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Complete Guide to Devils Tower National Monument

Are you plan a trip to Devils Tower National Monument in Wyoming? In our post, we give you many tips on preparing for a perfect visit to Devils Tower. How to get there? What to do? How much does it cost? How much time do you need for a visit? Is it legal to climb Devil’s Tower? Is Devils Tower worth the stop? And much more. So, check our Complete Guide to Devils Tower National Monument.

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Guide to Devils Tower National Monument

What is Devils Tower National Monument?

Devils Tower is a truly unique landmark and one of the most iconic national monuments in the United States. Devils Tower in Wyoming rises above the surrounding grasslands and ponderosa pine forests suddenly. It is unknown where it came from. It is surrounded by numerous legends told by Native American tribes and, since the 1800s, scientific and geological research.

Devils Tower is a butte, possibly laccolithic, composed of igneous rock in the Bear Lodge Ranger District of the Black Hills. The summit of Devils Tower is 5,112 feet (1,559 m) above sea level.

For years, research has been carried out on the origins of Devils Tower. Scientists have different theories about it. According to Wikipedia geologists Carpenter and Russell studied Devils Tower in the late 19th century and came to the conclusion that it was formed by an igneous intrusion. In 1907, geologists Nelson Horatio Darton and C. C. O’Harra theorized that Devils Tower must be an eroded remnant of a laccolith. More about the geology of Devils Tower you can find in the book Geology of Devils Tower National Monument Wyoming.

Devils Tower is also known as Bear Lodge Butte. Moreover, as a sacred place of Native Americans it’s also originally called “Bear’s House”, “Bear’s Lodge”, “Bear’s Tipi”, “Home of the Bear”, “Bear’s Lair”, “Tree Rock”, “Great Gray Horn”, and “Brown Buffalo Horn”.

Complete Guide to Devils Tower National Monument

Facts about Devils Tower

  • Devils Tower rises 1,267 feet (386 m) above the Belle Fourche River, standing 867 feet (265 m) from summit to base. The summit of Devils Tower is 5,112 feet (1,559 m) above sea level. It is visible from many miles away.
  • Moreover, Devils Tower was the first United States national monument. It was established on September 24, 1906, by President Theodore Roosevelt. This means that Wyoming is a home for the first USA national park – Yellowstone and the first national monument.
  • Devils Tower National Monument encloses an area of 1,347 acres (545 ha).
  • Devils Tower is spelled without the apostrophe because of geographical naming standards.
  • It got its name Devils Tower because of a bad translation from “Bad God’s Home” during an early expedition.
  • Each year about 4000 climbers try to get to the Devils Tower summit, mostly using traditional climbing techniques. It’s about 1% of the monument’s 400,000 annual visitors to the Devils Tower National Monument. In the next part of our Complete Guide to Devils Tower National Monument, you will find more details about climbing to the top.
  • Devils Tower was a movie scenery for Steven Spielberg’s 1977 film Close Encounters of the Third Kind. But there are more productions where you can spot Devils Tower National Monument. For hikers and climbers fans, we can recommend Rock the Park – episode Devils Tower National Monument. Jack and Colton are in Wyoming to take on the biggest rock climb challenge of their lives – Devils Tower.
Guide to Devils Tower National Monument
Guide to Devils Tower National Monument

Where is Devils Tower National Monument?

Devils Tower is located in northeastern Wyoming, above the Belle Fourche River. It’s a perfect idea as a day trip from South Dakota’s main attractions, which we list below. Moreover, it’s also a perfect stop on the way to Yellowstone National Park.

