Guide to Jewel Cave National Monument

Jewel Cave is one of the few caves in South Dakota that is managed by the National Park Service. And for good reason; Jewel Cave is the third longest cave in the world, with 202 miles of explored underground passageways. The entrance to the cave is located within the bounds of the national monument, however, more than 55% of the underground tunnels lie outside the bounds, beneath the Black Hills National Forest. Only a 30 minute drive from Lantern Inn, you can explore these unique caverns and parts of Black Hills National Forest in one day.

Where is Jewel Cave National Monument?

Located in the Hell Canyon Ranger District, Jewel Cave is a great place to visit while on your day trip in the Black Hills National Forest. 2 miles from the Hell Canyon trailhead and only 30 minutes from your stay at Lantern Inn, you can also spend part of your day at Jewel Cave and visit other attractions in the evening. All the guided tours depart from an elevator in the Jewel Cave Visitor Center which descends 300 feet underground.

Jewel Cave Tours

It's important to note that you cannot enter the caves without a guided tour. There are limited spots available on each tour so it's a good idea to purchase tickets online in advance. Jewel Cave tickets range from $6 for the discovery tour to $16 for the scenic tour and can be purchased at recreation.gov. There are two different jewel cave tours available.
The Discovery Tour is a 20 minute guided experience where you will enter one large room in the caves and learn some fascinating facts about the history and geology of the cave.
The Scenic Tour, lasting 1 hour and 20 minutes, is the most popular way to explore the caves. The moderately strenuous trek through the caves lets you experience multiple passageways and chambers where you'll find unique stalactites and stalagmites.

Jewel Cave Visitor Center

If you plan on visiting the park between September and May, the visitor center will only be open Wednesdays - Saturdays 8:30-4:30. However, If you visit in the summer months between May and September, the visitor center is open every day.

Jewel Cave Without a Tour

Although you won't be able to explore the inside of the cave without a tour guide, you can still experience part of Jewel cave on your own. If you didn't book a ticket and need a backup plan, you can hike Canyons Trail to the natural entrance of the cave. You don't need to hike the full length of the 3.5 mile loop around Jewel cave to reach the entrance.

Other Caves Nearby

This area in South Dakota is home to two of the longest caves in the world and includes other incredible caves to visit.

Wind Cave National Park is a 30-minute drive southeast of Jewel Cave. Although Jewel Cave is longer, Wind Cave is still the seventh longest cave in the world. These caverns can only be accessed through a guided tour, however, tickets are only sold the day of at the visitor center. The most popular tour you can take in Wind Cave is the Natural Entrance Tour where you can see where it was discovered and see the unique rock formations inside the cave.

The Black Hills Caves are also found in the National Forest but are located further north in the Mystic Ranger District. Also called the Black Hills Caverns, the Black Hills Caves were discovered by the Lakota tribe and have the highest variety of rock formations out of all the caves in the area