My Experience in Wind Cave National Park

Wind Cave National Park was a park I wasn’t very interested in visiting. I have been inside many caves around the world. In fact, I’d say I’ve been in many of the best caves in the world like the Postojna Caves. Plus, I’ve been in Carlsbad Caverns, Mammoth Caves and Great Basin National Parks; which all have caves. So more caves seemed unimpressive to me. But, since it is a National Park and it was close to Crazy Horse and Mount Rushmore amongst other sites, I was happy to go.

My Experience in Wind Cave National Park, Wind Cave National Park, South Dakota, Hot Springs

Welcome to Wind Cave National Park in South Dakota

I stayed in a town called Hot Springs, South Dakota about 10 miles from the entrance to Wind Cave National Park. Hot Springs is one of those western towns that are fun to pass through on a road trip. I wasn’t thrilled about staying there. The best hotel was a filthy Super 8 but sometimes on road trips that happens. I did have a nice breakfast in town at a place called Mornin’ Sunshine that had good coffee and made good breakfast sandwiches.

Mornin' Sunshine in Hot Springs, South Dakota

Mornin’ Sunshine in Hot Springs, South Dakota

Then I was sure to arrive at the Wind Cave National Park Visitor’s Center at 8am sharp. This is where you line up for first come first served tickets to do a guided cave tour. I had a lot of driving ahead of me so I didn’t want to miss the first tour. Not surprisingly, I wasn’t alone but the tours take 40 people and I was able to get on the first tour of the day at 9am.

Just outside the entrance to the caves is this example of how the wind comes out

Just outside the entrance to the caves is this example of how the wind comes out

Tours last 75-minutes and involve walking down over 300 stairs that are often wet. This can be a challenge for older people. We had an elderly woman on my tour. It should be noted that there is an elevator up.

Door to the elevator up inside the caves

Door to the elevator up inside the caves

The guide is a park ranger; who always insists on being called Ranger whatever their name is. If you’ve been on a park tour before you know what I mean! However, Ranger Lauren did a great job.

Cave ceiling inside Wind Cave National Park

Cave ceiling inside Wind Cave National Park

The caves themselves were OK. I may sound jaded but if you’ve seen other great caves then Wind Cave was a little disappointing. However, if you’ve not seen caves before than you’d love it as many people on my tour did. This type of thing can be a problem when you travel as much as me.

Inside the caves

Inside the caves

The caves lacked stalactites and stalagmites and instead were highlighted by cave popcorn and some ceiling rocks that were as thin as potato chips. Taking photos in caves is always tough to get good ones. Wind Cave in particular was not very well lit. So these are the best ones I took.

The Assembly Room inside Wind Cave National Park

The Assembly Room inside Wind Cave National Park

So all that said, the cave tour for me was only OK. After the cave tour you can drive around the rest of the park and see buffalo and other animals roaming around. It was raining when I was there so I didn’t see a ton aside from a few buffalo.

A single buffalo roaming around Wind Cave National Park in the rain

A single buffalo roaming around Wind Cave National Park in the rain

So that was my so-so visit to Wind Cave National Park. It wouldn’t be in my top 10 for sure but it wasn’t as bad as Hot Springs, Cuyahoga Valley or Congaree National Parks. So take that as you will and let me know what you think if and when you visit!

Comments

  1. I haven’t been to Wind Cave but I have been to Badlands and Mount Rushmore. I didn’t even realize Wind Cave was a National Park and Rushmore wasn’t. Seems like it should be.

    • It’s pretty confusing to me why certain national parks are national parks and nations monuments are not. White Sands comes to mind. Rushmore is nothing more than looking at the mountain so I guess it’s a good monument but they recently made the Gateway Arch in St Louis a National Park claiming historical significance. So I assume a lot of it is political but honestly I’m not sure why some are and some aren’t.

      • Lanceleaf Coriopsis says:

        National Parks are designated by Congress and monuments are designated by the president. Which makes the ranger you had a true NPS ranger. I’m sorry that your opportunity to travel the world made this park pale in comparison to the things you’ve seen.

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