  • From Gillette, Wyoming, take I-90 E and US-14 E. It’s about 64 miles and 1 hour 10 minutes of driving.
  • If you are going from Newcastle, Wyoming, take WY-585 N and US-14 W. It’s about 76 miles and 1 hour and 25 minutes driving.
  • From Badlands National Park, South Dakota, are 165 miles and about 2 hours 45 minutes of driving. Take I-90 W via Rapid City.
  • From Crazy Horse Memorial in South Dakota, the fastest route is via US-16 W. It’s 117 miles and 2 hours 15 minutes driving.
  • You can also choose the route from Mount Rushmore National Memorial in South Dakota. Via  I-90 W, it’s about 134 miles and 2 hours and 20 minutes of driving.
  • From Yellowstone National Park is 8 hours of driving and 400 miles via US-14 E/US-16 E/US-20 E.

We did it as a stop during our winter road trip from Badlands National Park to Yellowstone National Park. The winter scenery and wildlife on the road were absolutely fantastic.

wildlife
wildlife

How much does it cost to visit Devils Tower?

The entrance fee is $25 for a week for a single, private, non-commercial vehicle and all its passengers. However, if you have America the Beautiful Pass, you don’t have to pay an entrance fee. Annual America the Beautiful Pass is your ticket to more than 2,000 federal recreation sites across the country, including all US national parks.

Devils Tower National Monument is open year-round, 24 hours per day. But The Devils Tower National Monument Visitor Center has opening hours depending on the season. During the summer months, from May to October is open from 9 am to 5 pm. But check on the official website closures & seasonal exceptions.

Guide to Devils Tower National Monument

How much time do you need at Devils Tower?

It would be best if you had at least an hour to visit Devils Tower. But it’s best if you reserve half a day. It all depends on the activities you want to do. We list them below.

Guide to Devils Tower National Monument

Guide to Devils Tower National Monument – Best Things To Do

If you have little time, you are just passing through. About a half-hour to an hour is enough to see the Devils Tower, go to the visitor center, take some photos.
But if you have a few hours, you may choose to do any of the following activities in Devils Tower.

Go For a Hike in Devils Tower

You have few trails in the Devils Tower park that provide excellent views of the famous rock. All park trails are connected and can be combined to fit your needs. Pets are not allowed on any park trail. Respect nature, and remember to no leave traces during your visit.

Tower Trail

  • Distance: 1,3-mile loop (2km)
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Time required: 45 minutes – 1 hour

It’s only a 1,3 mile (2 km) paved loop trail. You can start it from the Visitor Center parking lot or Red Beds Trail.
Is the most popular hike in the park, so start it early morning, because it might be crowded during the season. There is also limited parking capacity, so plan ahead.
It offers great and close-up views of the Devils Tower, boulder field, and surrounding landscape. During this hike, you will notice also cloths attached to the trees. Don’t touch it or photograph it. These are Native American prayer clothes, so we should respect their tradition. They represent the spiritual connection many tribes have with the Devil’s Tower.

Red Beds Trail

  • Distance: 2,8-mile loop (4,5 km)
  • Difficulty: moderate
  • Time required: 2-3 hours

If you have more time, choose the Red Beds Trail. It’s a moderate 2,8-mile loop (4,5 km) hike. You can start it from the Visitor Center parking lot or all other park trails. It offers spectacular views of Devils Tower and Belle Fourche River valley. It’s partly steep, so wear hiking boots with a good grip. Trekking poles will also be useful (you can check how to choose and use hiking poles in this post).

Amphitheater Circuit

  • Distance: 1,5-mile counter-clockwise loop (2,4 km)
  • Difficulty: easy to moderate
  • Time required: 1-1,5 hours

If you have little time to explore, do the Amphitheater Circuit. This is a 1.5-mile (2.4 km), counter-clockwise loop of Valley View, Red Beds, and South Side trails.

Joyner Ridge Trail

  • Distance: 1,5-mile loop (2,4 km)
  • Difficulty: moderate
  • Time required: 1-1,5 hours

It’s a less-traveled trail. But it also offers spectacular Devils Tower views. You can start it by taking the dirt road from the main park road as you head to or leave from the Visitor Center parking lot. There is significant elevation change on this trail along the ridgeline.

