|Distance||0.25 miles roundtrip|
|Terrain||A few hills|
- Easy loop in pine forest
- Good activity to do while waiting for a cave tour
The Roof Trail is by no means a destination hike, but rather something to do while you wait for your tour of Jewel Cave. Even though the cave is the main feature of the park, there is still an entire surface world with some pretty pine covered hills to enjoy. Throughout the hike, try to imagine the hundreds of miles of cave passages located deep underground -- passages that you will be experiencing soon!
From the visitor center courtyard, walk around to the back side of the building to find the start of the trail. In a very short distance on this dirt path, you'll reach a wooden platform overlooking Hell Canyon and the bare hills beyond the park boundary, pictured below. If you are able to do a longer hike, you can venture down into the canyon via the 3.5 mile roundtrip Canyons Trail, which meets with this trail just past the platform. For an even better but longer hike at 5.5 miles roundtrip, you can drive about a mile away to the Hell Canyon Trail in the Black Hills National Forest.
Dogs are not allowed on hiking trails in Jewel Cave National Monument. This short loop trail is perfect for the whole family and is an excellent way to spend time waiting for a cave tour rather than sitting bored in the visitor center. You can hike this trail in all four seasons. Expect to see plenty of people on this trail.
From Rapid City, take U.S. Highway 16 to U.S. Highway 385 and turn left. After entering Custer, turn right onto U.S. Highway 16. Continue straight out of town, then turn left at the signed turn for Jewel Cave National Monument.
Google Maps Directions
Parking, Fees, and Facilities
Parking is free since cave tours are the park's main source of revenue. There are restrooms, water fountains, a gift shop, and educational exhibits in the visitor center -- note there is no food available here.