Rankin Ridge Hike: The Best View In Wind Cave National Park

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The Rankin Ridge hike in Wind cave National Park offers the best views from the highest point in the park.  This was our first real activity when we got to South Dakota and I was so excited to see me some bison and prairie dogs.

The last time we were here we just drove through so this time we wanted to actually hike since we couldn’t do a cave tour as they are currently closed for repairs or something.


So, we got to the park, did our drive took our pictures of all the adorable critters, and decided which hike to do.  Might as well go for the views. 

The hike is a loop up to the top of the hill and back down along some kind of road.  The way up is through a little pine forest with views over the park road.


There are some stone stairs to help get you up and once you get to the top you have views for probably hundreds of miles over South Dakota. 

I think you could even see the Badlands from up there, which is pretty impressive.  It’s just views for days of prairies and rolling hills.  There is also an old lookout tower at the top.


Once you’re at the top, the rest of the hike is pretty easy since you’re just going downhill.  I’d say this was an easy-moderate hike with 214 feet of elevation gain and it’s only a mile-loop so it’s nice and short. 

It takes about an hour and is a good way to fill a little extra time and see the park in a way most people don’t since the cave is the main draw.


Is this the best hike ever?  Definitely not but I really did enjoy it and would recommend it if you’re looking for a great short hike in Wind Cave National Park.  It’s at the far end of the park close to the boundary with Custer State Park.

National Park Goodies


What to bring on the hike to Rankin Ridge

Water bottle – It’ll be hot and humid and you’ll need to stay hydrated.  A Hydro Flask will keep your water ice cold all day long.

Sunscreen – If you plan on being outside, you’ll want sunscreen.  I like the Neutrogena a lot, but if you’ll be visiting a beach soon, you’ll want a reef-safe sunscreen.

Hat – You’ll want some kind of hat to keep the sun out of your eyes.  A baseball hat should be fine but a bucket hat or sun hat could help keep the sun off your neck.


Sunglasses – This is a must on those bright days.  Sunglasses are best paired with a hat on those really bright days.

Light Jacket – Because you just never know.  Weather can change quickly depending on where you are, time of day, and season.  I usually use my rain jacket for this.

How long is the Rankin Ridge Trail?

It’s a 1-mile loop with 214 feet of elevation gain.  You probably only need about an hour for this unless you spend more time at the top.


Where is the Rankin Ridge Trail?

It’s in Wind Cave National Park near the boundary with Custer State Park.  To get to it from the visitor center, follow Highway 87 and there will be a right turn right before Highway 391 meets up with it.  It’s at the end of that road you turn right on.


What is the best time to hike the Rankin Ridge Trail?

I would go with either summer or fall just because you’re more likely to have it all green and lush from the view at the top.  In the fall you might catch some leaves changing, too, though it could be a little brown depending on when you’re there.  Spring would be good but it might be a little brown unless it’s later in the spring.  Winter would probably be snowy.


Overall, I would definitely say it’s worth hiking the Rankin Ridge Trail.  It’s not my favorite national park hike out there and there’s others I would much rather do but this is a great hike and really shows a lot of great parts of South Dakota and writing this really makes me want to go back.


Have you been to Wind Cave?  What did you do there?  Did you hike the Rankin Ridgee Trail?

2 thoughts on “Rankin Ridge Hike: The Best View In Wind Cave National Park

  1. Don’t how I missed this when I was camping in the area. It has all of the animals you don’t see often and all in one place. Thanks for the pictures. You going to make the Bad Lands. I enjoyed that area. Rushmore is there also etc. Rossevelt Park was enjoyable also and that first time, i got caught while slowing driving in the middle of a herd of buffalo. That was great a little scary also. They came up behind and I was in the middle before I realized what was going on. They were moving faster then I was. Hal

    1. It was a great area for wildlife, for sure! We just drove through the Badlands this time (have been before) because it was cold, rainy, and foggy, but I love the area a lot and can’t wait to go to Theodore Roosevelt! I love a good bison jam haha

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