Jewel Cave National Monument is in the Black Hills of South Dakota. The cave is the third longest known cave in the world, with over 208 miles (335 km) of mapped and surveyed passages as of 2020, and more being added each year. The cave was named after the large amounts of calcite (calcium carbonate) crystals found in the cave. The cave offers plenty of underground beauty, however, offers a variety of things to do on the surface.
The 2000 Jasper Fire
On August 24, 2000 a wildfire started near Jewel Cave. The fire burned 83,508 acres in the Black Hills and nearly 90% of Jewel Cave National Monument's land area.
Two brothers, Frank and Albert Michaud, filed a mining claim in 1900. This the first written record of Jewel Cave. The brothers intended to transform the cave into a tourist attraction. The remote location of the cave precluded it from being a commercial success. In 1908, US President Theodore Roosevelt set aside the cave as a National Monument following a local movement to preserve the cave.
Jewel Cave National Monument is in a large pine forest.
Flora and fauna
There are many wildflowers in the National Monument. As with many national parks and monuments, there are non-native species that the managers actively work to remove. This work restores the area to its original condition and removes the threat non-native species often present to the native species.
Where there is a cave, there is often bats. Bats use caves to hibernate during the winter. Elk, mule deer, rabbits, squirrels, a variety of snakes, hawks, eagles, and other birds can be found in the area.
Spring: Rain or snow is common. Temperatures vary. Summer: Rain is common in June. Sunny and dry in July and August. Temperatures range from 70 to 95 degrees Fahrenheit. Fall: Mild temperatures and occasional rain or snow showers. Winter: Cold temperatures are common with occasional snow.
The cave itself is a constant, somewhat damp, 49 °F (9 °C).
The nearest airport is in Rapid City, 54 mi (87 km) from the visitor center. Car rental services are available.
Fees and permits
The only fees are for the various cave tours.
Walking paths and trails are found above ground.
The area is rebuilding itself after the Jasper fire. Visitors can see this process.
- 1 Jewel Cave National Monument Visitor Center. The visitor center is located below the parking lot and is accessible by a ramp or stairs. Begin your visit to the monument at the visitor center where there are an information desk, park store, exhibits, drinking fountain, restrooms, a theater for the park film, and elevators for the Scenic Tour and the Discovery Talk. The visitor center hours, kiosk, theater, and tour times vary by season.
- Hiking. There are three diverse hiking trails.
- Birding. There are many birds to be seen in the National Monument, including the occasional bald eagle. As you walk the trails, keep an eye out.
- Wildflowers. There are copious amounts of wildflowers for the visitor's viewing pleasure. Do not pick, damage, or otherwise disturb the flowers. As you walk the trails, be cautious.
A number of cave tours are offered, including wild tours. Tours are first come, first served. Tour sizes are limited in size. It is not uncommon for tours to sell out during the summer months, so it is advisable to call ahead and reserve.
The cave is 49°F (9.4°C) year round. Wear appropriate clothing and footwear.
- Jewel Cave Discovery Talk.
- Scenic Tour. The cave's most popular tour. Visitors get see a variety of speleothems (cave formations).
- Lantern Tour. This tour is not on a paved trail and requires some stooping. Tourists carry old-style lanterns.
- Spelunking Tour. This tour involves climbing and crawling.
Other than vending machines, there is no food service at the cave. The nearest restaurants are in Custer or Newcastle, Wyoming. Food and drink are not allowed in the cave.
There is no lodging in the National Monument. The nearest accommodations are in Custer.
There is no camping in the National Monument.
Jewel Cave NM is surrounded by the Black Hills National Forest, and, as with nearly all U.S. National Forests, you can pitch a tent pretty much anywhere as long as you get away from the road and do not go down any roads marked as private.
A guided tour of the cave is quite safe. However, it is wise to stay with the tour guide, as unmarked parts of the cave are not lit and it is easy to get lost.
|Routes through Jewel Cave National Monument|
|Buffalo ← Moorcroft ←||W E||→ Custer → Rapid City|