|NATIONAL PARKS QUICKLINKS|
Backpacker Magazine – September 2008
The Civilian Conservation Corps is turning 75—so celebrate right by hiking its classics.
Wind Cave NP, SD
Explore underground, Camp in a Prairie
Thanks to the Corps, it's an easy walk into the world's fourth-longest cave (at 127.76 miles). CCC workers built a staircase by schlepping 70-pound tubes filled with wet concrete. After a four-hour trip into the cave, grab your kit for an overnight on a 17-mile loop above it. Start one mile north of the visitor center (CCC-built, naturally) on the Wind Cave Canyon Trail. Scan 40-foot limestone cliffs for great horned owls, then pick up the Highland Creek Trail one mile from the trailhead. Trek north through mixed-grass prairie, passing (with luck) a few of the park's 400 bison. In six miles, turn left onto Sanctuary Trail, then link to the 111-mile Centennial Trail. Camping is unrestricted–just get at least 100 feet off-trail. The next day, cruise four miles south on Centennial to reconnect with Highland Creek Trail and a quick and rolling four-miler back to the trailhead. (605) 745-4600; nps.gov/wica
Chill out with fresh lemonades and chicken panini at FlatIron Coffee Bar in nearby Hot Springs. flatiron.bz
From Custer, follow US 385 south 20 miles to the park.