Wind Cave National Park Ultimate Guide: Hours, Fees, Passes

History :

Located at 26611 US Highway 385, Hot Springs, SD 57747,  Wind Cave national park has been one of the major attractions for cave explorers and history seekers. It is regarded sacred by American Indians and was declared a national park by Theodore Roosevelt in 1903. The cave exploration only began after two brothers, Jesse, and Tom Bingham noticed the cave entrance with loud whistling noise coming from it. This noise was due to the great force with which the wind blew out of that hole, the only opening of the cave. It was due to this wind phenomenon; that the cave got its name. This wind is still noticed today at the cave’s entrance.

Being one of the oldest, this park has a rich history, wildlife, and ancient geology and has been home to many native groups who have called Black hills home since time immemorial. Also, check our solo travel guide.

Wind Cave National Park Features:

This park features extensive mixed-grass prairie scattered over 28,295 acres. Wind cave national park is the best place to be with family and friends and enjoy the day exploring the caves or camping. It also consists of a ponderosa pine forest with rich wildlife such as bison, elk, pronghorn, coyotes, and prairie dogs.

With 150 miles of passage, Wind cave is known as the third-longest cave in the US and the sixth longest in the world. It has beautiful karst topography with breathtaking stalactites and stalagmites formation that will surely leave you in awe of nature’s beauty. The wind cave is well known for its boxwork which is composed of thin calcite fins resembling honeycombs. Be ready with your camera to click breathtaking pictures for your Instagram and Facebook.

Opening Hours:

Wind cave national park is open for visitors all around the year. So, you don’t need to wait for the overlapping of your holidays and the park’s opening hours. You can visit here anytime, with your family and friends, and plan to go camping at Elk Mountain campground. The park is open 24/7 while the visitor center hours and guided tours of the cave may vary by season.

Season:

Note that summer is the most desirable time for many to visit the park and you may end up waiting in a long queue. Hence the best time to visit the park is early hours of the day and on weekends. If planning your visit on weekdays, avoid Tuesdays and Wednesdays as they are the busiest days of the week at wind cave.

Visitor center:

The visitor center is open daily on regular hours between 8 am to 4:30 pm except for Thanksgiving, Christmas, and new year. These timings get extended during spring, fall, and summer. You can get to know about current hours and tour times from https://www.nps.gov/wica/index.htm or call at 605-745-4600.

Wind Cave National Park Visiting Fees:

If planning to drive through or hike in the park, get worried free about the fees, as these are the few of the things free here. But if you are the one who is visiting the park solely for cave exploration and camping, you get to pay minimal fees. The tickets get sold on a first come first basis, so reaching early will probably help you. The charges are below:

Category / Price for Garden of Eden Cave Natural Entrance Cave Fairgrounds Cave Tour Candlelight Cave Tour Wild Cave Tour
Adults (17 and older) $14 $16 $16 $16 $45
Children (6-16 years) $7 $8 $8 * **
5 and under Free Free Free Not permitted Not permitted
62 and over $7 $8 $8

*Minimum age for candlelight tour is 8 years

**Minimum age for wild cave tour is 16 years with a signed parent permission slip.

Accessibility tours:
  • For adults (16 and older): $6
  • For children (6-16 years): $3    /    (5 years and below): free
  • For the hearing-impaired Sign language interpreters are available with 2 weeks’ advance notice.
Free entrance days in Wind cave national park

Waiting for the days when you can visit the National park free of cost. The national park sites that charge fees offer free entry to everyone on free entrance days. But remember this doesn’t include amenities or user fees for activities such as camping, boat launches, transportation, or special tours. Mark these days in your calendar:

  • August 4: OnFirstnniversary of the Great American Outdoors Act
  • September 24: National Public Lands Day
  • November 11: Veterans Day

Wind Cave National Park passes

Wind cave national park passes provide you the benefits and free entry for one full year from the month of purchase. These can be purchased from the visitor center and at any entrance station throughout the national park.  these passes provide access to, and use of, federal recreation sites that charge an entrance fee.

Apart from the general passes, you can avail special event permit for professional photography or special events. Visit https://www.nps.gov/wica/getinvolved/dobusinesswithus.htm for information on special permits. The charges for the general passes are:

Category Price
Annual pass $80
Senior lifetime pass $80
Senior annual pass $20
Access pass* Free
Military pass** Free
Volunteer pass*** Free
4th grader pass**** Free

* A lifetime passes for U.S. citizens and permanent residents with permanent disabilities.

** Available to active-duty military personnel and dependents with proper identification.

*** Volunteers who acquire 250 service hours on a cumulative basis.

**** Available to U.S. 4th graders or home school equivalents with a valid Every Kid in a Park paper voucher.

Tour reservations:

Due to its popularity, the wind cave national park remains crowded leading to the sale of all tickets within 1 – 2 hours of the tour day. So, if visiting on weekends reserve your tickets through  www.recreation.gov. Since only a portion of tickets are made available for advanced purchase try booking them earlier. The best part is that tickets can be purchased from 3-120 days before the tour.

Point to note:

  • Interagency passes do not waive Expanded Amenity Fees such as cave tours.
  • Tour participants must wear non-slippery footwear as the cave surfaces can be wet and uneven. Footwear with good grip, but not of leather or hard composition soles, is recommended.
  • A light sweater or jacket is recommended as the temperature inside the cave is only 11 degrees Celsius.
  • Animals in the park are unpredictable so, resist giving them food. Also, beware of snakes and ticks in the grass while hiking.
  • Pets must be leashed at all times and are not allowed on cave tours. You can take them along the Elk mountain hike and campground.
  • Cave tours are not recommended for people with claustrophobia, heart or respiratory problems, recent surgeries or illnesses, or other physical limitations.

 

 

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