Top 2 Activities for an Amazing Afternoon – Wind Cave NP

Day 3 of our Arizona to South Dakota road trip we spent the afternoon at Wind Cave National Park in South Dakota. After a great experience, Buddy and I are sharing our top two favorite activities we did at Wind Cave NP.

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1. Hiking

We hiked the Cold Brook Canyon Trail a 2.8 mile out and back trail. The views were lovely. The flowers and butterflies were beautiful. Being from the Southwest, we especially loved seeing the prairie dogs up close. We did not see any bison on the trail. Unfortunately, we did not do the complete the trail. We had to end the hike early to be on time for our cave tour. But, we did get the chance to film a Movement Postcard before we wrapped up the hike. “It was a good hike and nature walk,” Buddy says. “I saw prairie dogs for the first time.”

“It was a good hike and nature walk. I saw prairie dogs for the first time.”

Buddy

While we loved the Cold Brook Canyon Trail, the trail was not our first choice. We had our hearts set on the Lookout Point Trail a 5.7 mile loop. Perhaps we can hike this trail during our next visit.

What to bring

  • Water Bottles

This is for the hikes only as the cave tours do not allow water or other drinks.

  • A Hat for sun protection

I bought this hat in 2018 for a trip to Disney World and Universal Studios in Orlando. The hat has since traveled with me to Hawaii, Guatemala, New Mexico, Colorado, and on numerous hiking trips around Arizona. I like that it can easily be folded up to fit into a carryon.

  • Sunscreen

Living in Southern AZ, we are exposed to the sun year-round. Buddy’s pediatrician recommended Blue Lizard sunscreen when he was a toddler. We have been using it ever since. We love that the bottle turns blue when the UV rays are strong.

2. Cave Tour

The first thing we did when we arrived at Wind Cave NP was make a beeline for the Cave Tour desk. If you are interested in taking a cave tour, I highly recommend you do the same.

While planning the trip, I read that cave tours can sell out during the summer months and it was best to arrive early. We arrived around 2pm and were happily surprised to find that there were tickets available for tours that afternoon.

We arrived a bit early for our cave tour. That allowed us some time to explore the museum and learn about the cave before our tour.

The Natural Entrance Cave tour lasted 1 hour and 15 minutes. There are stairs that take you down into the cave but an elevator that takes you up. We found the descent into the cave to be easy. However, it is very slippery. Buddy slipped and fell once.

The tour was smooth. Even though there were 40 of us in our group, it seemed very intimate. We only ran into another tour group once. We loved seeing the boxwork and cave popcorn. Buddy took many photos to share with his friends on social media. “The cave, that was fun,” says Buddy. “I have never really been that deep before. So, it was fun to look at things that you wouldn’t usually see above ground.”

What to bring

  • Jackets

Packing for Wind Cave NP in July is like packing for two different climates. This is because the temperature inside the cave is roughly 54 degrees F. The National Park rangers recommend long sleeves or jackets and comfortable shoes with non-slip soles. We packed layers for both the hike in the sun and the journey into the cave.

  • Jeans or sweat pants

We put jeans and sweatpants over our shorts for the cave tour. It must have worked because we did not feel chilly at all.

Why just an afternoon?

We began the morning packing up our tent and leaving Cheyenne, WY KOA Journey. After driving for a few hours, we stopped at Hot Spring, SD to visit The Mammoth Site. We spent about an hour there. Although the site was interesting, we agreed it is geared towards families with younger children. After our pit stop at Hot Springs, we drove to Wind Cave National Park.

We also left Wind Cave NP a bit early to check into our cabin in Hill City, SD. Unfortunately, it meant less time at the national park. But the silver lining was that we had time to explore Hill City and grab a bite to eat at Desperados. (Learn more about our culinary adventures here).

If we were to plan another trip to Wind Cave National Park, This is what I would do differently:

  • Arrive early. I wish we would have arrived earlier. If we were to do this trip again, we would skip the Mammoth Site for more time at Wind Cave NP.
  • Camp overnight. Camping overnight would have allowed for us to spend one day hiking and one day exploring the cave without being so rushed. The area was beautiful. If we were to go back, we would definitely camp overnight.
  • More time for hiking.

We would definitely go back to Wind Cave National Park. Have you been to Wind Cave National Park? What did you most enjoy? Leave a comment below!

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