Guided Tours

 
A child looks up at a ceiling full of boxwork
See the cave on one of several cave tours.

NPS Photo

Getting Started

A guided tour into Wind Cave is a wonderful addition to any park visit. Whether it's your first time to the cave or your tenth, there are several things to keep in mind while planning your trip.

  • To go into the cave, you must purchase a ticket. All access is by a ranger guided tour and all tours leave from the Visitor Center.
  • Advanced reservations are available for some tours and are highly recommended. See "Tour Reservations" below for more information. Tickets for all other tours are sold on a first-come, first-serve basis the day of the tour at the visitor center.
  • Due to high demand, long waits are common during spring, summer, and fall for in-person sales. Tours often sell out 1-2 hours in advance. Tours may be sold out for the day by mid-afternoon.
  • Visit the Fees and Passes page for current ticket prices.
  • Only credit/debit cards or digital payments will be accepted for all cave tours, campground fees, and Interagency Passes.
 

Know Before You Go

Plan ahead so you can get the most out of your visit to Wind Cave.

All tours involve walking up and down stairs with occasional low ceilings. Cave tours are not recommended for anyone with claustrophobia, heart or respiratory conditions, recent surgeries or illnesses, knee or back problems, or other physical limitations. There are no restroom facilities in the cave.

For the protection of the cave, there is no touching the cave walls, removing cave rocks or formations, or stepping off the trail. Photography is permitted, but no tripods.

  • Long sleeves or jackets. The cave temperature is a constant 54°F (12°C).
  • Comfortable shoes with non-slip soles. Sandals are not recommended on the standard walking tours and are not permitted on the Candlelight or Wild Cave Tours.
  • Handheld flash photography is allowed. Cameras are not permitted on the Candlelight Tour or the Wild Cave Tour.

The following items are prohibited in Wind Cave: 
  • Food and drinks, including: candy, gum, water, etc.
  • Bags of any kind, including: backpacks, purses, fanny packs, etc.
  • Baby back carriers: Children may be carried in arms or in a front carrier.
  • Walking sticks, tripods, monopods, selfie sticks.
  • Pets and comfort animals (Certified Service Animals are permitted on certain tours.)
  • Firearms
  • Tobacco products

Wind Cave is open to everyone and works to ensure access for visitors of all abilities. Visitors with limited mobility may find some cave tours too strenuous. Please review cave tour descriptions and consider your limitations when choosing which tour to participate on.

Accessibility Cave Tour
Limited areas of the cave are accessible to wheelchairs and those with limited mobility. These half-hour tours serve as an introduction to the cave and its formations. The tour includes riding the elevator in and out of the cave; the elevator building is located about 200 yards south of the visitor center. Accessible Parking is available at the elevator building.

Please call the visitor center at (605)-745-4600 to make arrangements or ask at the information desk for an Accessible Tour.

Hearing and Vision Accomodations
Cave trails are dimly lit, often narrow, and may be wet and slippery in certain areas. There are numerous stairs along all  tour routes. Those with vision impairments should be cautious when entering the cave. Bringing an extra flashlight may assist visitors with vision impairments to see steps and ceiling areas better. Specific arrangements may be made in advance for visitors with special concerns.

For sign-language programming, please call the visitor center at (605)-745-4600 at least two weeks ahead of time to arrange accommodations.
 
 
 

Tour and Program Schedule

Tour schedules are subject to change.  The tour schedule below provides a general idea of tour availability at different times of the year.  Dates will be updated as exact schedules are finalized.

Visitor Center: Open Daily, 8:00 am - 4:30 pm

Cave Tours:

  • Fairgrounds Tour: 1:00 pm
  • Garden of Eden Tour: 10:00 am and 3:00 pm

Visitor Center: Open Daily, 8:00 am - 5:00 pm

Cave Tours:

  • Fairgrounds Tour: 9:30 am and 1:30 pm
  • Garden of Eden Tour: 11:30 am and 3:30 pm

Visitor Center: Open Daily, 8:00 am - 5:00 pm

Cave Tours:

  • Natural Entrance Tour: 9:00 am, 11:30 am, 1:00 pm and 2:30 pm
  • Garden of Eden Tour: 10:00 am and 3:30 pm
  • Accessibility Tour: 10:30 am and 2:30 pm

Visitor Center: Open Daily, 8:00 am - 5:00 pm

No cave tours due to elevator replacement project.  Available programs and activities can be found on our Things to Do page.

