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23 Great Wind Cave National Park Boondocking Locations

Wind Cave National Park Fins and Boxwork

I was very excited before we visited this Wind Cave National Park Free Boondocking locations because I’d heard that there were many trails for all skill levels and  we love to hike. Laurel was more excited because she loved our previous trip to nearby Badlands National Park. They both offered plenty of opportunities for hikers to see some amazing views.

Why Visit the Wind Cave National Park?

A few weekends ago, we had the good fortune of visiting Wind Cave National Park in South Dakota with my family. I’ve always loved hiking, and we prefer this physical activity over rock climbing or backpacking challenges since we are both now over 70. Our favorite type of hikes are those that take me through beautiful scenery where it’s easy to be enchanted by nature.

I was very excited before we visited Wind Cave National Park because I’d heard that there were many trails for all skill levels. Laurel was more excited because she loved our previous trip to nearby Badlands National Park. They both offered plenty of opportunities for hikers to see some amazing views.

During our trip, we hiked three different trails at various lengths to cover as much ground as possible without being exhausted.

We were able to see many wonderful things during our adventures at the park, but what I enjoyed most was seeing the sun rising over the prairie on my first morning there.

The valleys filled with fog looked more like something out of a fantasy land than real life. We also hiked to overlooked lakes and amazing rock formations called box canyons formed by erosion thousands of years ago.

Wind Cave National Park has 23,901 acres (97 km2) with 20 miles (30 km) of trails for hikers of all skill levels within two developed areas: Needles Area and Minuteman Missile National Historic Site. The parks’ climate is similar to many other areas of the Great Plains. The park is characterized by semi-arid plains that grow short grass prairie and a few pinyon pine trees. Several animals have adapted to live in this environment, including large herds of bison, mule deer, antelope, coyotes, Black-footed ferrets (considered an endangered species), many

Wind Cave National Park Pronghorn Antelope different reptiles (including snakes), grouse, and hawks.

History of the Wind Cave National Park

Before I share more information about the park, let me give a brief history that I found interesting.

Wind Cave National Park was founded in 1903 to preserve the cave for future generations. Wind Cave was discovered by brothers Jesse and Tom Woodward, looking for gold during the Black Hills Gold Rush of 1876. The caverns that they found were later named after them- the Wind Caves. Although it is known that there were much more than just two people who may have been exploring caves around this time, no other names are recorded as having explored these caves. There has yet to be any evidence recovered by archaeologists or scientists that prove Native American tribes used this land before Europeans arrived.

The first map of the Wind Cave Geological area came from Henry Shaler Williams in 1886, who produced a topographical drawing from a cave survey. The first documented person to enter the cave was Dr. Samuel Calvin in 1881, a professor from nearby Iowa State University. In 1886 he published his work entitled “The Wind Cave: A Study in Speleology.”

23 Wind Cave National Park Boondocking Locations

With this guide you will have no trouble boondocking near the Wind Cave National Park and many can also be use for Badlands National Park and even Mount Rushmore. Kind of a boondocking trifecta.

We love to give you other options if the South Dakota State Park Annual Pass for $36. This pass gives you free entrance to over 60 State Parks and runs from May through the following May. Much better than a short term pass for only one park, for Custer State Park it is $20 for 7 days. Most of the parks like the Custer State Park which is very near Wind Cave offers dispersed camping for $7 a night in the French Creek Natural Area.

For those looking for a more adventurous camping trip in Custer State Park, backpacking in the French Creek Natural Area might be just the ticket. This section of the park was set aside to preserve its incredible natural beauty and to offer visitors the opportunity to experience the rugged side of Custer State Park. Excellent option for Boondocking the Wind Cave National Park

Always remember also the America the Beautiful pass for all federal Parks, National Forests and BLM plan. Great for families for an annual pass and even better for seniors who can purchase a 1 time lifetime pass.

