Pets allowed outside Visitor Center and at Elk Mountain Campground

By Marcus Heerdt

WIND CAVE NATIONAL PARK, SD – There are a few areas where pets are allowed at Wind Cave National Park.

According to section 2.15 of Title 36 Code of Federal Regulations (CFR; an annual summary of park rules) in the park Superintendent’s Compendium, “All caves, hiking trails, and backcountry areas are closed to pets. Service dogs are allowed on paved cave trails if medically necessary. All public use buildings are closed to pets except for service dogs.”

However, pets are allowed in the immediate grassy areas near the Visitor Center and within the boundaries of the Elk Mountain Campground, the only campground at the national park.

In regards to hiking, pets are not allowed on the majority of Wind Cave National Park’s 30-plus miles of surface hiking trails.

Pets are allowed on two surface hiking trails in the park: the Prairie Vista and Elk Mountain Campground Nature Trails.

According to Wind Cave regulations, pets in these allowed areas “must be restrained on a leash no longer than six feet in length. Leashes protect dogs from becoming lost and from potential encounters with wildlife as well as protecting park wildlife and plants.”

The regulations also remind visitors to not leave their pets unattended and to promptly remove their pet’s waste.

According to the CFR, pets are not allowed inside the cave because “pet hair, saliva, and sharp claws can permanently impair cave formations and may introduce unwanted bacteria to form in the cave damaging sensitive cave resources.”

Additionally, pets are not allowed on park trails or in the backcountry “in order to reduce dangerous wildlife conflicts and protect visitors.”

For more information regarding pets at Wind Cave visit or call 605-745-4600.

Brownie the Bark Ranger patrols the Prairie Vista Trail. As a Bark Ranger, she ensures that all pets are cleaned up after and leashed.