NPS - National Park Service

06/11/2021 | Press release | Distributed by Public on 06/11/2021 10:26

Plan Like a Park Ranger before visiting Wind Cave National Park

News Release Date:
June 11, 2021

Contact: Tom Farrell, 605-745-1130

Visitation to national parks is ramping up for the summer, and rangers at Wind Cave National Park encourage visitors to Plan Like a Park Ranger. Follow these tips for an enjoyable and safe visit!

1. Have a plan… and a backup plan: Begin your planning by checking the park's website at www.nps.gov/wica. The website has information about available services, activities, and places to visit. Flexibility and a backup plan are key in case of sold out tours, changing weather conditions or unexpected traffic delays.

2. Come early. Cave tours are busiest mid-week and any day it rains. The visitor center opens at 8 a.m. with the first tour starting at 8:40 a.m. and the last tour beginning at 5 p.m. Tour tickets are sold on a first come, first served basis on the day of the tour. Currently, tours are selling out around mid to late afternoon. This summer, the park is offering tours of the Natural Entrance, Fairgrounds, and Garden of Eden areas. Wind Cave is famous for its boxwork formation which can be seen on all three tours.

3. Come prepared. If you are taking a tour, the cave temperature is 54 degrees. Wind Cave has 155 miles of explored passages, making it the 3rd-longest cave in the country. A light coat or sweater is recommended as are comfortable shoes with non-slip soles. Leave water bottles, food, packs and bags in the car.

4. Explore the surface. Wind Cave protects one of the last mixed-grass prairie ecosystems, home to a variety of wildlife including bison, elk, pronghorn, prairie dogs, and the endangered black-footed ferret.

5. Take a hike. The park has over 30 miles of hiking trails. For a great view, hike Rankin Ridge, the highest point in the park. The trail is a mile-long loop that takes about an hour to complete.

6. Do lunch, or dinner! Bring a picnic meal, find a scenic view (Rankin Ridge at sunset!) and enjoy the view over a fun meal. There are many highway pull-offs available for viewing.

7. Explore the park's backcountry roads. Park roads NPS 5 and 6 are gravel roads along the park's eastern area. A favorite overlook along NPS 5 is at Lone Pine Point which provides a sweeping view of Red Valley and Buffalo Gap. Wildlife is often more visible from these roads than the park's main highways. Don't just drive by the wildlife. Spend a few minutes observing their movements and interactions.

8. Be careful out there. Legally people only need to be 25 yards from wildlife, but rangers advise watching the animal's behavior. If the animal alters their behavior because of people, they are too close. Bison are agile, fast, and ill-tempered. Stay safe by giving them room.

9. Explore the new NPS app. It offers tools to explore more than 400 national parks with interactive maps, tours, and accessibility information. More content is added daily.

10. Don't forget to bring your patience. National parks are packed this summer as people seek relief from being cooped up. Allow extra travel time because the park is busier than normal. Keep in mind people who are not fully vaccinated must wear masks inside park buildings, the cave, and in crowded outdoor areas.Wind Cave National Park is open year-around.

If a summer trip isn't in your plans, consider visiting this fall. Listen to the elk bugle, hike in cooler temperatures, or just enjoy the solitude.