South Dakota is virgin territory for many travelers, open for new exploration and thrilling discoveries, just like it was for the pioneers of old. Often, would-be tourists can name only one major sight they’d like to visit in South Dakota, but the fact is that there’s more to The Mount Rushmore State than just Mount Rushmore. Case in point: Wind Cave National Park.
One of five national parks established by President Theodore Roosevelt, Wind Cave National Park is home to one of the longest caves in the world (at approximately 150 miles long). If going deep into the earth isn’t your thing, you can stay above ground, take in the largest mixed-grass prairie remaining in the US, and observe the wildlife calling it home. Read on to learn more about one of South Dakota’s hidden gems!
Wind Cave National Park Facts
Since it isn’t as well known as Mount Rushmore, prospective visitors probably need a few Wind Cave National Park facts.
- Wind Cave National Park was established on January 3, 1903. It was the first cave in the world to be designated as a national park.
- It is not only the longest cave in the world; Wind Cave itself is also so intertwined that it represents the densest cave system in the world.
- “Wind Cave” is so-named because pressure changes lead to the air blowing out of the cave as the pressure constantly equalizes between the surface and the caverns.
- Wildlife in the above-ground portions of the park includes elk, bison, pronghorn, prairie dogs, and a variety of birds (bald eagles, golden eagles, chickadees, turkey vultures, and more).
Best Wind Cave National Park RV Parks and Campgrounds
Now that some Wind Cave National Park facts are on your radar, it’s time to explore your Wind Cave National Park RV camping options. With an RV rental
, Wind Cave National Park exploration is taken to the next level!
Custer’s Gulch RV Park
Custer’s Gulch RV Park’s claim to fame is being “the very same spot” where US General George Armstrong Custer camped during his expedition to the Black Hills. Speaking of those Black Hills, they surround this campground just as they did back in Custer’s day. While the beautiful sights are the same, the amenities for those RV camping near Wind Cave National Park are decidedly better nowadays. Visitors can go fishing, hiking, ATV riding, canoeing, and more — all within a close driving distance of both Wind Cave National Park and Mt. Rushmore!
62 RV campsites
More information: Custer’s Gulch RV Park
Elk Mountain Campground
For RV camping in Wind Cave National Park itself, head to Elk Mountain Campground. A first-come, first-served campground offering visitors the full experience of being out in nature, there’s no cell phone or Wi-Fi service at Elk Mountain campground - so be prepared to really be cut off from it all when you’re here. Also, be aware that winter brings with it the chance of park roads closing due to snow, which could affect your ability to get to the RV campgrounds in Wind Cave National Park and your ability to leave!
48 RV campsites
More information: Elk Mountain Campground
Broken Arrow Horse Camp
Open from May 1 to October 1 every year, Broken Arrow Horse Camp is one of the more popular RV parks near Wind Cave National Park. It fills up quickly once the season starts. Lucky visitors who’ve snagged a parking space can wash the day off with the hot showers and laundry facilities on-site, and also shop at the camp store or fire up one of the many grills available. With a playground, picnic pavilion, horse barns, and fire circles, Broken Arrow Horse Camp is a great option for those visiting with families
40 RV campsites
More information: Broken Arrow Horse Camp
Kemo Sabay Campground
If you’re in the market for unique Wind Cave National Park RV sites, Kemo Sabay Campground fits the bill. This 90-acre campground is filled with farm equipment and is located at the foot of Battle Mountain. It is open from June 1 through September 30. Kemo Bay Campground is ideal if you want to visit Wind Cave National Park and Mt. Rushmore. If you’re looking for a site that promises peace and quiet, there’s, perhaps, no better RV campground in the area.
25 RV campsites
More information: Kemo Sabay Campground
French Creek RV Park & Campground
Situated near downtown Custer, South Dakota, French Creek RV Campground is a great spot to go RV camping near Wind Cave National Park. Small but friendly, French Creek RV Campground offers free Wi-Fi, full hookups, and free Friday night potluck BBQs. Though it’s just a block from downtown Custer, two nearby parks and French Creek give this pet-friendly RV campground
an air of being farther away from civilization than it is while being close to the action.
