Organized Cave Tours
Visitors can have an adventure in Jewel Cave by taking any of the park's ranger-guided tours. Tickets for the Scenic Tour, Historical Lantern Tour, or Wild Caving Tour may be purchased by reservation or at the visitor center. Reservations for the Wild Caving Tour are strongly encouraged. Call tel. 605/673-8300 for advance reservations. It's also a good idea to contact the Monument before visiting to determine whether special hours, activities, or tour schedules are being observed.
Scenic Tour -- This 1/2-mile, 80-minute tour visits chambers decorated with calcite crystals and colorful stalactites, stalagmites, and draperies. The loop tour begins at the visitor center with an elevator ride into the cave. Participants take a paved, lighted path and climb up and down more than 700 stairs on this moderately strenuous journey into the underground. The tour, which is offered year-round, is conducted several times daily from May to September and is limited to 30 persons.
Historical Lantern Tour -- This 1/2-mile, 105-minute tour follows in the footsteps of early Jewel Cave explorers. Tour participants see the cave's calcite-coated passageways lighted by old-style oil lanterns. This round-trip tour starts at the monument's historic cabin. The cave tour is moderately strenuous, with many steep stairs, and requires much bending and stooping. Long pants and sturdy, closed-toe shoes are highly recommended. The tour is offered several times daily from mid-June through Labor Day and is limited to 20 persons. (Definitely call ahead to find out if it will be offered when you are in the area.) Children under age 6 are not allowed.
Wild Caving Tour -- This physically and mentally challenging nearly 2/3-mile, 3- to 4-hour tour gives participants a taste of modern-day cave crawling in a wild, undeveloped portion of Jewel Cave. The round-trip tour begins at the visitor center with an elevator ride into the cave. Old (they'll get permanently stained) long-sleeved shirts and long pants, gloves, knee and elbow pads, and ankle-high laced boots with lug soles are required. The park supplies hard hats and headlamps. To qualify for the tour, participants are required to crawl through an 8 1/2-by-24-inch concrete block tunnel -- and no, that's not a typo. This extremely strenuous enterprise is offered daily (12:30pm) from mid-June through mid-August; the limit is five persons (here's your chance to avoid the crowds). Children under 16 are not allowed; 16- and 17-year-olds must have a parent or guardian's written permission. You can (and should) reserve your place on a tour in advance by calling tel. 605/673-8300.
Discovery Tour -- For those with little time or limited physical abilities, this tour may be for you. You will visit one room of the cave in the 20-minute tour and learn Jewel Cave's natural and cultural histories. The cave is entered and exited by elevator and involves up to 15 steps. This tour is wheelchair accessible.
In addition to the cave tours, during the summer season, a number of special interpretive programs take place at the visitor center, including patio talks, demonstrations, and guided hikes. Check at the visitor center for specifics.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.