Wind Cave Regulations

Prairie in the springtime with green grasses and rolling hills.

NPS Photo / Lori Hynes

Superintendent's signature on file
Header showing the electronic signature of Superintendent Leigh Welling on 08/04/2022.


Wind Cave National Park rules and regulations are all listed in the Superintendent's Compendium which can be found on this page below.

The Superintendent’s Compendium is the summary of park specific rules implemented under 36 Code of Federal Regulations (36 CFR). It serves as public notice, identifies areas closed for public use, provides a list of activities requiring either a special use permit or reservation, and elaborates on public use and resource protection regulations pertaining specifically to the administration of the Wind Cave National Park.

For further questions please contact the park, 605-745-4600.

Approved by: Leigh Welling, Superintendent

Recommended by: Jennifer Jackson, Chief Ranger

National Park Service U.S. Department of the Interior Superintendent’s Compendium Of Designations, Closures, Permit Requirements and Other Restrictions Imposed Under Discretionary Authority. Wind Cave National Park 26611 US Hwy 385 Hot Springs, SD. 57747 605-745-1151 phone 605-745-4207 fax

Table of Contents Navigation



A. Introduction

1. Superintendent’s Compendium Described
The Superintendent’s Compendium is the summary of park specific rules implemented under 36 Code of Federal Regulations (36 CFR). It serves as public notice, identifies areas closed for public use, provides a list of activities requiring either a special use permit or reservation, and elaborates on public use and resource protection regulations pertaining specifically to the administration of the park. The Superintendent’s Compendium does not repeat regulations found in 36 CFR and other United States Code and CFR Titles, which are enforced without further elaboration at the park level.The regulations contained in 36 CFR, Parts 1-7, are the basic mechanism used by the National Park Service (NPS) to preserve and protect the natural and cultural resources of the park and to protect visitors and property within the park. Parts 1 through 6 are general regulations applicable to all areas of the National Park System, and Part 7 contains special regulations specific to individual parks. Each of these Parts has many sections and subsections articulating specific provisions. Within some of these Part 1-7 sections and subsections, the Superintendent is granted discretionary authority to develop local rules to be responsive to the needs of a specific park resource or activity, park plan, program, and/or special needs of the general public.As an example, 36 CFR 1.5(a) Closures and Public Use Limits provides the Superintendent certain discretion in allowing or disallowing certain activities. The authority granted by the Section, however, requires the Superintendent to comply with the Administrative Procedures Act (6 USC Section 551), which requires public notice on actions with major impact on visitor use patterns, park resources or those that are highly controversial in nature.Another example is 36 CFR 1.6 Permits, which allows the Superintendent to require a permit for certain uses and activities in the park. This Section, however, requires that a list of activities needing a permit (and a fee schedule for the various types of permits) be maintained by the park.A final example is 36 CFR 2.1(c) (1) Preservation of Natural, Cultural and Archeological Resources, which provides the Superintendent the authority to designate certain fruits, nuts, berries, or unoccupied seashells which may be gathered by hand for personal use or consumption. This activity can occur, however, only if a written determination shows that the allowed activity does not adversely affect park wildlife, the reproductive potential of a plant species, or otherwise adversely affect park resources.This Compendium should be used in conjunction with Title 36 CFR, Parts 1-7, to more fully understand the regulations governing the use and enjoyment of all the areas of the National Park System.
A copy of Title 36, CFR, can be purchased from the U.S. Government Printing Office at:
Superintendent of DocumentsP.O. Box 371954Pittsburgh, PA 15250-7954
The CFR is also available on the Internet at:

2. Laws and Policies Allowing the Superintendent to Develop This CompendiumThe National Park Service (NPS) is granted broad statutory authority under Title 54 United States Code (U.S.C.) §100101(a) (formerly 16 U.S.C. 1a-1, “Organic Act”) to “….regulate the use of the National Park System by means and measures that conform to the fundamental purpose of the System units, which purpose is to conserve the scenery, natural and historic objects, and wild life in the System units and to provide for the enjoyment of the scenery, natural and historic objects, and wildlife in such manner and by such means as will leave them unimpaired for the enjoyment of future generations.” In addition, Title 54 U.S.C. §100751(a) allows the NPS, through the Secretary of the Interior, to “prescribe such regulations as the Secretary considers necessary or proper for the use and management of System units.”In 1970, Congress amended the NPS Organic Act to clarify its intentions as to the overall mission of the NPS. Through the General Authorities Act of 1970, Congress brought all areas administered by the NPS into one National Park System and directed the NPS to manage all areas under its administration consistent with the Organic Act of 1916.In 1978, Congress amended the General Authorities Act of 1970 and reasserted System-wide the high standard of protection defined in the original Organic Act by stating “Congress further reaffirms, declares, and directs that the promotion and regulation of the various areas of the National Park System, as defined by Section 1 of this Title, shall be consistent with and founded in the purpose established by Section 1 of this Title, to the common benefit of all people of the United States.”In addition to the above statutory authority, the Superintendent is guided by established NPS policy as found in the NPS Management Policies (2006). The Superintendent is also guided by more specific policies promulgated by the Director, National Park Service, in the form of Director’s Orders. As stated in the Management Policies, the primary responsibility of the NPS is to protect and preserve our national natural and cultural resources while providing for the enjoyment of these resources by visitor and other users, as long as use does not impair specific park resources or overall visitor experience. The appropriateness of any particular visitor use or recreational experience is resource-based and will vary from park to park; therefore, a use or activity that is appropriate in one park area may not be appropriate in another. The Superintendent is directed to analyze overall park use and determine if any particular use is appropriate. Where conflict arises between use and resource protection, where the Superintendent has a reasonable basis to believe a resource is or would become impaired, then that Superintendent is obliged to place limitations on public use.
3. Consistency of This Compendium with Applicable Federal Law and Requirements
The Superintendent’s Compendium is not considered a significant rule requiring review by the Office of Management and Budget under Executive Order 12866. In addition, this Compendium will not have a significant economic effect on a number of small entities nor impose a significant cost on any local, state, or tribal government or private organization, and therefore does not fall under the requirements of either the Regulatory Flexibility Act or the Unfunded Mandates Reform Act.The actions and requirements described in this Compendium are found to be categorically excluded from further compliance with the procedural requirements of the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) in Department of the Interior (DOI) Guidelines 516 DM 6 and as such, an Environmental Assessment will not be prepared.
4. Development of the Requirements of the Superintendent’s Compendium
As outlined above, the NPS has broad authority and responsibility to determine what types of uses and activities are appropriate in any particular National Park System area. The requirements of the Superintendent’s Compendium are developed through an analysis and determination process. The decision criteria used during this process are:
  • Is the use or activity consistent with the NPS Organic Act and NPS policy?
  • Is the use or activity consistent and compatible with the park’s enabling legislation, management objectives, and corresponding management plans?
  • Will the use or activity damage the park’s protected natural and cultural resources and other protected values?
  • Will the use or activity disturb or be in conflict with wildlife, vegetation, and environmental protection actions and values?
  • Will the use or activity conflict with or be incompatible with traditional park uses and activities?
  • Will the use or activity compromise employee or public safety?
5. Applicability of the CompendiumThe rules contained in this Compendium apply to all persons entering, using, visiting or otherwise present on Federally owned lands, including submerged lands, and waters administered by the NPS within the legislative boundaries of the park. This includes all waters subject to the jurisdiction of the United States, including all navigable waters.
6. Enforcement of Compendium Requirements
NPS Law Enforcement Park Rangers enforce the requirements of the United State Code, 36 CFR, and this Superintendent’s Compendium.
7. Penalties for Not Adhering to the Compendium Requirements
A person who violates any provision of the regulations found in 36 CFR, Parts 1-7, or provisions of this Compendium, is subject to a fine as provided by law (18 U.S.C. 3571) up to $5,000 for individuals and $10,000 for organizations, or by imprisonment not exceeding six months (18 U.S.C. 3559), or both, and shall be adjudged to pay all court costs associated with any court proceedings. You may receive a list of fines associated with any particular provision by contacting the Chief Ranger at the park address found below.
8. Comments on the Compendium
The Compendium is reviewed annually and revised as necessary. The park welcomes comments about its program and activities at any time.Written comments on the Compendium may be submitted to:
Leigh Welling, Superintendent26611 US Hwy 385, Hot Springs, SD. 577479. Effective Date of the Superintendent Compendium

