Wind Cave National Park
26611 US Highway 385, Hot Springs, SD 57747
Open 24 hours.
hike, road-trip, parks, outdoor-adventures
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Like each National Park, Wind Cave offers a uniquely beautiful glimpse at the breathtaking natural beauty of our country.
Located just off the southern tip of the unbelievably gorgeous Custer State Park, Wind Cave National Park is not to be missed. I was surprised to learn it's one of the least visited national parks, as it's not incredibly remote, like many of the others. Created back in 1903 by none other than Teddy Roosevelt himself, it became only the seventh national park in the country, as well as the very first cave to be set aside as a national park anywhere in the world. Wind Cave is famous for its calcite formations called bauxite. This single park contains 95% of all the bauxite formations in the world. This park contains one of the longest caves in the world, as well as the largest remaining natural mixed-grass prairie in America.
Wind Cave National Park was named after an old story from 1881 in which a man named Tom Bingham looked into a 10-inch hole near the entrance to the cave, and legend has it that air rushed out at him from the hole, knocking his hat off! Going back even further, the Lakota people who lived in the Black Hills considered Wind Cave sacred ground, as they spoke of a 'hole that blew air.' They believed the mouth of the cave served as an opening from the underworld. In 1892, once early explorers to the cave realized it held no valuable natural resources, it was decided the cave would become a tourist attraction, and visitors were charged a then hefty charge of one dollar for a tour.
Above ground, marvel at the beautiful prairie animals, including bison, elk, pronghorn, prairie dogs, and the endangered black-footed ferret. At the time of this writing, the caves are currently closed to visitors, however, this park is still worth a visit. Having spent the day at nearby Custer State Park, we headed down to Wind Cave and caught an absolutely breathtaking sunset over the quiet prairies. I always forget how incredibly still and quiet national parks are. In our busy world, this is so very good for the soul.
The girls had picked out muffins earlier in the day, and we sat on the front of the car and watched the golden sunset as we enjoyed our muffins and the stillness of it all. This park is not to be underestimated, as you must remember, each national park is so different from the rest, but that is, of course, the point...to see unique, spectacular pieces of our incredible country. I highly recommend you pack a lovely picnic for your family, pack plenty of layers as the South Dakota prairies can be incredibly windy, and enjoy a morning at Wind Cave. Once you've checked out the park, head north to explore the unbelievably beautiful Custer State Park.