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Wind Caves National Park

Wind Cave National Park in South Dakota covers 28,000 acres of prairies and forests and includes the Southeast edge of Black Hills. However, the park is even more magnificent underground, concealing one of the longest caves in the world, stretching over 150 miles, with geologists believing that there is much more to be discovered. The Wind Cave National Park gets its name from the breeze coming out from a natural opening in the cave due to different pressure inside and outside. Apart from tours of the caves, the park offers multiple scenic trails in the surrounding landscape. The park is also renowned for wildlife spotting including bison, pronghorn, elk, deer, mule, and prairie dogs.

Presenting one of the longest cave systems in the world, Wind Cave National Park in South Dakota is a geological treasure, leading to narrow paths and darkened large rooms with the naturally formed rock formations. The park also offers acres of tranquil nature of prairies, forests, and hills making the park attractive to anyone in the area.

Wind Cave Tours

The park offers a variety of tour options at different price points and for different types of visitors, leading through the dark beauty of the caves. Options range from the 4 hour Wild Cave Tour which involves crawling through a tight, small 10 inches tall by 3 feet wide opening, and walking through damp and slippery terrain to see the wonders of the cave (not ideal for anyone claustrophobic) – to short walking tours that are perfect for those with limited mobility or small children.  The Candlelight Tour offers a journey back in history to when candlelight was the only light source – all visitors are given their own candle in a bucket to illuminate the way, just as the original explorers did.

Most of the tours start and end with an elevator ride, and involve walking up and down dim-lit staircases leading to different rooms. Researchers believe that the domed-ceiling and the scalloped walled cave was formed through a reaction in the limestone between water and acid. This reaction can also be noticed in the rock formations inside the cave, some of which having bizarre shapes like the box work and popcorn. The Garden of Eden Tour leads to the Garden of Eden Room, where a variety of Crystals were discovered in 1891 by the McDonald family. The name came about from the idea that just as one would find flowers in the garden, crystals were found in this cave. A corkscrew staircase leads to graffiti with the names of explorers who entered the cave in 1892. No matter which tour you choose, you’ll be able to experience some of the dark beauty and wonder of the caves that prompted President Theodore Roosevelt to form the park into a national park in 1903.

Rankin Ridge Nature Trail

At 5,013 feet of elevation, the Rankin Ridge Nature Trail is the highest area of the park. A 1-mile trail leads to the lookout tower above the ridge top, with incredible views of the Black Hills. Starting at the parking lot close to the visitor center, the trail follows a narrow path passing through a ponderosa pine forest. Following an opening with views of the valley and the ridges, the landscape changes to a rocky one leading to a steep stone staircase. The physical effort is immediately rewarded by the views of the eastern and southern ridges, and the surrounding prairies, including a glimpse of the one at Buffalo Gap National Grassland. Close to the trail lies the Rankin Ridge Fire Steel Tower, which is closed to visitors and operates only in case of heavy fire. From here a dirt road leads visitors back to the free car-park.

Prairie Vista Trail

Starting north of the Visitor Center, close to the picnic area, the Prairie Vista trail is a 1-mile easy loop trail around the meadows and the hills. The trail offers spectacular nature views, particularly of native plants and flowers. Close to the trail, visitors can find the only campground in the park, Elk Mountain Campground. However, they do only accept guests on a first-come, first-serve basis, so you’re not able to plan ahead. The campground charges $18 per night during peak season and $9 off-season.

Whether visiting the intricate cave structure underground or following one of the multiple trails around the prairies and forest, the Wind Caves National Park is definitely worth visiting. You can’t help wonder what other treasures still lie buried deep underground waiting to be discovered.

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Looking for Web Design & Development in Wind Caves, South Dakota?

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Wind Caves National Park Photos

Where Is It?

Wind Caves National Park

South Dakota, United States

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