The Superintendent’s Compendium is effective on the approval date listed on the first page of this document and remains in effect until revised for a period up to one year.
10. Additional Information
Some of the terms used in this Compendium may have specific meaning defined in 36 CFR 1.4 Definitions.
11. Availability
Copies of the Compendium are available at 26611 US Hwy 385, Hot Springs, SD. 57747. It may also be found at


In accordance with regulations and the delegated authority provided in Title 36, Code of Federal Regulations (“36 CFR”), Chapter 1, Parts 1-7, authorized by Title 54 U.S.C. §100751, the following provisions apply to all lands and waters administered by the National Park Service, within the boundaries of Wind Cave National Park. Unless otherwise stated, these regulatory provisions apply in addition to the requirements contained in 36 CFR, Chapter 1, Parts 1-7.Written determinations, which explain the reasoning behind the Superintendent’s use of discretionary authority, as required by Section 1.5(c), appear in this document identified by italicized print.

36 CFR §1.5 -Visiting Hours, Public Use Limits, Closures, and Area Designations for Specific Use or Activities

(a)(1) Visiting hours and public use limits for portions of the park

The following visiting hours and public use limits are established for all or for the listed portions of the park, and the following closures are established for all or a portion of the park to all public use or to a certain use or activity:

Visiting Hours:Visitor Center Summer 8:00 am – 7:00 pm (subject to change due to staffing) Winter 8:00 am – 4:30 pm (subject to change due to staffing)
Visitor Center Closed Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year’s Day Picnic area Open ½ hour before sunrise, Closed ½ hour after sunset

Public Use Limits:Minimum Age Limitations
  • All Cave Areas: Persons under the age of 12 are prohibited from entering any cave except when accompanied by, and under the direct supervision of, a responsible adult 18 years of age or older.
  • Wild Cave Tour: Minimum age – 16 years
  • Candlelight Tour: Minimum age – 8 years
Determination: Due to their complexity, the Wild Cave and Candlelight Tours require a higher level of skill and attention to direction. The routes are slippery with uneven surfaces and the Candlelight Tour is navigated by candlelight
Filming Activities:The following types of filming activities may occur in areas open to the public without a permit and without advance notice to the NPS:
  • Outdoor filming activities [outside of areas managed as wilderness] involving five persons or less and equipment that will be carried at all times, except for small tripods used to hold cameras.
The organizer of any filming activity other than those described above must provide written notice to the Superintendent at least 10 days prior to the start of the proposed activity. The park will respond within the 10-day period and, based upon the information provided, the Superintendent may require the organizer to apply for and obtain a permit if necessary to:
  • maintain public health and safety;
  • protect environmental or scenic values;
  • protect natural or cultural resources;
  • allow for equitable allocation and use of facilities; or
  • avoid conflict among visitor use activities.
If the Superintendent determines that the terms and conditions of a permit could not mitigate the concerns identified above in an acceptable manner, the Superintendent may deny a filming request without issuing a permit. The Superintendent will provide the basis for denial in writing upon request.The NPS will consider requests and process permit applications in a timely manner. Full processing times will vary depending on the complexity of the proposed activity, so organizers are encouraged to submit their request well in advance of the proposed activities. If the organizer provides the required 10-day advance notice to the NPS and has not received a written response from the NPS that a permit is required prior to the first day of production, the proposed filming activities may occur without a permit.
The following are prohibited:
  • Engaging in a filming activity without providing advance notice to the Superintendent when required.
  • Engaging in a filming activity without a permit if the activity takes place in areas managed as wilderness or if the Superintendent has notified the organizer in writing that a permit is required.
  • Violating a term and condition of a permit issued under this action.
  • Violating a term or condition of a permit issued under this action may also result in the suspension and revocation of the permit by the Superintendent.
Determination: Filming activities that involve more than five people and hand carried equipment need to be evaluated to determine if the proposed activity may cause issues with public safety, environment or scenic values, damage to natural or cultural resources, conflict with other visitors and equitable use and access to park areas.
Closures:All service and administrative roads are closed to non-authorized vehicle and bicycle use except when authorized by the superintendent. Service and administrative roads shall be designated with signs or gates.These roads include: Mixing Circle Road, Lower Housing Loop, Upper Housing Loop, Reservoir Access Road, Wind Cave Canyon Road, and Bison Corral Road.All caves within Wind Cave National Park are closed to public use, except by authorized permit.
The following areas are closed to the public:
  • The Wind Cave National Park firearms range. The Superintendent may grant permission for use of the range to other authorized agents/agencies in accordance with the park’s Firearms Range Standard Operating Procedure.
  • The Wind Cave National Park sewage lagoons and treatment areas
  • The Wind Cave National Park bison corrals and buildings
  • The Rankin Ridge Fire Tower
Determination: Limited public vehicle access on park service and administrative roads provide for public safety, protect natural and cultural resources, protect park equipment, and provide privacy for park residents. Cave closures protect sensitive cave resources and provide for public safety.

