bottom of the central staircase. A sidewalk leads past the trail shelter for about 225 yards. The natural entrance is behind a small stone wall where the sidewalk ends. Tour groups may be gathered at the natural entrance during business hours.

After hours the natural entrance can be reached from the picnic area 1/4 mile north of the visitor center. Follow the gravel path from the picnic area toward the visitor center. The natural entrance is approximately 150 yards from the picnic area where the gravel meets the sidewalk on the right side of the trail.
an illustration of five bison symbolically emerging from a small hole in the ground onto the prairie dotted with a few pine trees
Oniya Oshoka is one of Wind Cave's names.

NPS Illustration

The Place of Emergence


Wind Cave is a deeply spiritual place to many people. At least 20 different native nations have ties to this amazing place. Lakota oral tradition speaks of a passageway to the spirit lodge where the earth "breathes inside," Oniya Oshoka. In modern Lakota, this place is called Maka Oniye or "breathing earth." It is said that long ago, the first humans and bison emerged from the spirit lodge deep below the earth from this entrance. A version of this story is retold by Ranger Sina Bear Eagle.

Today, many tribes still utilize the park for traditional ceremonies. Visitors may observe prayer cloths and prayer bundles attached to trees around the natural entrance. As with any church or place of worship, these items represent a tangible connection which native peoples still maintain with this area. Please avoid touching, disturbing, or photographing these cloths.
a ranger holding yellow flagging tape in front of a small hole in the rocks, the tape is blowing toward the ranger
A ranger demonstrating the wind at the beginning of a cave tour.

NPS Photo / Lauren Reid

Where the Wind Blows


When visiting Wind Cave's natural entrance, you may be able to feel the wind that gives the cave its name. Can you feel the wind? Is it blowing into your face or into the cave? Is there any wind at all? Some days it is even possible to hear the wind as it rushes through the natural entrance.

This wind is caused by a difference in barometric pressure between the cave and the outside air as high pressure air moves into areas of lower pressure. If a storm is approaching the park, the wind may be blowing out very quickly. On the other hand, wind blowing into the cave may signal nice weather. The speed and direction of the wind through the natural entrance changes throughout the day. If you have time, consider visiting the natural entrance again later in the day to see if the wind has changed directions.

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    Last updated: June 5, 2021