1. Wind Cave National Park Free Boondocking – 2 Miles: – Rifle Pit

Address
U.S. 385
Hot Springs, South Dakota
GPS: 43.598423, -103.52145
Elevation: 4623′

Management – Public – Forest Service

Amenities:

Restrooms

This site is not closed! The left side of the road, not the right, is open. Follow the road sign marked “Rifle Pit.” The right side is closed due to sapling growth. A good place to sleep for the night, but that’s about it. Pulled into the first gravel pullout from the paved road, but it looked to be a few more if you drove further in. The history of rifle pit was interesting as well. The historical marker sign is right before Rifle Pit Rd off of the paved road.

2. Wind Cave National Park Boondocking Locations – 4 Miles: – FSR 324 1D (MAY BE CLOSED)

Address
U.S. 385
Hot Springs, South Dakota
GPS: 43.601821, -103.549589
Elevation: 4754′

Management – Public – Forest Service

The road in is 4×4. Free Dispersed camping in the Black Hills National Forest’s Hell Canyon Ranger District. No reservations. First come, first served. It is rcommended that you have 4×4 and high clearance to reach this free camping area.

Activities:

Wildlife Viewing

3. Wind Cave National Park Boondocking – 10 Miles: – FR343.1a

Address
Custer, South Dakota
GPS: 43.716145, -103.570942
Elevation: 5522′

Management Public – Forest Service

The road in is Dirt. There are 1-5 campsites at this location and the maximum RV length is 25 feet. You may stay 14 days at FR343.1a. Rugged site but it’s free and works! There is also cell signal in this area!! Once you leave the main road and come through the livestock gate, the road becomes fairly rocky leading down a small hill. There aren’t obvious sites where people have camped before but there are a few spots where you can pull a car or small camper off the road a bit into some grass. We came through with a teardrop camper and were able to find a small patch of level ground. We didn’t need to use four wheel drive when we came through but the road was fairly dry. If conditions are wet during your trip four-wheel drive may be needed to navigate the road.

Activities:

RV Parking
Tent Camping
Hiking
Hunting
Wildlife Viewing

4. Wind Cave National Park Boondocking Locations – 12 Miles: – Lower French Creek (MIXED REVIEWS)

Address
Custer, South Dakota
GPS: 43.754492, -103.52012
Elevation: 5092′

Management – Public – Forest Service (Unofficial)

Just alongside the road with a state park sign in the middle. 4×4 is recommended but my two wheel did just fine. Be careful.

5. Wind Cave National Park Free Boondocking – 12 Miles: – Coffee Cup Fuel Stop (IF YOU ARRIVE LATE)

Address
27638 Hwy 385 l Highway 385/18 and 79
Maverick Junction, South Dakota
GPS: 43.400108, -103.396614
Elevation: 3205′

Management – Parking Lot – Truck Stop

Plenty of room parking off to the side of the truck pumps.Not real level, although we were able to get close using some blocks. No one complained when we put put out the slides on one side. The dump station is not pull through, and the water there is not potable. We stayed here in our 36 foot motor home and toad.

Wind Cave National Park Boxwork

6. Wind Cave National Park Boondocking Locations – 14 Miles: – Custer State Park Outskirts

Address
Crazy Horse, South Dakota
GPS: 43.779467, -103.505703
Elevation: 5325′

Management – Private (Official)

In National Forest free no water no services this is a free camp site in Custer state pars you must pay fee (20 $ for a week)

7. Wind Cave National Park Boondocking – 16 Miles: – Comanche Park National Forest Campground

Address
Custer, South Dakota
GPS: 43.73459, -103.714532

Management – Public – Forest Service (Official)

The road in is Paved. Comanche Park National Forest Campground is open Late October – Mid May. There are 1-5 campsites at this location and the maximum RV length is 35 feet. You may stay 14 Days at Comanche Park National Forest Campground. Many Black Hills National Forest Campgrounds are free during the off season. This one is $16/Night for single unit, $2/Night for extra vehicle in season. We stopped at the National Forest Headquarters and the ranger gave us a map of all the campgrounds and the ones that were listed as “partial” openings for winter season meant they had a few campsites open near the front and there were no fees. We stayed in early May, “Winter” officially ended on May 19th 2017 this year and I’m not sure of the dates when the winter season begins again so you would have to call the forest service or stop at the headquarters to ask.

