South Dakota National Park Offering Free Cave Tours to Service Members on Veterans Day

by Amy Myers
Photo by: Education Images/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

In order to give back to the community that keeps our nation safe, South Dakota’s Wind Cave National Park is offering free cave tours to service members this Veterans Day.

The park’s namesake cave sits among the prairie grasslands and forests in the southwestern corner of the state. The national park is among the oldest in the country and brings in roughly 125,000 visitors every year to its gates, and nearly every one of them comes to admire the seemingly impossible winds that escape the underground network of mineral mazes and formations. As a token of the park’s gratitude, veterans and active-duty U.S. military members will be able to see these strange inner workings up close, free of charge.

Wind Cave National Park offers three tours, but the two that are free of charge for military members on Veterans Day are the Garden of Eden and the Fairgrounds tours. In both journeys, you’ll have to bend and stoop around some of the formations, but the easiest to complete is the Garden of Eden. Meanwhile, the Fairgrounds tour requires quite a bit more strain with steep stairs and uneven pathways.

According to the park, “Tours of the Garden of Eden will begin at 10 a.m. and 3 p.m. At 1 p.m. there will be a tour of the Fairgrounds. Visitors on both tours will view the boxwork formation for which the cave is famous. The Fairgrounds Tour lasts an hour and a half and has 450 stairs. The Garden of Eden Tour is an hour long and has 150 stairs.”

Wind Cave National Park Is One of Many to Offer Free Services

For service members with disabilities, Wind Cave National Park also offers an accessibility cave tour that includes an elevator ride into and out of the boxwork and gives an introduction to the cave. This tour lasts about a half-hour.

“Taking one of these tours would be a great way to enjoy our country’s diverse cultural and natural history while honoring the men and women of our military,” said Wind Cave National Park Superintendent Leigh Welling. “Besides taking a cave tour, we encourage people to explore our surface landscape by driving through the park or hiking one of our many trails.”

Of course, free tours isn’t the only perk that the National Park Service offers on Veterans Day. There’s also free admission for all visitors – civilian and U.S. military – to all national parks. This is to encourage folks to explore their favorite natural and wild regions and appreciate all that our brave service members fight to protect and defend.

“The majestic landscapes, natural wonders, and patriotic icons that we cherish as a society have also inspired military members through the years,” the NPS stated. “The Grand Canyon, Mount Rushmore, the USS Arizona Memorial, and the Statue of Liberty are just a few of the national parks that have served as reminders of home to those stationed abroad. On Veterans Day, or any day, honor those who have served and sacrificed for our country with a visit to a national park.”