Avoiding the Crowds
With more than 28,000 acres, two paved highways, two all-weather gravel roads, 30 miles of excellent trails, backcountry camping, and plenty of room to roam, avoiding the crowds in Wind Cave National Park is a cinch.
July and August are the busiest months. Annual visitation averages 800,000, and about 100,000 people participate in a cave tour each year. When planning daily itineraries, include Wind Cave in either the early morning or late afternoon, when visitation is lowest and wildlife is most active. Buy your cave tour tickets early in the day.
The visitor center (off U.S. 385) is open daily year-round, 8am to 4:30pm off season (except New Year's Day, Thanksgiving, and Christmas) and extended hours late April to mid-October, and offers books, brochures, exhibits, and video programs about the cave and other park resources. Cave tour information and tickets are available, and schedules of activities, including talks and nature walks, are posted.
Fees & Permits
Wind Cave National Park does not charge an entrance fee. It does, however, charge a fee for cave tours, ranging from $7 for a simple guided tour ($3.50-$4.50 for children 6-16, children under 6 are free) to $23 for a 4-hour introduction to basic caving techniques. Tours for visitors with special needs are also available.
Camping in Elk Mountain Campground costs $12 per night from mid-May through mid-September, and $6 per night during the rest of its season; all camping is on a first-come, first-served basis. Backcountry camping is allowed with a free permit, which must be picked up in person at the visitor center.
Special Regulations & Warnings
The danger of wildfire is high year-round. Build fires only in the campground and only in fire grills or camp stoves. Never leave a fire unattended. Off-road driving is prohibited. Watch for rattlesnakes and black widow spiders, especially around prairie dog burrows.
Cave tour pathways may be uneven or wet and slippery. Watch your step and wear low-heeled, nonslip shoes. A jacket, sweater, or sweatshirt is recommended for protection from the cave's 53°F (12°C) temperature. If you have breathing, heart, or walking problems, or are claustrophobic, consult with a ranger before taking a tour. The cave's delicate formations are easily broken or discolored by skin oils, so please don't touch them. Smoking, food, and drink are prohibited in the cave.
The National Park Service publishes a variety of handouts on topics such as park history, hiking, camping, geology, wildlife, bird life, prairie grasses and ecosystems, and environmental concerns. In addition, the park produces Passages, a free visitor newspaper that is available at the visitor center.