Amenities:

Fire Ring
Restrooms

Activities:

RV Parking
Tent Camping

8. Wind Cave National Park Boondocking Locations – 18 Miles: – Sheps Canyon

Address
Hot Springs, South Dakota
GPS: 43.307671, -103.439125
Elevation: 3192′

Management – Public – State Park (Official)

The road in is Gravel and 10 miles from a paved road. Sheps Canyon is open All year. There are 1-5 campsites at this location. The free camping on the west side is a grassy area next to the lake with fire rings. The free campsites do not take reservations. The nearest store is Hot Springs. There is a pit toilet. Boat ramp nearby. Fishing for walleye. Take Highway 71 south of Hot Springs for about 5 miles. Turn left on Sheps canyon road (gravel) for about 4 miles. Turn RIGHT just past the trailer court. Continue about three miles. Usually empty during the week.

9. Wind Cave National Park Free Boondocking – 18 Miles: – Wrinkled Rock Climbing Area

Address
JUST WEST OF RUSHMORE
Keystone, South Dakota
GPS: 43.887837, -103.469496
Elevation: 5194′

Management – Public – Forest Service (Official)

The road in is Paved. Wrinkled Rock Climbing Area is open all year. There are 6-15 campsites at this location and the maximum RV length is 15 feet. You may stay 14 at Wrinkled Rock Climbing Area. Dispersed tent camping only or place to park a van or somthing, it says “Restrictions: No large vehicles/RVs” on the USFS web site.
There were only about 3 sleeping pads (about 10ft X 10ft) and they are on a first come, first serve basis. The idea is low impact camping: no fires, pit toilet, ect.

The Wrinkled Rock Climbers Trailhead is located on State Highway 244, adjacent to the west boundary of Mount Rushmore National Memorial.

Amenities:

Restrooms

Activities:

Fishing
Hiking
Rock Climbing

10. Wind Cave National Park Boondocking Locations – 21 Miles: – Spring Creek

Address
Crazy Horse, South Dakota
GPS: 43.86594, -103.65248
Elevation: 5463′

Management – Public – Forest Service (Official)

The road in is Gravel and 1.7 miles from a paved road. Spring Creek is open Year round. There are 1-5 campsites at this location and the maximum RV length is 15 feet. You may stay 14 days at Spring Creek. Dispersed camping in the Black Hills National Forest. Several sites along Spring Creek Rd including this one. Nice primitive site beside Spring Creek

Activities:

Tent Camping

11. Wind Cave National Park Boondocking – 21 Miles: – Flying J Travel Center

Address
Hermosa, South Dakota
GPS: 43.84284, -103.20284
Elevation: 3340′

Management – Private – Truck Stop (Official)

After buying a shower ($12 totally worth it) I asked of overnight parking was allowed & clerk said yes. Went way off to side to not annoy truckers and slept great. Site Lao has a laundromat and cafe

12. Wind Cave National Park Boondocking Locations – 22 Miles: – French Creek Campground

Address
E French Creek Rd. Fairburn, SD
Fairburn, South Dakota
GPS: 43.6622, -103.0227
Elevation: 2898′

Management – Public – Forest Service

The road in is Dirt. There are 6-15 campsites at this location. Campground has 8-10 tent sites in a fenced area. Vault toilet and garbage cans are in this area. There is parking in front of the tent area for cars/trucks and across the road for RV’s or horse trailers. Very busy spot for rock hounds with agate beds within walking distance. The FS website states that it is a fee area but I was there a week and there was no instructions to pay.