On September 22, 2011, Wind Cave National Park received an addition of land of 5556 acres bordering the southern boundary of the park. This land is known as the Casey addition. This land is open to foot traffic only and access is limited to the pedestrian gate located at 26846 US Highway 385, Hot Springs, SD.

Determination: The land is closed to uses other than foot traffic due to the need for surveying fence lines and to survey for objective safety hazards. The park needs to complete ongoing public scoping before a temporary limited opening occurs.
Unmanned Aircraft:
  • Launching, landing, or operating an unmanned aircraft from or on lands and waters administered by the National Park Service within the boundaries of Wind Cave National Park is prohibited except as approved in writing by the Superintendent.
Definition: Unmanned Aircraft (UA) - The term "unmanned aircraft" means a device that is used or intended to be used for flight in the air without the possibility of direct human intervention from within or on the device, and the associated operational elements and components that are required for the pilot or system operator in command to operate or control the device (such as cameras, sensors, communication links). This term includes all types of devices that meet this definition (e.g., model airplanes, quadcopters, and drones) that are used for any purpose, including for recreation or commerce.Determination: The Superintendent has determined that unmanaged or unrestricted recreational use of UAs within Wind Cave National Park will conflict with, or impact, a variety of park uses including visitor experience and wildlife.
(a)(2) Areas designated for a specific use or activity
The following areas have been designated for a specific use or activity, under the conditions and/or restrictions as noted:
Cave Tours
Mobility Assistance Devices
  • Strollers: Strollers, baby carriages, and similar devices are prohibited in all caves except as necessary for children with mobility issues, they are allowed on an accessibility tour.
  • Segway: Segway and similar large mobility devices are prohibited in Wind Cave.
  • Wheelchairs / Rollator Walkers (Four-wheeled walkers with resting seat): Wheelchairs and similar devices are prohibited in Wind Cave except for accessibility tours.
  • Walking Sticks: The possession and/or use of a walking stick within the cave is prohibited, except for those individuals with limited mobility. Visitors with walking sticks must only use them on the paved trail and are required to have a rubber or soft tip.
Food Consumption
  • The possession or consumption of food (including gum, candy, tobacco products) or drink is prohibited in any cave unless authorized in cave special use or research permits.
  • Persons with medical conditions requiring them to consume food and drink while they’re in the cave are permitted.
  • Infants under 12 months may nurse or consume formula.
  • Cave survey and restoration projects may involve extensive travel and/or multiple day expeditions and food use will be permitted for the health and safety of cave workers in specific permitted instances.
Backpacks, bags, and purses
  • Backpacks, backpack child carriers, bags and purses are prohibited within all caves in Wind Cave National Park. This excludes cave packs used for surveying and exploration under park permitted research.
Tripods, Bi-pods, Monopods and Selfie-Sticks
  • Use of these devices is prohibited within all caves in Wind Cave National Park.
  • Hard soled footwear is required while travelling within all caves in Wind Cave National Park.
Disposal of Human Waste
  • Disposal of human waste (urine/feces/vomit) is prohibited in all caves
Touching of Cave Surfaces
  • Touching of cave surfaces is prohibited within all caves in Wind Cave National Park.

Determination: The cave environment consists of narrow passages, low and variable ceiling heights, stairs, steep inclines, and wet and uneven surfaces. These conditions for cave tours are necessary to protect visitors from injury and to protect fragile cave resources from inadvertent damage.

