While Wind Cave National Park is best known for having one of the longest and most complex caves in the world, it also has over 30 miles of hiking trails through rolling grasslands and prairies full of wildflowers.
I don’t have much wisdom to impart on this topic cause, well, we only did one trail. But it was an awesome trail, so here is some info in case you want to check it out, as well as a TON of pictures. Hehe.
HIGHLAND CREEK TRAIL, 8.6 miles one way, strenuous
“The longest and most diverse trail in the park. Experience prairies and forests as well as riparian habitats along Highland and Beaver creeks and Wind Cave Canyon.” (NPS website)
The part about being the most diverse trail in the park is what sold us on this one. We only had one day to hike, so wanted to choose something that would offer the most bang for our buck and allow us to see the best sampling of Wind Cave above ground.
This was definitely a good choice. Open prairies, wildflowers, forests, and tons of wildlife. And it was an easy trail too. It’s graded as strenuous, but that is only because of the length. This trail is mostly flat and feels like a pleasant stroll through nature.
But part way through we encountered a problem.
At least 100 bison were blocking the trail.
Wildlife safety tip #1 is to stay at least 25yds away from the critters, especially big territorial ones like bison. They may look cute, but these guys are gigantic and can get mean. We wanted to finish this hike, but we’re not stupid and opted to leave the herd of bison alone. I mean, they were directly on the trail and everywhere surrounding it. There was no way around them without going hundreds of yards off trail. And that’s not a smart thing to do either.
So we decided to turn around and do another cave tour instead! But at least we got some awesome photos and were able to see around half of the trail before the bison cut us off.
And honestly, we were ok with that. The brief section of the trail we saw provided a good sampling of the above ground portion of Wind Cave, and the real reason to come to this park is the cave anyways. Sure the trails are pretty and all, but they aren’t any more or less pretty than other parts of South Dakota, such as Custer State Park. So if you come to Wind Cave and don’t have much time, I would recommend focusing on the cave. Being able to add in hiking trails is just a bonus. But an awesome bonus if you can spare a few hours.
For information on all the other hiking trails in Wind Cave National Park, check out the NPS website!
Have you done any of the other trails in the park? Tell me how they are and share your thoughts!