Amenities:

Fire Ring
Picnic Tables
Restrooms
Trash Cans

Activities:

Horse Trails
Wildlife Viewing

13. Wind Cave National Park Free Boondocking – 23 Miles: – Centennial Trailhead Samulies

Address
US-16
Silver City, South Dakota
GPS: 43.928375, -103.487898
Elevation: 5062′

Management – Public – Forest Service (Unofficial)

Just a quick pull off hwy 16 east of hill city south Dakota. Good one night stop. Fit 34ft c class spots for tents just in the forest.

Activities:

Tent Camping
Hiking

Wind Cave National Park Bison

14. Wind Cave National Park Boondocking Locations – 24 Miles: – Bear Mountain Hilltop

Address
Custer, South Dakota
GPS: 43.867203, -103.753686
Elevation: 7011′

Management – Public – Forest Service (Official)

The road in is Gravel and 12 miles from a paved road. There are 1-5 campsites at this location and the maximum RV length is 35 feet. You may stay 14 at Bear Mountain Hill top. Real hard finding this spot, but it worked out for our 37ft 5th wheel. Stayed here 8 nights with no problems. Lots of deer and no one around at night. Real remote. Clear view of sun for solar power. Verizon worked great since the cell tower was right next to us. AT&T did not work. No bears at all. Tons and tons of deer though. Grass was real high but was manageable. NSF maps approve this site. No issues with any authority.

Activities:

OHV
Biking
Hunting
Wildlife Viewing

15. Wind Cave National Park Boondocking – 24 Miles: – Keyrapmore Dispersed Camping

Address
Rapid City, South Dakota
GPS: 43.93898, -103.44763
Elevation: 5190′

Management – Public – Forest Service (Unofficial)

16. Wind Cave National Park Boondocking Locations – 25 Miles: – Single Site off Calumet Road

Address
Silver City, South Dakota
GPS: 43.941715, -103.45083
Elevation: 5217′

Management Public – Forest Service (Unofficial)

A single flat area on a small forest service road, which is accessible from Calumet Road. About .8mi up Calumet Road from Route 16, turn right onto the forest service road. The campsite will be on your right, on the crest of a hill, in a few tenths of a mile. I do not recommend trying to bring anything larger than a van up here. There is some trash around — if anyone with a vehicle large enough wanted to take some of it out, that would be great. (I’m on a motorcycle.)

17. Wind Cave National Park Boondocking – 24 Miles: – Taylor Ranch RD

Address
Taylor Ranch RD
Rapid City, South Dakota
GPS: 43.997445, -103.449861
Elevation: 4606′

Management – Public – Forest Service (Official)

The road in is Gravel and .25 miles from a paved road. There are 1-5 campsites at this location and the maximum RV length is unlimited. You may stay none at Taylor Ranch RD. Great place to stay. We built a cute firepit that may still be there. Easy to get in and out. Riding trails near by so my guys were happy. Saw a few cars, and some atv riders go through but we felt safe and didn’t even want to leave to go to our paid campground the next day. We stopped right by dirtbikes tracks up the hill on your right. As you go in further could be hard for rv but without trailer tons of places further up the road.

Activities:

RV Parking
Tent Camping
OHV
Biking
Hiking
Wildlife Viewing

18. Wind Cave National Park Boondocking Locations – 25 Miles: – Badlands National Park

Address
Porcupine, South Dakota
GPS: 43.563956, -102.888019
Elevation: 3196′

Management – Public – National Park Service (Official)

The road in is Dirt. There are 1-5 campsites at this location and the maximum RV length is 45 feet. Southwest edge of the Badlands National Park, in a small area where the Park touches BIA-41. There is a small 100′ by 100′ area of mowed grass that over looks the Badlands.