Bus idling
  • Bus idling is prohibited in all areas of the park except during the loading and unloading of passengers.
Determination: The idling of bus engines adds unnecessary exhaust fumes to the air and diminishes the enjoyment by visitors of the peace and tranquility of the park.
Flying Kites and Remote Model Airplanes
  • Flying kites and remote model airplanes is prohibited in the park
Determination: Based on park management documents and founding legislation, the use of kites and model airplanes would intrude on the visual and soundscapes of the park.
Wildlife-Human Interactions
To protect visitors and park wildlife, the following are prohibited:
  • Willfully approaching, remaining, viewing, or engaging in any activity:
  • Within 25 yards of any wildlife unless when completely inside a legally positioned motor vehicle.
  • Within any distance that displaces or interferes with the free and unimpeded movement of any wildlife.
  • Within any distance that creates or contributes to a potentially hazardous condition or situation.
  • Failing to remove oneself to prescribed distances during inadvertent, accidental or surprise encounters with wildlife.
Determination: Animals inside Wind Cave are managed in a wild setting and their behavior is unpredictable. Approaching any wildlife can be stressful to the animals and dangerous to humans. The NPS has documented numerous cases of both bison and elk encounters resulting in serious injuries when visitors approach elk or bison within 25 yards.
Backcountry Trails
  • Backcountry trails may be temporarily closed when trail conditions are such that use may be hazardous to the visiting public (e.g., rockslides, flooding, fire).
  • Other portions of Wind Cave National Park are subject to closure or restriction of public activities if the Superintendent or their designated representative determines that such closure or restriction is necessary to avoid risk to public safety or damage to the natural, cultural, scenic, or aesthetic resources of the park.
  • Visitors shall be advised of closures by the posting of signs at trailheads, trail junctions, or other appropriate locations.
  • Such closures will be lifted upon mitigation of the safety issues.
Determination: Temporary closures may be needed to protect human life and address safety issues.Climbing, Slacklining, Rappelling, Bungee Jumping, Hang-gliding, Para-gliding and Other Similar ActivitiesClimbing, slacklining, rappelling, bungee jumping, hang gliding, para-gliding and other similar activities are prohibited from all park bridges and structures. The Superintendent may waive restrictions for maintenance or construction needs.
  • No permanent climbing hardware may be installed in any location. Temporary climbing hardware is prohibited from being installed in any living or dead trees.
  • Trees used as anchors must be padded to minimize damage to the trees.
  • Fixed ropes and software (webbing, accessory cord, etc.) may not be left in place. Fixed ropes and/or software left in place shall be considered “abandoned property” and removed.
  • The physical altering of rock faces, such as chiseling new holds, is prohibited.
  • The intentional removal of lichen or plants from rock is prohibited.
  • Chalk used for climbing must be of a color that blends in with the native rock.
  • Glue, epoxy, cement, or any other adhesive may not be used to attach or reinforce hand/or footholds for climbing or scrambling.
Slacklines are permitted under the following conditions:
  • It meets the above conditions found under climbing, slacklining, rappelling, bungee jumping, hand-gliding, para-gliding and other similar activities.
  • It does not create a hazardous condition or interfere with the orderly management of the park
  • It does not cross a road or trail
Determination: The structures listed above are critical to park functions and several are historic in nature or are important to the cultural landscape themes of the park and therefore have been deemed inappropriate for the recreational uses listed above. Climbing regulations ensure protection of resources, provides for quiet and tranquil visits for all visitors and enhances aesthetic appearance of all resources. The intent of these prohibitions is to discourage the permanent placement of pre-manufactured holds or the creation of fresh rock scars whose presence would degrade the natural scene, and to prevent the destruction of micro-environment that may harbor or support sensitive and unique life forms or communities. Fixed or tension lines can present a significant hazard to other visitors and negatively impact the scenic value of the park.
Quiet Hours
  • Quiet hours for the administrative areas of the park (Visitor Center, Maintenance, Upper and Lower Housing) is 11:00 p.m. to 6:00 a.m. The Superintendent may lift the restrictions during times of emergency operations or required maintenance.
Determination: Quiet hours have been established in these areas to help preserve peace/ tranquility for the park residents that reside or are required to reside in or near the park administrative areas.
Wildlife Protection
  • Lawfully taken wildlife from outside the park may not be possessed while visiting or camping in the park
Determination: Wildlife carcasses while camping and/or stopping and visiting the park detract from the aesthetic appearance of all resources.

36 CFR §1.5 (a)(2) The following areas have been designated for a specific use or activity, under the conditions and/or restrictions as noted:
When the COVID-19 Community Level is LOW or MEDIUM in the county or all the counties where the park is located based on data provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), individuals are not required to wear masks.

When the COVID-19 Community Level is HIGH in the county or all the counties where the park is located based on data provided by the CDC, all individuals over the age of two must wear masks, regardless of vaccination status, in all common areas and shared workspaces in buildings owned, leased, or otherwise controlled by the National Park Service, including, but not limited to, park visitor centers, administrative offices, lodges, gift shops and restaurants.

When the COVID-19 Community Level is HIGH in one or more, but not all, of the counties where the park is located based on data provided by the CDC, the superintendent will determine whether individuals are required to wear masks. The requirement, if any, will apply to all facilities within the park.

Masks must cover the nose and mouth and fit snugly around the nose and chin with no large gaps around the sides of the face. Masks not designed to be protective, masks with ventilation valves, and face shields do not meet the requirement.

Regardless of the COVID-19 Community Level, individuals may wear masks if they choose to do so. Where a state, local, tribal, or territorial government where the park is located imposes more protective mask-wearing requirements than those indicated by the COVID-19 Community Level, individuals must follow those more protective requirements within the park. More protective state, local, tribal, or territorial mask-wearing requirements are hereby adopted as federal requirements in all units of the National Park System located within that state, locality, area subject to a federally recognized Indian tribe’s regulatory jurisdiction, or territory, regardless of a particular park’s jurisdictional status.

Additionally, all individuals must wear masks in or on public transportation conveyances and transportation hubs/facilities, to the extent required by current orders or directives issued by the CDC, the Transportation Security Administration (TSA), or other federal agencies with jurisdiction over those conveyances or areas. As of March 4, 2022, CDC and TSA orders or directives require all individuals regardless of vaccination status to wear masks in indoor areas of all forms of public transportation conveyances, including busses, trains, and boats/ferries, and in the indoor premises of transportation hubs/facilities. Individuals are not required to wear masks while outdoors on conveyances or while outdoors on the premises of transportation hubs/facilities.


