why we like it:
This family-friendly cave (see the Discovery Talk Tour below) is a delight to explore and has a neat origin story. Jewel cave was discovered by Frank and Albert Michaud in 1900 when they found a small hole with a blast of cold air coming out. After enlarging the hole using dynamite, they entered the cave along with a family friend, Charles Bush. They found crawlways and low-ceilinged rooms coated with beautiful calcite crystals that sparkled like “jewels” in their lantern light.
location: Jewel Cave National Monument is located 13 miles west of Custer, South Dakota on US Hwy 16
hours: open daily from 8:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.
A schedule of tours can be found here.
cost: The Scenic Tour is $12.00 for adults (ages 17+); youth (ages 6 to 16) are $8.00; children under 5 are FREE. *Note this tour is long (about 90 minutes) and pretty strenuous).
The Discovery Talk Tour is great for younger kids because it is only 20 minutes and it is still very cool. It is $4 for adults and kids 16 and younger are FREE.
what the locals know: Tickets are sold on a first come, first serve basis. You can specify the time you want for the tour when you purchase your tickets (e.g., you can arrive at 9:00 a.m. and request the 1:00 p.m. tour). We suggest arriving early and reserving your ticket. Tickets for the Scenic Tour can be purchased 72 hours in advance by visiting www.blackhillsvacations.com.
While you’re waiting for your tour, you can go for a hike. They have some nice hiking trails behind the visitor center. Or you can find a nice spot for a picnic lunch. You can also can venture back into Custer for lunch if you have an extended wait. We highly recommend Black Hills Burger and Bun (shoot for off peak times to avoid long lines) or Skogen Kitchen (which is “fancier” but oh-so-delicious eating).
Ask a park ranger about Junior Park Ranger opportunities.
before you go:
- Talk about how sweet hard hats are because you and your little ones might be required to wear them.
- Bring comfortable shoes to hike and walk through the cave.
- Coolers are allowed and there is a designated picnic area.
Photo credit: nationalparks.org