Activities:

RV Parking
Tent Camping

19. Wind Cave National Park Boondocking – 25 Miles: – Buffalo Gap National Grasslands

Address
708 Main St / PO Box 425 Wall, SD 57790
Oelrichs, South Dakota
GPS: 43.170786, -103.165607
Elevation: 3412′

Management – Public – Forest Service (Official)

The road in is Dirt. There are 30 or more campsites at this location and the maximum RV length is unlimited. These National Grasslands are amazing! There’s practically an infinite number of boondocking ‘sites’ available with vast miles and miles of rolling grass hills and meadows. It’s managed by the National Forest Service, and it’s all open to the public (in fact, being national land, we all jointly own it). The full 369-degree views are absolutely stunning, and for me this is as close to a perfect boondocking location that I’ve ever experienced.

Activities:

RV Parking
Tent Camping
Fishing
Horse Trails
Swimming
Wildlife Viewing

20. Wind Cave National Park Boondocking – 24 Miles: – Castle Peak Rd Campsites

Address
Hill City, South Dakota
GPS: 44.068062, -103.718623
Elevation: 5262′

Management – Public – Forest Service (Official)

The road in is Dirt and 6 miles from a paved road. Castle Peak Rd Campsites is open Year round weather permitting. There are 6-15 campsites at this location and the maximum RV length is 25 feet. You may stay 14 days at Castle Peak Rd Campsites. Multiple camping sites along Castle Peak Rd. Rough road gravel and dirt getting in. 4 wheel drive recommended. Max 25ft RV length. Saw a 25ft Class C back in there. Would not take my 35ft 5th wheel though. A couple tight turns. From Hill city take Deerfield Rd NW, about 4 miles go right onto Mystic Rd, a little further on Mystic Rd and then Left on Castle Peak Rd. Camp sites will be on the left along creek. Castle Peak Rd is rough.

21. Wind Cave National Park Boondocking Locations – 24 Miles: – Mule Creek Junction Rest Stop

Address
GPS: 43.378602, -104.221276
Elevation: 3766′

Management – Public – Rest Area (Official)

The road in is Paved. Mule Creek Junction Rest Stop is open Always. There are 1-5 campsites at this location and the maximum RV length is unlimited. You may stay Overnight at Mule Creek Junction Rest Stop. Wyoming DOT Rest Area. Overnight RV parking only. No tents or camping. On the corner of US85 and US18 where 18 turns South and becomes US18/85. This is a “T” intersection. The rest area is on the north side. It has restrooms, a playground, pet area, and picnic tables. It is fairly quiet at night. Cell service is very good.

Amenities:

ADA accessible
BBQ Grill
Drinking Water
Pay Phone
Pets Welcome
Picnic Tables
Restrooms
Playground
Trash Cans

22. Wind Cave National Park Boondocking – 24 Miles: – Nemo Forest Road 678

Address
Nemo, South Dakota
GPS: 44.203491, -103.517102
Elevation: 4764′

Management – Public – Forest Service (Official)

The road in is Gravel and 3 miles from a paved road. There are 1-5 campsites at this location and the maximum RV length is unlimited. Dispersed camping in Black Hills Forest right outside Nemo. About a mile up a dirt road, just past where the Centennial Trail crosses. We made it fine with a 2 WD van, but I wouldn’t recommend a small car as you’ll need some clearance. There are actually several places you can pull off on this road, but this was my favorite.

Activities:

RV Parking
Tent Camping
OHV
Wildlife Viewing

23. Wind Cave National Park Boondocking Locations – 25 Miles: – Roubaix Lake

Address
US 385 Black Hills National Forest
Deadwood, South Dakota
GPS: 44.19968, -103.661758
Elevation: 5539′

Management
Public – Forest Service (USDA) (Official)
Website
The road in is Paved. Roubaix Lake is open all year. There are 6-15 campsites at this location and the maximum RV length is 25. This campsite is only free outside of peak season(end of summer to end of spring). There is a fee (~$20) during the rest of the year. This is a national forest campground about 13.5 miles south of Deadwood , South Dakota. One small section of road , which goes down to the lake and beach , is opened all year. There are about 10 campsites along this road. Most of them are back in and not very long or level. Each parking area is shared with the site next to it, so since it wasn’t busy at all we parked sideways to get a level spot and view of the lake. Even so I wouldn’t recommend trying to fit with a RV over 25′.

