Mt. Rushmore and the Black Hills Feature
Wind Cave in One Day
Pack a picnic lunch, then head to the visitor center to purchase tickets for a morning tour of Wind Cave. Visit the exhibit rooms in the center after the tour. By the time you complete your tour, you will probably be ready for lunch. Drive or walk the quarter mile to the picnic area north of the visitor center. The refreshing air and deep emerald color of the pine woodlands will flavor your meal.
In the afternoon take a leisurely drive through the parklands south of the visitor center, passing through Gobbler Pass and Bison Flats, for an archetypal view of the park and to look for wildlife. On the way back north, follow U.S. 385 east toward Wind Cave Canyon. If you enjoy bird-watching, park your car at a turnout and hike the 1.8-mi trail into the canyon, where you can spot swallows and great horned owls in the cliffs and woodpeckers in the dead trees at the bottom. Next, get back on the highway going north, take a right on Highway 87, and continue a half mile to the turnout for Centennial Trail. Hike the trail about 2 mi to the junction with Lookout Point Trail, turn right, and return to Highway 87. The whole loop is about 4¾ mi. As you continue driving north to the top of Rankin Ridge, a pullout to the right serves as the starting point for 1¼-mi Rankin Ridge Trail. It loops around the ridge, past Lookout Tower—the park's highest point and a great place to view the whole park—and ends up back at the pullout. This trail is an excellent opportunity to enjoy the fresh air, open spaces, and diversity of wildlife in the park. Conclude your day by exiting the park on Highway 87 and driving through Custer State Park.
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