Visitor Center: Open Daily, 8:00 am to 4:30 pm

Cave Tours (available if elevator replacement project is complete):

  • Natural Entrance Tour: 11:30 am and 1:30 pm
  • Garden of Eden Tour: 9:00 am, 10:00 am, 12:00 pm, 2:00 pm and 3:00 pm

Visitor Center: Open Daily, 8:00 am - 4:30 pm

Cave Tours (available if elevator replacement project is complete):

  • Fairgrounds Tour: 9:00 am, 1:00 pm, and 1:40 pm
  • Garden of Eden Tour: 10:00 am, 11:30 am, and 3:00 pm

Visitor Center: Open Daily, 8:00 am - 4:30 pm

Cave Tours:

  • Fairgrounds Tour: 1:00 pm
  • Garden of Eden Tour: 10:00 am and 3:00 pm

Visitor Center: Open Daily, 8:00 am - 4:30 pm

Cave Tours:

  • Fairgrounds Tour: 1:00 pm
  • Garden of Eden Tour: 10:00 am and 3:00 pm
 
Brown rectangle with white calendar and check mark symbol with the words Visit Recreation.gov to Reserve Your Cave Tour Tickets

Tour Reservations

Tickets for the Garden of Eden Tour, Natural Entrance Tour, and Fairgrounds Tour may be purchased in advance through www.recreation.gov. Reservations are recommended as tours often sell out March through October and on holiday weekends throughout winter. Reservations on Recreation.gov can be made 3-120 days prior to the tour date. The Candlelight and Wild Cave Tours (offered summer only) must be reserved by phone at 605-745-4600 up to one month in advance.

Roughly half of all tour tickets are held in reserve for same-day sales. These tickets are first-come, first-served at the visitor center the day of the tour. Same-day tickets often sell out an hour or more before tour times.

 

Tour Descriptions

Duration: 1 hour
Distance: 1/4 mile (1/2 kilometer)
Total stairs: 150
Difficulty: Moderate; stairs can be steep, slippery and dimly lit. Bending and stooping required.
Description: See boxwork, frostwork, flowstone and cave popcorn along this route.

This one-hour tour is our least strenuous tour. It is a wonderful sample of Wind Cave. Small amounts of all of the beautiful cave formations - boxwork, cave popcorn, and flowstone - are seen along this 1/4 mile tour. The tour is designed for people with limited time or abilities. It enters and leaves the cave by elevator with 150 steps along the tour route.

"...[We] wonder if it will be possible to so describe those wonderful scenes as to represent with even a limited degree of fairness or justice the awe-inspiring grandeur of the entire trip, or the perfection of fragile loveliness formed and preserved as by special miracles in the Garden of Eden..." - Edward C Horn, Mazes and Marvels, 1898

Duration: 1 hour 15 minutes
Distance: 2/3 mile (1 kilometer)
Total stairs: 300
Difficulty: Moderate. Paths are uneven, and stairs can be slippery, steep and dimly lit. Bending and stooping required.
Description: See boxwork and cave popcorn along this route.

This tour includes a visit to the natural entrance of Wind Cave where visitors can see the largest opening to the cave and learn how we get our name. Participants enter the cave through a man-made entrance and journey into the middle level of the cave. Wind Cave's famous boxwork is abundant throughout this trip. This moderately strenuous 2/3 mile tour lasts 1¼ hours and exits the cave by elevator.

This is a great tour for families.

Duration: 1 hour 30 minutes
Distance: 2/3 mile (1 kilometer)
Total stairs: 450
Difficulty: Strenuous. Paths are uneven, and stairs are steep. Bending and stooping required. This tour includes 89 stairs up at once.
Description: See boxwork, frostwork and cave popcorn along this strenuous route.

This 1½ hour tour explores both the upper and middle levels of Wind Cave. Boxwork is abundant along the trail in the middle level of the cave. In the upper level, the trail winds through the larger rooms where popcorn and frostwork can be seen. This is our most strenuous walking tour. The tour enters and exits the cave by elevator and there are 450 stairs along the 2/3 mile route with one flight of 89 steps going up.

Duration: 30 minutes
Distance: 100 feet
Total stairs: 0
Difficulty: Easy
Description: See boxwork and learn about the cave's cultural and natural history.

Limited areas of the cave are accessible to wheelchairs and those with limited mobility. These half-hour tours serve as an introduction to the cave and boxwork, the cave's signature feature, is shown. The tour includes riding the elevator into and out of the cave, and the elevator building is located about 200 yards south of the visitor center. Accessible Parking is available at the elevator building.

Please call the visitor center at (605) 745-4600 no more than one day in advance to make arrangements or ask at the information desk for an Accessible Tour on the day of your visit.

Duration: 2 hours
Distance: 2/3 mile (1 kilometer)
Total stairs: 424
Difficulty: Strenuous; stairs can be steep, slippery and dimly lit. Bending and stooping required.
Description: Explore the unique geology and boxwork formations of the Blue Grotto route while learning about some of the colorful characters and events in Wind Cave’s past.

Experience the cave by candlelight the way the earliest explorers of Wind Cave saw it! This tour takes place in a less developed, unlit section of the cave. Each participant must carry a candle bucket while navigating paved and natural cave surfaces, some large steps, tight passages, slick footing, and numerous stairs. The tour is limited to 10 people and the minimum age is 8.