Amenities:

Near Water
Picnic Tables
Restrooms

Pronghorn Antelope Wind Cave National Park

Places and Things to Do and See in Wind Cave National Park

Here are 10 places and things to do at Wind Cave National Park to make your visit even better:

1. Visit Solfatara Plateau

This geological site is named after a lava field in Italy with similar features that I have been fortunate enough to see firsthand. Eruptions of carbon dioxide gas through cracks in the ground formed these hazardous but beautiful table-like structures and unusual red bubble stones. If you’re looking for a place to stretch your legs, this is a great place to do it.

2. Visit the Bat Barn and Watch Bats Take Flight

Have you ever seen a bat take flight? It’s an incredible sight to behold! Located at Big Hollow Recreation Area, about 10 minutes from the park’s entrance, this bat barn gives visitors a chance to do just that. The best time of year for viewing bats take flight is summertime, so plan accordingly if you want to go then.

3. Stop by Iron Creek Campground

Located about 20 minutes from either the north or south entrances and free to stay in, Iron Creek Campground has 21 campsites available for simple overnight stays. Each site has a pavilion with a lantern post and grill, picnic table, fire ring, and ground pad, and there is improved access for people with disabilities at each one.

4. Try Rock Climbing at Iron Creek Climbing Area

If you’ve always wanted to try rock climbing but haven’t known where to start, the Iron Creek Climbing Area is perfect for you. Located just past the north entrance with good parking, this area has suitable routes for every experience level. If you don’t have your gear or are nervous about trying something new, clinics are held regularly throughout the summer that will teach you everything you need to know about rock climbing.

5. Visit Wind Cave National Park’s Theatre

The Wind Cave National Park Theatre is a great place to enjoy two award-winning films about the park and its history. The first, “Winds of Change,” tells the story of these unique caves from the Lakota Sioux people’s perspective, while “Running Real Fast!” is a kid-friendly movie that teaches children how animals make their homes in very different environments.

Top 10 Trails to Hike at Wind Cave National Park

1. Rankin Ridge Interpretive Trail

1. Rankin Ridge Interpretive Trail-1 - Wind Cave National Park

Rankin Ridge Interpretive Trail is a 1 mile moderately trafficked loop trail located near Custer, South Dakota that features beautiful wild flowers and is good for all skill levels. The trail is primarily used for hiking, walking, and nature trips and is best used from May until November.

The Rankin Ridge Interpretive Trail is a short hike with little elevation gain. Still, its location provides it with spectacular views of the park’s west side prairies, vistas of Battle Mountain, Pondera Butte, Wood Mountain, and the town of Hot Springs. The trail is a 1-mile round trip, which hikers can complete in about an hour.

Length: 1.0 mi
Elevation gain: 239 ft
Route type: Loop

Interactive Map

Kid friendly
Hiking
Nature trips
Walking
Views
Wildflowers
No dogs

1. Rankin Ridge Interpretive Trail - Wind Cave National Park Boondocking

2. Lookout Point Trail and Centennial Trail Loop

2. Lookout Point Trail and Centennial Trail Loop-1 - Wind Cave National Park

Lookout Point Trail and Centennial Trail Loop is a 5.2 mile moderately trafficked loop trail located near Custer, South Dakota that features a river and is rated as moderate. The trail offers a number of activity options and is best used from April until October.

If you want to see more than just prairie and grassland, the Lookout Point Trail starts at the Lookout point parking area on Highway 87, north 9 miles from park headquarters or 3 miles south of Mammoth on Highway 240. This easy to moderate hike features a 300-ft elevation gain through open forest, tall grasses, and scattered tree groves offering views of the surrounding landscape such as Cold Brook Canyon, Wind Cave National Park’s west side prairies, vistas of Wood Mountain, the town of Hot Springs and even distant views of Mount Rushmore (4.2 miles round trip).

