If nature often makes you feel awe-struck, peaceful and inspired, then you might enjoy caving. Caving is an activity that entails, as the name indicates, the exploration of caves. Another common name for caving is “spelunking.” If you happen to be enjoying a trip in northeastern Wyoming’s city of Gillette, don’t rule out a day of exciting caving. A handful of caving options are indeed available to visitors and residents of the prominent coal mining city. Wyoming is home to numerous wild caves. If you’re lucky enough to get the chance to explore one of them, you might be able to view fascinating speleothems, stalagmites and stalactites up close. These are all examples of cave and rock formations. If you decide that you’re interested in exploring a cave close to Gillette, contact the National Park Service regarding the possibility of going on a cave tour, complete with graphics and detailed information.
1. Jewel Cave National Monument
Gillette isn’t far from the planet’s third longest cave, Jewel Cave. Although Jewel Cave National Monument is located in Custer, South Dakota, it’s just a little less than 2 hours away from Gillette by car, allowing for a convenient possible day trip experience. Guided tours of the cave are available. If you’re interested in going on one of these tours, be sure to make reservations in advance. Since the cave pathways go through rather rugged and bumpy terrain, shoes with rubber soles and low heels are recommended. Endurance is a must for explorers, as Jewel Cave features more than 169 miles of mapped walkways. When you visit Jewel Cave, you get the rare opportunity to view fragile formations from merely inches away.
2. Wind Cave National Park
Wind Cave National Park is home to another of the planet’s lengthiest caves. Wind Cave is in Hot Springs, South Dakota, which is roughly 2.5 hours away from the heart of Gillette. If you’d like to make your way through an elaborate maze of dazzling rock formations, this is the cave to visit. The bedrock walls that appear in this cave frequently display boxwork. Boxwork is characterized by slender calcite spikes that protrude from the ceilings and walls of caves. They crosscut each other, creating a pattern that’s reminiscent of a box, hence the name. After you enjoy a day of adventure in the cave, you can even consider exploring the rest of Wind Cave National Park, which consists of 33,851 acres. The park is a hub for wildlife spotting. If you want to see prairie dogs, elk and bison, make the drive from Gillette to Hot Springs as soon as possible.
3. Sinks Canyon State Park
One of Wyoming’s best known caves is Sinks Canyon Cave, located at Sinks Canyon State Park in the city of Lander. Sinks Canyon Cave is approximately 4.5 hours away from Gillette by car. While the drive might be a little on the long side, the scenery you spot along the way might make the experience all worth it. “The Sinks” refer to a sizable limestone cavern. Exploration of the cavern is popular with families that have young children. If you want to enjoy a day of looking at nature with children, then Sinks Canyon Cave might just be a “must see” for you. Pencil in a weekend trip to Lander immediately. The Popo Agie River’s Middle fork vanishes into the cavern by the bottom of the mountains. The Middle Fork is about 54 miles in length.
4. Spirit Mountain Cave
If you’re serious about caving, then Spirit Mountain Cave in Cody, Wyoming might make a good starting point. While many caves offer guided tours to visitors, this isn’t the case with Spirit Mountain. If you want to visit Spirit Mountain Cave, you must first get a key and permit from the Bureau of Land Management office in Cody. Cody is a little more than 4 hours away from Gillette by car.
5. Tongue River Cave
Tongue River Cave is yet another thrilling caving opportunity for those in the Gillette Area. When you visit Tongue River Cave, you get the opportunity to gaze at many unusual rock formations. The cave is situated just outside of Dayton, which is less than a 2-hour drive away from Gillette. The cave is part of picturesque Bighorn National Forest. When you visit Tongue River Cave, you can make your way through more than a mile of limestone river channels. Since parts of the cave can be slippery, extremely rough and cramped, caution is necessary. Avoid ever going into any cave unless you have extensive experience in the activity or a professional guide right next to you. This applies to all caves, not just Tongue River Cave. If you go about caving in a safe and practical way, it can be a very fulfilling and rewarding activity.
After you’re done exploring all of the many caves close to Gillette, be sure to explore all of the region’s other attractions, too. While Wyoming is a terrific place to go spelunking, it offers much more than that, as well. From Mammoth Hot Springs in Yellowstone National Park to the varied wildlife of Hot Springs State Park, there’s always something to do or see in Wyoming. Gillette itself has a quaint atmosphere, with many sprawling parks. If reveling in nature is your thing, then Gillette can make a strong home base for all of your Wyoming adventures.