(f) The following is a compilation of those activities for which a permit from the superintendent is required: §1.5(d) The following activities related to Public Use Limits:
  • Recreational Cave Permits may be requested through the Cave Management Specialist.
§2.4(d) Carry or possess a weapon, trap, or net (excluding legal firearms)
  • When necessary to support research activities conducted in accordance with § 2.5.
  • To carry firearms for persons in charge of pack trains or saddle horses for emergency use.
  • For employees, agents, or cooperating officials in the performance of their official duties.
  • To provide access to otherwise inaccessible lands or waters contiguous to a park area when other means of access are otherwise impracticable or impossible.
§2.5(a) Specimen collection (Take plant, fish, wildlife, rocks, or minerals)
  • Research specimens and data as determined by the Superintendent
§2.10(a) The following camping activities:
  • Permits for backcountry camping are required and may be issued to persons 18 years of age or older at the Wind Cave National Park Visitor’s Center.
§2.17 Aircraft & Air Delivery:(c)(1) Removal of a downed aircraftArrangements for the removal of downed aircraft will be made pursuant with the recommendations of the National Transportation Safety Board or Federal Aviation Administration investigators or designated personnel.
§2.23(b) The following special recreation activities (per 36 CFR Part 71):
  • Wind Cave Tours
  • Elk Mountain Campground Camping
§2.37 Soliciting or demanding gifts, money goods or services Soliciting or demanding gifts, money, goods, or services is prohibited except pursuant to the terms and conditions of a permit issued under §2.50 (Special Events), §2.51 (Demonstrations) or §2.52 (Distribution of printed matter).
§2.50(a) Special EventsSporting events, pageants, regattas, public spectator attractions, entertainment, ceremonies, and similar events are allowed, provided:
  • There is a meaningful association between the park area and the event
  • The observance contributes to visitor understanding of the significance of the park area
  • A permit has been issued by the superintendent.
§2.51(a) Public assemblies, meetings, gatherings, demonstrations, parades, and other public expressions of views (a) Demonstrations includes picketing, speechmaking, marching, holding vigils or religious services and all other like forms of conduct that involve the communication or expression of views or grievances, engaged in by one or more persons, the conduct of which is reasonably likely to attract a crowd or onlookers.(b)(1) Demonstrations involving 25 persons or less do not require a permit unless:
  • The event presents a clear and present danger to public health and safety
  • The event takes place outside a designated area
  • Structures, stages, platforms, sound systems are used
  • The event unreasonably interferes with other permitted demonstrations and special events, or park program activities
(c)(2) All demonstrations will be held in designated areas. For a list/map of those locations see attached Map B.
§2.52(c) Sale or distribution of printed matter and other message-bearing items.Printed matter is message-bearing material such as books, pamphlets, magazines, and leaflets, provided that it is not solely commercial advertising. Other message-bearing items include: Readable electronic media such as CDs, DVDs, and flash drives; clothing and accessories such as hats and key chains; buttons; pins; and bumper stickers.Sale or distribution of printed matter and the free distribution of other message bearing items without asking for or demanding payment or donation must take place in designated areas and the small group permit exception applies (see Demonstrations §2.51 (b1) and (c2)).
§2.62 Memorialization:(a) Erection of monuments (Requires approval from Director)(b) Scattering ashes from human cremation. A permit is not required under the following conditions:
  • The remains to be scattered have been cremated and pulverized.
  • The scattering of remains is performed at least 100 yards from any trail, road, developed facility, or body of water.
  • The scattering of remains from the air is performed at a minimum altitude of 2000 feet above the ground and are not released over developed areas, facilities, or bodies of water.
§5.5 Still Photography and Audio Recording:(a) Still photography activities are subject to the provisions of 43 CFR Part 5. Still photography does not require a permit unless:
  • It uses a model, set, or prop
  • It takes place where members of the public are not allowed
  • The Park would incur costs to provide onsite management to protect resources or minimize visitor use conflicts
(b) Audio recording does not require a permit unless:
  • It takes place at locations where or when members of the public are generally not allowed
  • The equipment requires mechanical transport
  • It requires an external power source
  • The activity requires monitoring
  • The activity impacts resources
Part 10 Disposal of Certain Wild Animals (Wind Cave)
§10.1 - Animals Available. From time to time there are surplus live elk, buffaloes and bears in Yellowstone National Park, and live buffaloes in Wind Cave National Park which the Secretary may, in their discretion, dispose of to Federal, State, county and municipal authorities for preserves, zoos, zoological gardens, and parks. When surplus live elk and buffaloes are available from these national parks, the Secretary may, in her discretion, dispose of these to individuals and private institutions.Determination: Allows the park to effectively manage bison and elk populations and protect natural resources.


36 CFR §2.1 - Preservation of Natural, Cultural, and Archeological Resources

(a)(4) All areas in the park are closed to wood gathering.Determination: Prohibiting the gathering of wood prevents damage to natural resources and aides in the prevention of spreading bug contaminated wood (mountain pine beetle) into the park. (b) All persons on guided cave tours must stay on established trails or designated routes.Determination: Cave tour routes are complex and to protect visitors from injury and/or getting lost; off trail travel while on a public tour is prohibited. Limiting cave travel to established tour routes protects sensitive cave resources. (c)(1), (c)(2) Gathering of fruits, berries, nuts, in small quantities (1 quart per person/per day) for non-commercial use is permitted. The collection of mushrooms and pinecones is prohibited. The following products may be collected:
  • Chokecherry - Prunus virginiana
  • Wild/American plum - Prunus americana
Determination: The above allowable quantities will not adversely affect park wildlife, the reproductive potential of the plant species, or otherwise adversely affect park resources.Note: The plant gathering regulation at 36 CFR §2.6 allows the NPS to negotiate and enter into agreements with federally recognized tribes for the gathering of plants or plant parts from an NPS unit (Park). For more information read the NPS Plant Gathering Regulation online at: and visit the NPS Plant Gathering Regulation page on the NPS website:


(d) Lawfully taken wildlife from outside the park may not be possessed while visiting or camping in the park but may be transported by motor vehicle on established public highways through the park. The Superintendent has set the following conditions for transportation:
  • Lawfully taken wildlife may be transported, on roadways, through the park without stopping
  • Lawfully taken wildlife will be transported in accordance with all South Dakota fish and game regulations
(d) The retrieval/transportation of wounded or dead wildlife from the park is prohibited.Determination: Wind Cave National Park is completely enclosed by a large elk and bison fence system. Wounded wildlife that can navigate back over the fence into the park is deemed to be a viable animal. In addition, the continued tracking, shooting, game processing and transportation of wildlife is prohibited by the CFR and would cause conflicts with visitors, damage fences and natural resources, and is not in keeping with park values. The State of South Dakota regulations also recognize the right of land managers to deny access for the retrieval of dead or wounded wildlife. (e) The following areas are closed to the viewing of wildlife with the use of an artificial light:All areas within Wind Cave National Park are closed to the viewing of wildlife with artificial light, which includes the purposeful direction of headlights, infrared lighting/beams, thermal imaging, and flash photography. The use of artificial light for special events, research, interpretive programs, and maintenance functions may be permitted by the Superintendent.

36 CFR §2.3 – FISHING

(a) Except in designated areas or as provided in this section, fishing shall be in accordance with the laws and regulations of the State within whose exterior boundaries a park area or portion thereof is located. Nonconflicting State laws are adopted as a part of these regulations.
  • Fishing is permitted in accordance with non-conflicting state law and 36 CFR in all areas otherwise open to public use.


