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Free Traveling Guides » States » South Dakota » Black Hills

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Wind Cave National Park, South Dakota

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Beneath wide open plains, Wind Cave National Park, ten minute north of Hot Springs, comprises over 100 miles of mapped underground passages carved out of limestone. The park contains one of the world's longest and most complex caves. It was first discovered in 1881 when a loud whistling noise led a settler to the cave's only natural opening in the ground.

Nowadays rangers lead a variety of cave tours from the park's visitor center, pointing out delicate features such as frost work and box work along the way. If you come in summer, forget the standard walking tours and opt for the ones that allow you to crawl around in the smaller passages, or explore the caves by candlelight. Various tours are offered which differ in duration and detail. The Garden of Eden Tour is the most basic of these.  Lasting about one hour, this 1/4 mile tour goes through the upper level of the cave.

If you lack the time or inclination to explore the caves in detail, simply driving through the park is an incredible Black Hills experience. Its native grass prairieland is home to deer, antelope, elk, coyote, prairie dogs and huge herds of buffalos. For hikers, the park has two nature trails. The Elk Mountain Nature Trail is the most popular, while The Ridge Nature Trail is preferred by some visitors.

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