18 RV campsites
More information: French Creek RV Park and Campground
Best Time to Visit Wind Cave National Park for RV Camping
The seasons and weather need to be on your mind when considering the best time to visit Wind Cave National Park. Even with an RV rental
, Wind Cave National Park can be inaccessible in certain seasons. Read on to see why.
If you're planning on visiting in winter
, be prepared to bundle up. Truth be told, there isn't much to do at Wind Cave National Park in this season that doesn't involve protecting yourself from the intermittent weather. Whether you’re animal-watching or cave-exploring, dress for the elements. Bear in mind, too, that winter storms can dump loads of snow, resulting in the sudden closure of roadways. This means you could either be stranded or blocked from getting to your destination.
Springtime is the rainiest time of year at Wind Cave National Park, with some months averaging 9 inches of rainfall. If you're planning on visiting the park in spring, be ready to get a bit wet. Spring is also when many RV parks near Wind Cave National Park first open — and spaces can fill up fast! If you’re planning on going in springtime, plan and book as soon as you can.
If you're visiting Wind Cave National Park in summer, you're coming at the hottest and driest time of year. This is great for those who want to avoid the spring rains (though thunderstorms can still develop this time of year, with extreme weather shutting down access to roads). That said, it’s safe to say that summer is not the ideal season for heat-sensitive visitors. If you're going to visit Wind Cave National Park in summer, be sure to bring lots of water.
With some of the mildest temperatures of the year, fall is a wonder-fall
time for Wind Cave National Park RV camping. You can enjoy everything the area has to offer, without dealing with excessive heat or crowds. However, keep in mind that many RV parks near Wind Cave National Park close in early October, so plan accordingly. If your ideal RV campgrounds aren’t available in the fall, other campgrounds will happily host you for the duration of your stay.
Things to Do in Wind Cave National Park
Discovering the best time to visit Wind Cave National Park is only part of the process. Now it’s time to look up things to do in Wind Cave National Park.
Explore the Cave.
The highlight of any visit to Wind Cave National Park is Wind Cave itself, which can be entered only on a ranger-guided tour
. Reservations are required, so be sure to check the schedule ahead of time.
With over 30 miles of hiking trails (and two pet-friendly trails), the Black Hills scenery spreads out before you as you explore above ground.
There is a wide variety of wildlife on Wind Cave National Park’s 28,295 acres. Even more, Bison Flats, Boland Ridge, and the prairie dog towns along Highway 385 are one of the best places to catch sight of the animals.
Have a Picnic.
Wind Cave National Park is a great locale for daytime picnicking in the spring, summer, and fall, with one dedicated picnic area and plenty of green spaces throughout the park.
Tips on Visiting Wind Cave National Park
By now, you’ve surely compiled a list of things to do in Wind Cave National Park, but there’s more to know before heading there for a visit.
- The temperature inside Wind Cave itself is a constant 54°F all year round, so even if you visit on the hottest of summer days, bring along long sleeves if you’re planning on exploring the cave.
- Visitors with special needs can arrange for visits to wheelchair-accessible areas. There are also special accommodation tours for those with limited hearing or vision.
- Exercise caution when encountering wildlife. You must always keep a distance of at least 25 yards. Stay a bit farther from bison, which can be faster than you expect!
- The Wind Cave Visitor Center is open every day of the year except Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Day, and New Year's Day. Hours are extended in spring, summer, and fall.
RV Rental for Wind Cave National Park
As you can see, whether above on the prairie or below in maze-like caverns, Wind Cave National Park is a unique tourist destination. Wind Cave National Park can be easily visited with an RV rental but securing that rental can be a chore if you don’t know who to go with. Luckily, Cruise America
has a fleet of RVs that perfectly fit your needs and desires. Get in touch with Cruise America
today — they’ll get you on the road in no time!