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Wind cave, Jewel Cave or skip them

Maryland
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Wind cave, Jewel Cave or skip them

I read the message from 2007 where people were weighing in on which cave Wind or Jewel. I see each one has their own features. We would call them limestone caverns in the east. There are many caverns along Route 81 in Virginia. We have seen Luray Caverns, Shenandoah Caverns, Endless Caverns, Skyline Caverns, Grand Caverns and Dixie Caverns.

I see Wind and Jewel are much bigger. Given that we've seen some of the formations in other caverns in Virginia, (bacon, flowstone, popcorn, stalactites, stalagmites, ... It is also hard to choose from all the caverns in Virginia.

So given that we have seen many of the caverns up and down I-81 in VA. Is there one cave to choose? We don't have time to see two on this trip.

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Arlington, Virginia
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1. Re: Wind cave, Jewel Cave or skip them

My questions would be: how much time are you spending in the Black Hills, how interested are you in touring any cave, where will you be located, do you want/need a booked reservation time and do you want to do a general or specialty tour?

You have toured a lot of caves and you may feel like another cave tour would not be a priority, especially if your time is limited in the BH. Or touring caves may be a favorite vacation activity no matter what. Also, depending on where you are staying, it may be closer for you to get to one cave or another. Finally, while the Scenic Tour at Jewel Cave can be booked in advance (and probably should be to avoid disappointment), the general tour at Wind Cave cannot be pre-booked, so it’s best to get there early to avoid a long wait. And finally, if you want a specialty tour, those are offered at fewer times with fewer participants.

One fact which may affect your decision is that Wind Cave contains “boxwork”, a fairly uncommon cave formation that you probably have never seen. Wind Cave contains what has been described as the best boxwork in the world.

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Pitman, New Jersey
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2. Re: Wind cave, Jewel Cave or skip them

This is a great question, and Longhorn said the key word: "boxwork."

You have been to many caves as you mentioned. I have been to many, many caves. We are people who find touring caves a favorite vacation activity and will be ticking more off of our list when we visit the Ozarks in July. We have been Luray, Grand, and Shenandoah of the ones you mention. Other than the show cave of them all, Carlsbad, no cave compares to Luray in our eyes. It is spectacular. Wind and Jewel are much larger in size, but the formations in Luray are fantastic. That being said, as much as I like all caves, I think you might find Jewel a bit disappointing compared to those you have seen.

Therefore, despite that you cannot make advance reservations other than for the candlelight or wild cave tours, I would choose Wind Cave. Wind Cave has 95% of the world's boxwork, and you don't see this rare formation at this level at any other cave. Boxwork resembles spider webs or honeycombs. Arrive early as Longhorn mentioned so you aren't waiting long for a tour. I have done the Fairgrounds and Natural Entrance tours. Both are excellent, so I would choose the one that's available soonest.

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Carlsbad
Carlsbad
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Bethel Park, PA
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3. Re: Wind cave, Jewel Cave or skip them

Frankly, unless you really love caves, I would skip them on this trip. Although we didn't visit Wind Cave, we thought Jewel Cave was rather dark and not nearly as beautiful as some in Virginia. Besides, there are so many other gorgeous features to see in this area of South Dakota. We spent a week there several years ago and really wished we had allotted more time.

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Maryland
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4. Re: Wind cave, Jewel Cave or skip them

Thank you sirtravelplanner and longhorn74. All good points.

I have sort of decided on our itinerary today but caves are still in question. My husband and I and our 11 year old son will be in the Black Hills for 4 days. We are starting in Rapid City and making our way down to Hot Springs before we leave heading to Tetons.

My plan was to make reservations in both caves. I was going to get the lantern tour in Windcave, but then I read you can't see much in the lantern tour.. and decided I didn't want to miss the cave because of using a lantern.

Here is my itinerary (we are renting and RV)

(wake up in Rapid City after traveling all day Sunday)

***Mon

Bear Country USA

Mount Rushmore

Keystone

rent car

Stay in Rapid City campground

***Tues

Needles Scenic Drive

Sylvan Lake

hike in Sylvan Lake area, have to find notes.

return rental car

Stay Rapid City campground

*** Wed

Custer State Park drive

Jewel Cave . (reserved)

Crazy Horse

Stay in Custer, rapid city or Hot Springs

**Thurs

Wind Cave . I put this first so we may get to get this in without waiting too long in lines, if we get there early.

Mammoth site Hot Springs

Evans Plunge, mini golf

stay Hot Springs

I had had 5 days in Black Hills, but decided to get rid of Deadwood and anything to the North and use that day in Yellowstone.

What else am I missing on my itinerary for 2 adults and 11 year old. Our 11 year old has probably seen 2 caverns, but taking him to sleep away camp last year, my husband and I did 3 caves without my son and 1 with him (we had to drive to and from and to and from)

I'm working with the Moon Guide for Mt. Rushmore and the Black Hills. I decided early on we couldn't get to Wall drug or the badlands, too far east. The one thing I wanted to do in Deadwood, was the Boot Hill tour. But because that would have happened on Aug 13,(right after Sturgis) the guy at Boot Hill Tour, wasn't sure an RV would be able to find parking. And that is about the only thing and cities around there we could do. So good bye Deadwood etc.

The whole trip is Bozeman --Little Big Horn -- Rapid City Black Hills Area (4 days) --Leave from Hot Springs -- Grand Teton (1 day) Yellowstone (6 days) -- Bozeman

I'm not sure we need to see two caves either. But I'm not sure what to do in place of caves. We won't be hiking anything but short hikes. I have to plan this vacation in the next couple of days as reservations for things (campgrounds and rental cars) are selling out.

I have not read any of the guide books thru and thru because I need to get the reservations before I can get any campgrounds. I have just read itineraries. I didn't know about Sturgis when I booked RV and airplane tickets.

I have not reserved Jewel Cave yet. Or the car for scenic drive

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Arlington, Virginia
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5. Re: Wind cave, Jewel Cave or skip them

Tuesday is a really light day. You’ve only got the Needles Highway and the loop trail (1 mile) around Sylvan Lake. Neither of those will take that much time. Since you will be staying in RC, have you considered seeing another attraction there? The Reptile Gardens are super-cool and I think any 11-year-old would love them. Alternatively, the South Dakota Air and Space Museum (free admission) is also really good.

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Pitman, New Jersey
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6. Re: Wind cave, Jewel Cave or skip them

In all due respect, I think you are making a huge mistake by omitting the Badlands. I think your son would love the park. It's been one of our daughter's favorites for years. There's some short trails that everyone can do, and young people love to climb on the formations. You say you are staying in Rapid City. The Badlands is only around an hour from there. To be that close and not see the park would be very unfortunate.

I would put less priority on the Hot Springs area and even one of the caves in favor of the Badlands.

As for your comment on lantern tours, I have heard the same thing and have avoided those types of tours for that reason. If you decide to do the Wind cave tour, I would arrive early as you mentioned.

Longhorn's suggestions for activities are also quite good, but once again, I would not favor any of these activities over the Badlands.

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Hudson, Wisconsin
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7. Re: Wind cave, Jewel Cave or skip them

I would absolutely agree that the Badlands should be a priority when visiting the Black Hills region. Only Custer State Park I may put higher on the list of must do's.

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