Wind Cave National Park might be one of the most fascinating in the entire National Park System. Although it’s one of the smaller National Parks, established in 1903 by President Teddy Roosevelt, it has quite a bit to offer for it’s size. Known to Native Americans as a sacred place for generations, it offers visitors something special both above and below ground. Something you won’t find many other places around the world, let alone across America.

Things to See & Do at Wind Cave National Park

Tons of Wildlife

Bison at Wind Cave National Park

NPS Photo

The first draw for many visitors to Wind Cave National Park, as with many of the parks, is the incredible variety of wildlife that roam the prairie and plains. Situated between the Black Hills and an expansive ponderosa pine forest, this South Dakota gem features herds of bison, mule deer, wild turkeys, prairie dogs and pronghorn. Yet, those who only go to Wind Cave to experience the great plains are missing out on what could arguably be the best part: the cave system itself.

Incredible Cave System

Inside Wind Cave

NPS Photo

Although the local tribes have been living in and around this land for centuries, it was only discovered accidentally in the late 1880s when two brothers accidentally stumbled upon the cave’s only entrance. Currently, Wind Cave is the 6th longest cave in the world, it has just over 140 miles of tunnels to wander. Barring Christmas Day, New Year’s Day and Thanksgiving, park rangers offer tours inside the cave on a daily basis. The cave is also home to one of the best collections in the world of a mineral formation called boxwork and frostwork, which happens here because the cave is dry.

Plenty of Activities

Beaver Creek Bridge in Wind Cave National Park

Public Domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Beyond the cave tours, there are also plenty of opportunities to explore some of the nature preserves in the park or enjoy some of the approximately 30 miles of hiking trails. Some of the more popular trails are the two mile Wind Cave Canyon Trail for those looking for an easier hike. For those who want more of a challenge, try the 3.6 mile Sanctuary Trail or the 8.6 mile Highland Creek trail. Of course, with the abundance of natural beauty and ample wildlife, don’t forget to bring along your camera! You’ll find more than enough opportunities for both landscape and wildlife photography.

What’s Nearby?

Map of Wind Cave National Park Location

NPS Map via Wikimedia Commons

Inside the park, you can camp at the Elk Mountain Campground or at nearby Custer State Park or Black Hills National Forest outside the the park. Wind Cave National Park is also close to Mount Rushmore National Monument and just over a 2-hour drive from Badlands National Park. Have you been able to visit Wind Cave National Park? Let us know what you thought in the comments!