(a) The sites and areas listed below have been designated for camping activities as noted. A permit system has been established for certain campgrounds or camping activities, and conditions for camping and camping activities are in effect as noted:
Elk Mountain Campground Permit Regulations:
  • A camping permit is required to camp at Elk Mountain Campground. (Recreation fees apply)
  • An individual may stay a maximum 14 consecutive nights, no more than 30 total nights during the calendar year.
  • Open fires and charcoal fires are prohibited unless they are in a designated fire grate
  • A maximum of two tents, 8 people and 1 vehicle is permitted on each site.
  • The group camping sites are limited to 30 people
  • Campground quiet hours are from 10 p.m. to 6 a.m.
  • The campground is closed to persons other than registered campers from 10 p.m. to 6 a.m.
  • Generators may only be used from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.
  • Checkout time is 12:00 p.m.
  • Campground Fees: See below – Section 36 CFR §2.23 for a list of park recreation fees
Determination: The above regulations protect park resources, reduce human impacts, provide for visitor safety, provide wildland fire protection, and provide for a quality camping experience. Permits provide critical data for park managers and track visitor use.
Backcountry Camping Permit Regulations:
  • A permit is required for all backcountry camping and camping is limited to designated zones, see attached Map A.
  • Minimum age for obtaining a permit is 18 years of age.
  • Group size is limited to 12 people
  • A site may only be occupied for 2 consecutive nights and an individual is limited to 7 nights per trip and no more than 30 total nights per year.
  • Campsites must be a ¼ mile from, and out of sight of, any paved or improved dirt road and all campsites must be 100 feet away from the trail, any water source or other camp.
  • No open fires
  • Human waste must be buried in a shallow hole 100 feet or more from camps, trails, and water sources. Food waste and trash must be packed out of the backcountry, burial of these items is prohibited.
  • The superintendent may authorize camping in areas other than those designated as appropriate.
(d) Conditions for the storage of food are in effect for the following areas:
  • Elk Mountain Campground
  • All Backcountry camping zones (See Map A)
Roadsides and Pullouts:
  • Overnight parking/sleeping in vehicles/camping alongside roadways, in parking lots, picnic areas, trailheads and wayside exhibit areas is prohibited.
Determination: Overnight camping or overnight parking/sleeping in vehicles along the Park’s roads creates unsafe conditions for visitors and detracts from the view shed, blocks access to park interpretive sites, creates issues with trash and human waste disposal and generally detracts from the visitor experience.


Unless closed, picnicking is permitted throughout the surface areas of Wind Cave National Park and in Elk Mountain Campground as long as there are open campsites.

36 CFR §2.13 – FIRES

(a)(1) The lighting or maintaining of fires is generally prohibited, except as provided for in the following designated areas and/or receptacles, and under the conditions noted:
Designated Areas:
  • Elk Mountain Campground
  • Visitor Center Picnic Area
Receptacles Allowed:
  • Designated fire grates
Established Conditions for Fires:
  • During South Dakota state-imposed burn bans and/or periods of high fire danger, the superintendent may temporarily ban fires, and/or stove use in the park to protect park resources and reduce the risk of wildfires.
  • Only wood or charcoal may be used
  • Fires must be at least 10 feet away from buildings, vehicles, and camping equipment
(b) Fires must be extinguished upon termination of use and according to the following conditions: If a fire creates an air pollution problem, nuisance, or fire hazard it shall be extinguished


(a)(2) The use of government refuse receptacles or facilities for dumping household, commercial or industrial refuse, brought as such from private or municipal property is allowed under the following conditions:
  • Park residents may utilize government receptacles while occupying park quarters.
  • Park employees may bring recyclable items from home if their local community does not have a recycling program.
(b) Conditions for the disposal, containerization, or carryout of human body waste have been established as follows:
  • Human waste must be containerized and removed from all caves within Wind Cave National Park.
  • In backcountry areas, human waste must be buried in a shallow hole, 100 feet or more from camps or water sources and immediately covered. All food waste, food containers, and disposable items packed into the backcountry must be packed out. Burial of these items is prohibited.

36 CFR §2.15 – PETS

(a)(1) The following structures and/or areas are closed to the possession of pets:
  • All caves, hiking trails, and backcountry areas are closed to pets.
  • Service dogs are allowed on paved cave trails if medically necessary.
  • All public use buildings are closed to pets except for service dogs.
  • Properly leashed dogs are allowed in the Elk Mountain Campground, on established roadways that are open to public motor vehicle traffic, parking lots, pet walking area near the visitor center, and on the two front country nature trails: Elk Mountain and Prairie Vista.
(e) Pets may be kept by park residents under the following conditions:
  • Park residents may keep pets in accordance with the park pet and housing management policies.


(a) The following animals are designated as pack animals for purposes of transporting equipment:
  • Horses, Burros, Mules, Alpacas, Llamas are designated as pack animals.
(b) The use of horses or pack animals is allowed on the following trails, routes, or areas:
  • Horses and pack animals are permitted off designated hiking and walking trails.
(g) Other conditions concerning the use of horses or pack animals:
  • Elk Mountain Campground, the Visitor Center area and parking lot and administrative areas are closed to the use of horses or pack animals.
  • Horses and stock may only travel on the paved portion of all roadways and parking areas, except while crossing.
  • Overnight horse/pack animal use is prohibited.
  • All parking lots will be cleaned of feed and manure.


The use of roller skates, skateboards, roller skis, coasting vehicles, or similar devices are allowed only in the following areas:
  • Park residents may use these devices in the residential areas only.

36 CFR §2.21 – SMOKING

(a) The following portions of the park, or all or portions of buildings, structures or facilities are closed to smoking as noted:
  • All Government-owned buildings and structures, including restrooms.
  • All government owned or leased vehicles.
  • Smoking within 25 feet of all entrances and exits to government buildings or caves.
  • Within 50 feet of fuel pumps and flammable substance storage areas.
  • Other areas as posted and as designated during high fire danger.
  • Smoking is prohibited within all caves.
  • All Electronic cigarettes are prohibited as if they are tobacco products.