Wild Cave and Candlelight tour cannot be done on the same day.

Required

  • Long pants to protect the cave resource and yourself.  Pants must not have any holes in them.
  • Fully enclosed, lace-up footwear with good traction. Hiking boots are recommended. Five-fingered toe shoes, cowboy boots, and sandals including Keens, Chacos, and Merrills are not allowed.
  • Clothing worn in Jewel Cave or any other cave is not permitted on this tour to prevent the spread of White-Nose Syndrome.
  • For safety reasons, photography is not permitted on this tour and cameras and phones are not allowed.
  • Reservations are required for this tour and can be made up to one month in advance by calling the Visitor Center at 605-745-4600.

Duration: up to 4 hours
Distance: 2/3 mile
Difficulty: Very Strenuous. Cave passages are not lit and trail surfaces are uneven. Some surfaces may be wet and slippery. Some of the cave ceilings are low and some passages have a very steep grade, requiring bending, stooping, crawling, and climbing. Most of the tour is spent crawling on your hands and knees.
Description: This tour provides an introduction to safe caving in an undeveloped part of the cave.

Explore the cave away from the developed trails with this introduction to safe caving techniques. On this very strenuous tour, visitors will each get helmets, kneepads, and headlamps and see what it's like to explore Wind Cave as cavers do today.

Wild Cave and Candlelight tour cannot be done on the same day.

Required

  • Long, sturdy pants such as jeans or hiking pants with no holes.  Sweatpants, leggings, or yoga pants of any kind are not allowed.
  • Long or short sleeve shirt is acceptable, no tank tops allowed.
  • Sturdy, lace-up hiking boots or shoes (designed for trail) with aggressive tread are required. No slick-soled footwear is permitted. Tennis shoes, five-fingered toe shoes, sandals, cowboy boots, and climbing shoes of any kind are not allowed.
  • Clothing worn in Jewel Cave or any other cave is not permitted on this tour to prevent the spread of White-Nose Syndrome.
  • Reservations are required for this tour and can be made up to one month in advance by calling the Visitor Center at 605-745-4600.

Features

  • On this tour visitors will be introduced to basic, safe caving.

  • Visitors will need to fit through a space that is 10 inches tall and 3 feet wide (25.4 cm by 91.4 cm).

  • Wear old clothes, as much of the trip will be crawling.

  • The park provides helmets, lights, gloves, elbowpads, and kneepads. Visitors may bring a bandana to help keep their helmet in place.

  • This tour is limited to 10 people and the minimum age is 16.

  • We require a signed parental/guardian release for those 17 and under.

  • For safety reasons, photography is not permitted on this tour and cameras and phones are not allowed.

  • Please do not bring jewelry, watches, or other valuables on the tour.

 

Frequently Asked Questions

Below are some of the more commonly asked questions. Please contact us for more information about cave tours or other questions about Wind Cave National Park.

Tickets can be reserved 3-120 days prior to the tour date.

Full refunds (less a $1/ticket handling fee) are available up to 3 days prior to the tour date for most tours.* After that, all sales are final.
*Candlelight and Wild Cave Tour tickets must be cancelled at least 7 days prior to the tour date.

Plan to arrive 30 minutes before the tour time. This allows extra time for road work, bison jams, parking, restroom, etc., before your tour.

Claim reserved tickets at the visitor center front desk.

At least an hour before the tour time you want. Same-day tickets often sell out well in advance of the tour time.

No. About half of all tour tickets are held in reserve for sale on a first-come, first-serve basis at the visitor center the day of the tour.

Many Wind Cave visitors decide to visit the park less than 24 hours before they arrive. To provide options for all, about half of all tickets are held in reserve for same day sales. We monitor visitation patterns and may adjust reservation capacity from time to time in response to visitor trends.

Any tour into Wind Cave is sure to intrigue and inspire you to learn more about this amazingly complex cave. All of the tours provided offer a glimpse into the darkness of Wind Cave while learning about the long natural and cultural history of the area. All of the tour options are great, but some may not work for your time or physical constraints. Read the tour descriptions above to learn which might be best suited to fit your needs.

There are plenty of things to do on the surface at Wind Cave National Park. Explore the Visitor Center, watch the park movie, hike one of our many trails, visit the Natural Entrance, are just some of the ways you can explore and enjoy the park.

No it does not. All interagency passes, which includes Senior and Military passes, cover park entry fees only. Wind Cave National Park does not have an entry fee. The cave tours are considered to be an extra fee, similar to paying a campground fee. The cave tours have discounts for age only. Visitors 62+ get half priced tickets, children under 16 get half priced tickets and children under 6 are free to enter the cave. 

Last updated: February 28, 2024

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Contact Info

Mailing Address:

26611 US Highway 385
Hot Springs, SD 57747

Phone:

605 745-4600

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