Length: 5.2 mi
Elevation gain: 515 ft
Route type: Loop

Interactive Map

Kid friendly
Backpacking
Hiking
Nature trips
Walking
Running
ForestRiver
Views
Wildflowers
Wildlife
Bugs
No dogs

2. Lookout Point Trail and Centennial Trail Loop - Wind Cave National Park

3. Wind Cave Canyon Trail

3. Wind Cave Canyon Trail-1 - Wind Cave National Park

Wind Cave Canyon Trail is a 3.8 mile out and back trail located near Custer, South Dakota that offers the chance to see wildlife and is good for all skill levels. The trail is primarily used for hiking, walking, and nature trips and is best used from April until October.

Only for hikers who are in shape or at least somewhat active, the Wind Cave Canyon trail starts across from the campground on gravel roads that can be easily walked but will require a high clearance vehicle if you would like to drive further into the canyon. The strenuous, 10-mile hike has a gradual elevation gain as it follows an old service road into Wind Cave National Park.

Length: 3.8 mi
Elevation gain: 213 ft
Route type: Out & back

Interactive Map

Kid friendly
Hiking
Nature trips
Walking
Views
Wildlife
No dogs

3. Wind Cave Canyon Trail - Wind Cave National Park

4. Cold Brook Canyon Trail

4. Cold Brook Canyon Trail-1- Wind Cave National Park Free Boondocking

Cold Brook Canyon Trail is a 2.8 mile out and back trail located near Custer, South Dakota that offers the chance to see wildlife and is good for all skill levels. The trail is primarily used for hiking, walking, and trail running and is best used from April until October.

The Cold Brook Canyon trail starts across from the campground on gravel roads. It follows an old service road to a junction with Taylor Creek Trail. This moderate hike features a 700-ft elevation gain through open forest, tall grasses, and scattered tree groves that will lead you to Wind Cave National Park’s west side prairies or its bison and elk herds (3 miles round trip).

Length: 2.8 mi
Elevation gain: 200 ft
Route type: Out & back

Interactive Map

Kid friendly
Hiking
Walking
Running
Wildlife
No shade
No dogs

4. Cold Brook Canyon Trail - Wind Cave National Park Free Boondocking

5. Prairie Vista Loop

5. Prairie Vista Loop-1- Wind Cave National Park Free Boondocking

Prairie Vista Loop is a 1 mile moderately trafficked out and back trail located near Hot Springs, South Dakota that offers scenic views and is good for all skill levels. The trail is primarily used for hiking, walking, and nature trips and is best used from April until November.

A casual walk around Prairie Vista Loop will take you through meadows and scattered groves of trees to views from the hills east of the park’s west side prairies, Lookout Point, Battle Mountain, Pondera Butte, Wood Mountain, and even distant views of Mount Rushmore (0.8 miles round trip).

Length: 1.0 mi
Elevation gain: 104 ft
Route type: Out & back

Interactive Map

Kid friendly
Hiking
Nature trips
Walking
Views
No shade

5. Prairie Vista Loop- Wind Cave National Park Free Boondocking

6. East Bison Flats Trail

6. East Bison Flats Trail-1- Wind Cave National Park Free Boondocking

East Bison Flats Trail is a 10.1 mile moderately trafficked out and back trail located near Custer, South Dakota that features beautiful wild flowers and is rated as moderate. The trail offers a number of activity options and is best used from April until October.

The East Bison Flats trail begins 0.2 miles east of Mammoth on Highway 87, north 9 miles from park headquarters, or 3 miles south on Highway 240. The moderate hike features a 300-ft elevation gain through open forest, tall grasses, and scattered tree groves, which hikers can complete in about an hour (0.8-mile round trip).