36 CFR §2.23 – Recreation Fees

(b) Recreation fees, and/or a permit, in accordance with 36 CFR part 71, are established for the following entrance fee areas, and/or for the use of the following specialized sites, facilities, equipment or services, or for participation in the following group activity, recreation events or specialized recreation uses:
Daily Site Use Fee Areas: Elk Mountain Campground: $24 Tent and RV sites per night, water available from late May to the end of September. Certain campsites are available on a first come first served basis, remaining campsites are available by reservation - see - Camping, Cabins, RVs, Permits, Passes & More for more information$12 Tent and RV sites per night, no water available from early October to mid-May. Campsites are on a first come first served basis.$45 Group Camping (30 people per site maximum), see - Camping, Cabins, RVs, Permits, Passes & More for more information

Chart describing cave tour prices

36 CFR §2.35 – Alcoholic Beverages and Controlled Substances

(a)(3)(i) The following public use areas, portions of public use areas, and/or public facilities within the park are closed to consumption of alcoholic beverages, and/or to the possession of a bottle, can or other receptacle containing an alcoholic beverage that is open, or has been opened, or whose seal has been broken or the contents of which have been partially removed.
  • Alcoholic beverages and controlled substances are prohibited within all government buildings, to exclude government residences within in accordance with Federal and State Law and the Park Housing Management Plan.


(a) Park roads, open for travel by motor vehicle are those indicated below:
  • US Highway 385
  • South Dakota Highway 87
  • National Park Service Road 5
  • National Park Service Road 6


(b) The following speed limits are established for the routes/roads indicated:
  • Highway 385 – 45 miles per hour (MPH)
  • Highway 87 – 35 MPH (*)
  • NPS 5 and NPS 6 – 25 MPH (*)
  • Visitor Center Access Road – 30 MPH (*)
  • Visitor Center Parking Lot, Elk Mountain Campground, Maintenance/Fire Cache Road – 15 MPH
  • Elk Mountain Campground Access Road – 25 MPH (*)
(*) In accordance with the authority granted in 36 CFR §4.21(b) the superintendent has designated different speed limits in areas with deceleration zones, congested motor vehicle and pedestrian traffic, in areas where children may be present, and where road surface, character, or design do not allow for a faster, safer speed. The current speed limits do not represent a change from past posted limits and are consistent with the State of South Dakota.

36 CFR §4.30 – BICYCLES

(a) The use of a bicycle is permitted on park roads and in parking areas that are otherwise open for motor vehicle use by the general public.Park roads and parking areas that are closed to bicycle use are:Mixing Circle Road, Lower Housing Loop, Upper Housing Loop, Reservoir Access Road, Wind Cave Canyon Road, and Bison Corral Road.
(i) Electric BicyclesE-bikes are allowed in Wind Cave National Park where traditional bicycles are allowed. E-bikes are prohibited where traditional bicycles are prohibited. Except where use of motor vehicles by the public is allowed, using the electric motor exclusively to move an e-bike for an extended period of time without pedaling is prohibited. The term “e-bike” means a two- or three-wheeled cycle with fully operable pedals and an electric motor of less than 750 watts (1 h.p.). A person operating an e-bike is subject to the following sections of 36 CFR part 4 that apply to the use of traditional bicycles: sections 4.12, 4.13, 4.20, 4.21, 4.22, 4.23, and 4.30(h)(2)-(5).Except as specified in this Compendium, the use of an e-bike within Wind Cave National Park is governed by State law, which is adopted and made a part of this Compendium. Any violation of State law adopted by this paragraph is prohibited.


36 CFR §1.4 DEFINITIONS – What Terms Do I Need to Know?

(a) The following definitions shall apply to this chapter, unless modified by the definitions for a specific part or regulation:

Abandonment means the voluntary relinquishment of property with no intent to retain possession.

Administrative activities means those activities conducted under the authority of the National Park Service for the purpose of safeguarding persons or property, implementing management plans and policies developed in accordance and consistent with the regulations in this chapter, or repairing or maintaining government facilities.

Aircraft means a device that is used or intended to be used for human flight in the air, including powerless flight.

Archeological resource means material remains of past human life or activities that are of archeological interest and are at least 50 years of age. This term includes, but shall not be limited to, objects made or used by humans, such as pottery, basketry, bottles, weapons, weapon projectiles, tools, structures or portions of structures, pit houses, rock paintings, rock carvings, intaglios, or any portion or piece of the foregoing items, and the physical site, location or context in which they are found, or human skeletal materials or graves.

Authorized emergency vehicle means a vehicle in official use for emergency purposes by a Federal agency or an emergency vehicle as defined by State law.

Authorized person means an employee or agent of the National Park Service with delegated authority to enforce the provisions of this chapter.

Bicycle means every device propelled solely by human power upon which a person or persons may ride on land, having one, two, or more wheels, except a manual wheelchair.

Boundary means the limits of lands or waters administered by the National Park Service as specified by Congress, or denoted by presidential proclamation, or recorded in the records of a state or political subdivision in accordance with applicable law, or published pursuant to law, or otherwise published or posted by the National Park Service.
Camping means the erecting of a tent or shelter of natural or synthetic material, preparing a sleeping bag or other bedding material for use, parking of a motor vehicle, motor home or trailer, or mooring of a vessel for the apparent purpose of overnight occupancy.

Carry means to wear, bear, or have on or about the person.

Controlled substance means a drug or other substance, or immediate precursor, included in schedules I, II, III, IV, or V of part B of the Controlled Substance Act (21 U.S.C. §812) or a drug or substance added to these schedules pursuant to the terms of the Act.

Cultural resource means material remains of past human life or activities that are of significant cultural interest and are less than 50 years of age. This term includes, but shall not be limited to, objects made or used by humans, such as pottery, basketry, bottles, weapons, weapon projectiles, tools, structures or portions of structures, or any portion or piece of the foregoing items, and the physical site, location, or context in which they are found, or human skeletal materials or graves.

Director means the Director of the National Park Service.

Downed aircraft means an aircraft that cannot become airborne as a result of mechanical failure, fire, or accident.

E-bike means a two- or three-wheeled cycle with fully operable pedals and an electric motor of less than 750 watts (1 hp).

Firearm means a loaded or unloaded pistol, rifle, shotgun or other weapon which is designed to, or may be readily converted to, expel a projectile by the ignition of a propellant.

Fish means any member of the subclasses Agnatha, Chondrichthyes, or Osteichthyes, or any mollusk or crustacean found in salt water.

Fishing means taking or attempting to take fish.

