Wind Cave National Park

Wind Cave National Park

After Badlands, we stopped by Mt Rushmore for a quick $10 selfie and then on our way to Wind Cave. Not really worth it to us… especially since someone ran into us and ruined Mike’s bike rack. 

Either way, we got to Wind Cave early afternoon, and drove to the visitor center. Being only a hop away from Badlands, it’s not surprising that the landscape was prettyyyy similar.  Once we got to the visitor center, we grabbed my Jr Ranger book, and learned that the elevators were down so they weren’t doing any tours! Fingers crossed that they were working tomorrow. 

We found a public dispersed camp site on a hidden forest road a couple miles outside of the park – it was completely secluded and also gave me lots of bug bites.  

We woke up with the sun and had breakfast and coffee at the picnic area at the Park. We went to visitor center when it opened and bought a tour ticket for the first tour of the day, which was for the Natural Entrance Tour. 

I have to be honest – I wasn’t too pumped up for this cave tour. I think caves are beautiful and impressive (I could definitely never be a cave explorer because that shit is scary), but I kind of felt that once you’ve seen a couple, you’ve seen them all.

But I’ll admit it… I was totally wrong. All the info said this cave was different and special, and they weren’t lying. This cave does not have any stalagmites or stalactites like most caves. Wind Cave is unique because it has 95% of the world’s box work cave formations. Boxwork formations are stunning and delicate and I’ve never seen it before. Like a snowflake, none of it in this cave seemed the same. The cave is also super intricate. There are 151 miles under just 1 square mile surface area (and they think there are still 1500-3000 miles to be explored). My pictures really don’t do it justice, so I highly recommend you come see them yourself.  

However, when you do visit – hopefully they don’t have any elevator issues! As we got to the elevator, they started to act wonky again and they canceled the remaining tours of the day! I was actually thinking of signing up for a later tour that was by candlelight but thank goodness I didn’t so I could go at all. 

Ranger Grant swore me in a Junior Ranger of Wind Cave. He is in his third season with the NPS. His first season was at Cuyahoga, and we bonded over how wonderful that park is. Fun fact – when he was a Boy Scout, he visited Denali, cried (Ron Swanson would approve) and that’s when he decided he wanted to be a Park Ranger. 

Recommendations

  • Mike and I chose not to do any hiking trails, however I am sure they were beautiful. It seemed like the poor man’s version of Badlands, so I think visiting these two parks is a great complement to each other and you can get the best out of both. 
  • Tour tickets are first come, first serve. Get there when the visitor center opens and get your tickets first, otherwise it might sell out for the day.
  • Better yet, get tickets for the first tour, unless you’re super pumped about another tour. I was shocked at how small the tour group was and it made it such a better experience. 
  • If you’re looking for BLM land to camp on, talk to a Ranger! There is lots of BLM dispersed camping nearby, but it doesn’t show up on freecampsites.net unfortunately. 

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