DescriptionThirteen miles west of Custer City via US 16, the surface of Jewel Cave National Monument covers 1,274 acres. Believed to be the third-longest cave in the world—with more than 170 miles of mapped and surveyed passages—Jewel Cave is still being explored. Its subterranean chambers and limestone galleries are noted for the nailhead calcite crystals lining the walls.
The moderately strenuous 80-minute Scenic Tour descends into the cave by elevator and follows a lighted trail for a half-mile. There are 723 stairs along the trail. The Discovery Talk visits one room within the cave for a brief introduction to its cultural and natural history. This easy 20-minute program is ideal for those who have small children or are unable to participate in the more strenuous Scenic Tour.
The 1.75-hour, half-mile Historic Lantern Tour enters the cave through its historic entrance. The tour is conducted along an unpaved trail and is strenuous; participants must carry lanterns, which are provided. The 3- to 4-hour Wild Caving Tour follows unimproved passageways and is only for the hardiest explorer. Hard hats and battery-operated headlamps are provided; ankle-high, lace-up, lug-soled hiking boots, knee and elbow pads and work gloves are required. There is a minimum of two and a maximum of five people per tour.
Dress warmly, as the cave temperature is 49 degrees Fahrenheit year-round; comfortable, closed-toe, rubber-soled shoes are recommended. Picnicking on the monument grounds is permitted. Two trails are available for hikers. Visitor center open daily 8-5:30, mid-June to late Aug.; 8:30-5:30, Memorial Day through mid-June and late Aug.-Labor Day; 8:30-4:30, mid-Mar. through day before Memorial Day and day after Labor Day-late Nov.; Tues.-Sat. 8:30-4:30, rest of year. Closed Jan. 1, Thanksgiving and Christmas. Phone ahead to confirm hours.
Scenic Tour and Discovery Talk available year-round; Historic Lantern Tours conducted Memorial Day weekend-Labor Day; Wild Caving Tour conducted mid-June through Labor Day and occasionally in winter. Tour tickets are available on a first-come, first-served basis; plan to arrive early.
Scenic Tour $12; $8 (ages 6-16 and Golden Age or Golden Access passport holders). Historic Lantern Tour $12; $8 (ages 6-16; $6 (Golden Age or Golden Access passport holders). Discovery Tour $4; free (ages 0-16 and Golden Age or Golden Access passport holders). Wild Caving Tour $31; $15.50 (Golden Age or Golden Access passport holders). Ages 0-5 are not permitted on the Lantern Tours, and ages 0-15 are not permitted on the Wild Caving Tour. Reservations are required for the Wild Caving Tour. For more information, phone (605) 673-8300.
Arrive early in the day to explore this third-longest known cave in the world.