Gated shut means an area having controlled access by a gate or physical barrier designed to restrict access.

Hunting means taking or attempting to take wildlife, except trapping.

Legislative jurisdiction means lands and waters under the exclusive or concurrent jurisdiction of the United States.

Manual wheelchair means a device that is propelled by human power, designed for and used by a mobility-impaired person.

Motorcycle means every motor vehicle having a seat for the use of the rider and designed to travel on not more than three wheels in contact with the ground, but excluding a tractor.

Motorized wheelchair means a self-propelled wheeled device, designed solely for and used by a mobility-impaired person for locomotion that is both capable of and suitable for use in indoor pedestrian areas.

Motor vehicle means every vehicle that is self-propelled and every vehicle that is propelled by electric power, but not operated on rails or upon water, except a snowmobile and a motorized wheelchair.

National Park System (Park area) means any area of land and water now or hereafter administered by the Secretary of the Interior through the National Park Service for park, monument, historic, parkway, recreational, or other purposes.

Net means a seine, weir, net wire, fish trap, or other implement designed to entrap fish, except a hand-held landing net used to retrieve fish taken by hook and line.

Operator means a person who operates, drives, controls, otherwise has charge of or is in actual physical control of a mechanical mode of transportation or any other mechanical equipment.

Pack animal means horses, burros, mules or other hoofed mammals when designated as pack animals by the superintendent.

Park area. See the definition for National Park System in this section.

Park road means the main-traveled surface of a roadway open to motor vehicles, owned, controlled or otherwise administered by the National Park Service.

Permit means a written authorization to engage in uses or activities that are otherwise prohibited, restricted, or regulated.

Person means an individual, firm, corporation, society, association, partnership, or private or public body.

Personal watercraft refers to a vessel, usually less than 16 feet in length, which uses an inboard, internal combustion engine powering a water jet pump as its primary source of propulsion. The vessel is intended to be operated by a person or persons sitting, standing or kneeling on the vessel, rather than within the confines of the hull. The length is measured from end to end over the deck excluding sheer, meaning a straight-line measurement of the overall length from the foremost part of the vessel to the aftermost part of the vessel, measured parallel to the centerline. Bow sprits, bumpkins, rudders, outboard motor brackets, and similar fittings or attachments, are not included in the measurement. Length is stated in feet and inches.

Pet means a dog, cat or any animal that has been domesticated.

Possession means exercising direct physical control or dominion, with or without ownership, over property, or archeological, cultural or natural resources.

Public use limit means the number of persons; number and type of animals; amount, size and type of equipment, vessels, mechanical modes of conveyance, or food/beverage containers allowed to enter, be brought into, remain in, or be used within a designated geographic area or facility; or the length of time a designated geographic area or facility may be occupied.

Refuse means trash, garbage, rubbish, waste papers, bottles or cans, debris, litter, oil, solvents, liquid waste, or other discarded materials.

Secretary means the Secretary of the Interior.

Services means, but is not limited to, meals and lodging, labor, professional services, transportation, admission to exhibits, use of telephone or other utilities, or any act for which payment is customarily received.

Smoking means the carrying of lighted cigarettes, cigars or pipes, or the intentional and direct inhalation of smoke from these objects.

Snowmobile means a self-propelled vehicle intended for travel primarily on snow, having a curb weight of not more than 1000 pounds (450 kg), driven by a track or tracks in contact with the snow, and steered by ski or skis in contact with the snow.

State means a State, territory, or possession of the United States.

State law means the applicable and non-conflicting laws, statutes, regulations, ordinances, infractions and codes of the State(s) and political subdivision(s) within whose exterior boundaries a park area or a portion thereof is located.

Superintendent means the official in charge of a park area or an authorized representative thereof.

Take or taking means to pursue, hunt, harass, harm, shoot, trap, net, capture, collect, kill, wound, or attempt to do any of the above.

Traffic means pedestrians, ridden or herded animals, vehicles, and other conveyances, either singly or together while using any road, trail, street or other thoroughfare for purpose of travel.

Traffic control device means a sign, signal, marking or other device placed or erected by, or with the concurrence of, the Superintendent for the purpose of regulating, warning, guiding or otherwise controlling traffic or regulating the parking of vehicles.

Trap means a snare, trap, mesh, wire or other implement, object or mechanical device designed to entrap or kill animals other than fish.

Trapping means taking or attempting to take wildlife with a trap.

Unloaded, as applied to weapons and firearms, means that: (1) There is no unexpended shell, cartridge, or projectile in any chamber or cylinder of a firearm or in a clip or magazine inserted in or attached to a firearm; (2) A muzzle-loading weapon does not contain gun powder in the pan, or the percussion cap is not in place; and (3) Bows, crossbows, spear guns or any implement capable of discharging a missile or similar device by means of a loading or discharging mechanism, when that loading or discharging mechanism is not charged or drawn.

Unmanned aircraft means a device that is used or intended to be used for flight in the air without the possibility of direct human intervention from within or on the device, and the associated operational elements and components that are required for the pilot or system operator in command to operate or control the device (such as cameras, sensors, communication links). This term includes all types of devices that meet this definition (e.g. model airplanes, quadcopters, drones) that are used for any purpose, including for recreation or commerce.

Vehicle means every device in, upon, or by which a person or property is or may be transported or drawn on land, except snowmobiles and devices moved by human power or used exclusively upon stationary rails or track.

Vessel means every type or description of craft, other than a seaplane on the water, used or capable of being used as a means of transportation on water, including a buoyant device permitting or capable of free flotation.

Weapon means a firearm, compressed gas or spring-powered pistol or rifle, bow and arrow, crossbow, blowgun, spear gun, hand-thrown spear, slingshot, irritant gas device, explosive device, or any other implement designed to discharge missiles, and includes a weapon the possession of which is prohibited under the laws of the State in which the park area or portion thereof is located.

Wildlife means any member of the animal kingdom and includes a part, product, egg or offspring thereof, or the dead body or part thereof, except fish.

a map of Wind Cave
Map A – Backcountry Camping Zones
All other areas are closed – Contact park for specific details
Wind Cave Map
First Amendment Activity Areas at Wind Cave

Last updated: August 9, 2022

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Hot Springs , SD 57747


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