JEWEL CAVE NATIONAL MONUMENT: MORE THAN JUST A CAVE
I’ve learned first-hand the Black Hills are home to some pretty impressive caves. Jewel Cave National Monument is one that offers some amazing scenery, and guided cave tours that bring you to a world you didn’t know was beneath your feet. To get a cave tour we had to show up early since neither of these caves take reservations and sell out rather quickly. Luckily, we planned ahead and got there early but still had a few hours to wait before our scheduled tour which wasn’t till 4:00? Lucky for us there’s more than just a cave.
When we first arrived, we had to wait for a little bit, so we looked around for things to do. Luckily a park ranger directed us to a patio talk. We were able to learn about different rock formations found in the cave and even pick up a few. I am a hands on kind of person so getting a chance to feel the rocks was great.
When the Patio Talk was done, we asked if there were any guided nature hikes. Unfortunately, there wasn’t any that day, but we were able to go out on the trail by ourselves. The trail system is located behind the Visitors Center. When I got there, I had no idea it was there, and it was a great way to pass the time. There are three trails nearby called Roof Trail, Canyons Trail, and Hells Canyon Trail. We took the Roof Trail and Canyons Trail. A few years ago I took the Hell Canyon Trail, which is a lot longer and a little harder than the others and is located adjacent to Jewel Cave. All of these trails have beautiful scenery and was the perfect way to pass the time.
Once we got done with our hike, we went back into the Visitors Center to cool off. If I had to describe the visitors center in two words, I would say “It’s AWESOME!” I’m a nerd and love random facts. The visitor center is filled with all kinds of facts and information about the cave. My favorite part was the map of the cave. It takes up a whole wall and shows how expansive the cave is, and that’s just what they’ve discovered, according to airflow studies 95% of Jewel cave has yet to be discovered. That’s a lot of cave!
As we walked up to the entrance of the elevator, there are little thought bubbles with questions and answers on them. These were a lot of fun to open and read. After we finished our patio talks, hiking, and exploration of the Visitor Center, we boarded the longest elevator in South Dakota and enjoyed the cave tour.
Here’s a couple of pro tips to make your Jewel Cave experience memorable.
Show up early. When I say early I mean first thing in the morning because cave tours can sell out by 11:00 am and you can’t make reservations for most of the tours.
Pack warm clothes. You can’t bring in backpacks so make sure you bring along a sweater to wear in the cave. Even though it’s hot outside, when you’re underground it stays around 40 degrees.
Take pictures. Make sure you share them with @VisitRapidCity on social media and include #VisitRapidCity.