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“Worth a visit” 4 of 5 stars
Review of Jewel Cave National Monument

Jewel Cave National Monument
11149 US Hwy 16, Building B12, Custer, SD 57730
+1 605-673-8300
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Ranked #6 of 20 Attractions in Custer
Type: Caverns/ Caves, National Parks, Landmarks
Activities: Group tours/day tour, Group tours/walking tour, Hiking
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Attraction details
Owner description: Jewel Cave National Monument is home to one of the longest caves in the world. Offering an assortment of cave formations and recreational opportunities, many visitors are truly amazed by this underground wilderness. Most impressive is the fact that exploration and discovery continue to take place at this significant natural resource. As part of the National Park Service, the monument offers four different types of cave experiences: Scenic Tour (1 hour and 20 minutes), Discovery Talk (20 minutes) Historic Lantern Tour (1 hour and 45 minutes), and Wild Caving Tour (3 to 4 hours). During the winter months, limited tour options are available. Furthermore, the monument is open Mondays through Fridays through early March. NOTE: The parking lot near the visitor center is under construction through the winter of 2015. Visitors are advised to use the shuttle service when going to and from the visitor center and follow the directional signs accordingly. Furthermore, cave tour tickets will only be made available on a first come first serve basis at the monument. Interested park guests are welcome to call the visitor center directly for planning assistance.
Top Contributor
101 reviews 101 reviews
32 attraction reviews
Reviews in 70 cities Reviews in 70 cities
113 helpful votes 113 helpful votes
“Worth a visit”
4 of 5 stars Reviewed June 3, 2010

We enjoyed our trip to Jewel Cave. I have been to Luray Caverns and can say that from what I remember (it was a long time ago) Luray has more interesting formations. However, Jewel Cave is worth a visit. Our ranger guide was outstanding. She was filled with passion and you could tell she enjoyed what she was doing. She told us stories how they go into the cave and spend 4 nights in there. It takes them awhile to get to where they are going as many of the passages are narrow, 24" by 7". As far as the tour we took we started by taking an elevator down 24 stories. We got out and walked through the cave descending down to 38 stories. Many times we were walking on the ground and other times we were walking up and down steps. I believe the whole trip was a half mile total. After going down 38 stories we climbed up to 32( I think it was 32 but I may be wrong) and took the elevator back up. We saw a lot of interesting formations and lots of crystal. Again the ranger really made the trip better. Pictures did not turn out so well. Bring a flash light.

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491 reviews from our community

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seguin, texas
Senior Contributor
34 reviews 34 reviews
8 attraction reviews
Reviews in 19 cities Reviews in 19 cities
66 helpful votes 66 helpful votes
“Lantern Tour -- Only Way to Go”
5 of 5 stars Reviewed October 26, 2009

My wife and I are members of the National Speleological Society and were on vacation in the Black Hills the Thursday after Labor Day. We had not booked a reservation for a lantern tour because we thought they were over for the season (that's what the website said), only to arrive at the visitor's center and discovery that the last one of the season was actually that afternoon. We booked it immediately and were glad we did.

It was fun. You go into the back, "historic" entrance of the cave and go in with old-fashioned kerosene lanterns similar to what was used on ranger-led tours in the 1930s. You then go on the old, unpaved trails, up and down old stairs and ladders, just as you would have back when the monument was established. We also got lucky in having a enthusiastic young ranger named Lydia leading the tour who couldn't contain her love for the cave or quit spouting off reams of info. This would be a fantastic tour for older kids or outdoorsy teens.

There are some caveats, however. This is not the decorated part of the cave. To see formations, you will need to go on one of the other tours, to another section of the cave. As some other reviews have noted, it might be strenuous for some. To get to the cave entrance, you walk up a hill and then hike about a quarter of a mile down into a canyon. The steps and ladders that you go up and down are steep in places. There are places in the cave where you will have to crouch and maybe get a little dirty or muddy. The lantern you are holding is a little heavy, and you are trying to hold it away from your body while navigating (it's red hot). And it's cold down there. Also, you might not get as lucky as us -- be sure to book well in advance if you really want to do this.

But it's all totally worth it. A fun way to see a cave.

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4 reviews 4 reviews
Reviews in 3 cities Reviews in 3 cities
4 helpful votes 4 helpful votes
“Tremendous Hassle - Great Cave”
3 of 5 stars Reviewed October 19, 2009

We knew you needed reservations. October's not that busy a time for the area. We called at least two dozen times over the week before our arrival and NOBODY ever answered. Absurd. We showed up and the tour we wanted to go on was sold out. We got tickets for a tour later that day, but it's simply ridiculous to make the reservation system a lottery based on when somebody wants to answer the phone. The cave itself is impressive and the tour is worth it--just a lot of aggravation I didn't need. Hopefully they get their act together.

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Senior Contributor
23 reviews 23 reviews
7 attraction reviews
Reviews in 18 cities Reviews in 18 cities
29 helpful votes 29 helpful votes
“Worth the tour and time, make resv. ahead”
5 of 5 stars Reviewed September 17, 2009

We made our resverations ahead like it said online. We saw
many folks get turned away. We made it for the end of the day as we were coming in from Buffalo WY where days before we were in Yellowstone. Anyhow, great take. My 11 yr old and myself felt a little light headed, my husband and 9 yr old were fine. The temp is cool in the cave which helps with that light headed feeling. It really is interesting to be down 350' in the ground, astounding what is below the earth. We all enjoyed in the end. We did the hour and ten minute tour to get a feel for it. The stairs and walking aren't too challenging. I'm certain kids of a young age won't like there were a couple on the tour and they were very unhappy, making the parents miserable and then the rest of us. They shut off all the lights at one point and they didn't like that. Notwithstanding, you pass right by the entrance coming from WY into Custer SD so it's worth making a reservation and checking it out. The tour guide we had was from Wisconsin original, young women. She was outstanding and has a great personality. That makes it all so much more interesting and fun.

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Top Contributor
98 reviews 98 reviews
31 attraction reviews
Reviews in 30 cities Reviews in 30 cities
66 helpful votes 66 helpful votes
“Good cave, good guide, nice and long, some interesting formations”
4 of 5 stars Reviewed August 31, 2009

We've been in a lot of caves and this wasn't our favorite as it didn't really have anything special to it but it was nice and long and our guide made it worthwhile. He was excellent and definitely lively. we did the scenic tour in the morning (with reservations) at $8/ea.
The cave is for the majority of the time dry with one nice wet spot and one very large cavern. there are 723 stairs (up and down) though you don't really feel that because you are stopping and starting a lot and walking level a lot. at the very end there is some up climbing/stair climbing and you may feel physical exertion there. It did feel rushed in some parts of the cave where I would have liked to look at formations, however I understand as it is a long segment to get through.
The Misery's were described which sound neat- a long tunnel that leads to a huge cavern. The tunnel is (I don't remember exact) something along the lines of 13 1/2 " by 24" narrowing to 7 1/2" by 13" towards the end extending for 1/2 mile...imagine wiggling your way through that for a half mile... and back.
that was neat to hear about.

We went to other caves in the area that we didn't need reservations for and I have to say I don't quite understand why Jewel is in such high demand- maybe because it's so long? 2nd longest in the world is an esteemed honor I'm sure. It's also reasonably priced. It was enjoyable, but I'm not sure that I would highly recommend it.

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