Length: 10.1 mi
Elevation gain: 1,463 ft
Route type: Out & back

Interactive Map

Hiking
Nature trips
Walking
Bird watching
Running
Views
Wildflowers
Wildlife

No dogs

6. East Bison Flats Trail- Wind Cave National Park Free Boondocking

7. Boland Ridge Trail

7. Boland Ridge Trail-1 - Wind Cave National Park

Boland Ridge Trail is a 4.8 mile out and back trail located near Buffalo Gap, South Dakota that offers the chance to see wildlife and is rated as moderate. The trail is primarily used for hiking, walking, and trail running and is best used from April until October.

The Boland Ridge trail starts 2 miles east of Mammoth on Highway 87 north 9 miles from park headquarters or 3 miles south of Mammoth on Highway 240, then turn right and drive 8.6 miles along gravel roads until you reach the marked parking lot at the road’s end (1-mile round trip). The hike is moderate to difficult as it features a 400-ft elevation gain through an open forest before reaching rugged badlands where views extend to Battle Mountain, Lookout Point, and the town of Hot Springs.

Length: 4.8 mi
Elevation gain: 816 ft
Route type: Out & back

Interactive Map

Hiking
Walking
Running
Wildlife
No shade
No dogs

7. Boland Ridge Trail - Wind Cave National Park

8. Elk Mountain Interpretive Trail

8. Elk Mountain Interpretive Trail-1 - Wind Cave National Park

Elk Mountain Interpretive Trail is a 2.5 mile lightly trafficked out and back trail located near Custer, South Dakota that offers the chance to see wildlife and is good for all skill levels. The trail is primarily used for hiking and walking and is best used from April until October.

This short loop circles a butte that provides hikers with a view of Wind Cave National Park’s west side prairies, Wood Mountain, the towns of Hot Springs and Hermosa, South Dakota’s the Black Hills, and even Mount Rushmore (0.4-mile round trip).

Length: 2.5 mi
Elevation gain: 328 ft
Route type: Out & back

Interactive Map

Kid friendly
Hiking
Walking
Wildlife
No dogs

8. Elk Mountain Interpretive Trail - Wind Cave National Park

9. Centennial Trail: Highway 87 to Highland Creek Trailhead

9. Centennial Trail-1 - Wind Cave National Park

Centennial Trail: Highway 87 to Highland Creek Trailhead is a 5.8 mile lightly trafficked point-to-point trail located near Custer, South Dakota that offers the chance to see wildlife and is rated as moderate. The trail offers a number of activity options and is best used from April until October.

The Centennial Trail starts at the Lookout point parking area on highway 87 north, 9 miles from park headquarters or 3 miles south of Mammoth on Highway 240. The moderate hike features a 300-ft elevation gain through open forest, tall grasses, and scattered tree groves, which hikers can complete in about an hour (a 1-mile round trip).

Length: 5.8 mi
Elevation: gain 685 ft
Route type: Point to point

Interactive Map

Backpacking
Camping
Hiking
Mountain biking
Nature trips
Bird watching
Views
Wildlife
No dogs

9. Centennial Trail - Wind Cave National Park

10. Highland Creek Trail to Centennial Trail Loop

10. Highland Creek Trail to Centennial Trail Loop-1

Highland Creek Trail to Centennial Trail Loop is a 13.6 mile loop trail located near Buffalo Gap, South Dakota that offers scenic views and is rated as difficult. The trail is primarily used for hiking and nature trips.

Another great day hike is the Highland Trail to Centennial trail Loop, starting at the Highland trailhead on Highway 87. This moderate hike features a 200-ft elevation gain that hikers can complete in about an hour (a 1-mile round trip).

Length: 13.6 mi
Elevation gain: 1,456 ft
Route type: Loop

Interactive Map

Hiking
Nature trips
Views

10. Highland Creek Trail to Centennial Trail Loop - Wind Cave National Park

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