South Side Trail

  • Distance: 0.6 miles (1 km)
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Time required: 30 minutes

South Side Trail is an easy and short hike worth your effort. Trail access is from the picnic area parking lot or Red Beds Trail. You will walk through the prairie dog. So, observe the grass. In the burrows, you can spot these funny and fast animals.

Valley View Trail

  • Distance: 0.6 miles (1 km)
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Time required: 30 minutes

It’s also a short and easy trail. This trail winds through prairie dog town and offers beautiful views of the Belle Fourche River. Try to spot animals. Trail access is from the picnic area parking lot or Red Beds Trail.

Check Ranger Programs in Devils Tower

From May to September, you can participate in various interesting and free programs and excursions with Park Ranger in the tourist season. So, it is worth checking the schedule on the official website of the events.

Night Sky Viewing in Devils Tower

Since we saw the night photos of Devils Tower, we dream about coming back. We want to stay at the campground and observe the stars and the sky illuminating them over magical rock. If you are interested in stargazing at Devils Tower Joyner Ridge Parking Lot and Trail provide one of the best views of the Tower, and with very little light pollution.

Climbing Guide to Devils Tower National Monument

First ascent of Devils Tower

Climbing Devils Tower has increased in popularity, due to the unique shape of the rock. According to Wikipedia the first known ascent of Devils Tower by any method occurred on July 4, 1893, and is accredited to William Rogers and Willard Ripley, local ranchers in the area.

Tips for climbing Devils Tower

If you want to climb you should know, that all climbers must register with a park ranger before and after attempting a climb. No overnight camping at the summit is allowed. Climbers must return to base on the same day they ascend. Before you go check Current Climbing Closures and rock climbing routes to the summit of Devils Tower. In June climbing is suspended due to Native American tribes ceremonies in Devils Tower National Monument.

If you are interested in climbing the magical Devils Tower, we recommend that you read the latest climbing guide for this mountain. Devils Tower covers all the free climbs on Devils Tower. This is a topo-based guide with both photos and topos of all the Tower-free climbs. This book covered the approaches to detailed topo descents.

One of the most common routes at the top of Devils Tower is the Durrance Route, a 5.7 crack climb. There are many established and documented climbing routes covering every side of the tower. Moreover, they are ascending the various vertical cracks and columns of the Devils Tower. The difficulty of these routes ranges from relatively easy to some of the most challenging in the world.

You should know, that the Devils Tower is sacred to several Native American tribes, including the Lakota, Cheyenne, and Kiowa. Similarly, the Shiprock in New Mexico is considered sacred and due to is inaccessible to climbers. Because of this, many Native American leaders objected to climbers ascending the monument, considering this to be a desecration. So if you decide to climb a Devil’s Tower rock, do it respecting all rules and regulations not to offend the religious feelings of the indigenous tribes for whom this place is sacred. Read the detailed information on the official website of the park.

How long does it take to climb Devils Tower?

According to the NPS website time of ascent on the top of Devils Tower depends on skill, route difficulty, and the number of climbers in the group. The average time for two climbers to climb the Durrance Route is between 4-6 hours. It takes about one to two hours to rappel down.

How many have died climbing Devils Tower?

There have been six Devils Tower climbing fatalities since 1937. Three of these fatalities occurred while descending (rappelling) the Devils Tower.

Guide to Devils Tower National Monument

Guide to Devils Tower National Monument – Where to stay during a visit?

If you want to stay overnight in the area, the closest town where you can find accommodation is Gillette.

If you prefer campgrounds, there is The Belle Fourche River Campground located next to Devils Tower. It is open for the season May 15 – October 15. The Belle Fourche River Campground is a 2-loop, 46-site campground with 4 accessible sites and 3 tent-only group sites.  There are 43 pull-through sites with room for RVs up to 35′. No hookups. There are no reservations needed. It’s a first-come-first-served campground.

We were out of season during severe frosts in January. So, we stopped at a campground in Keyhole State Park. It’s about 20 miles from Devils Tower via Mckean Rd and WY-24 E. The place was charming.

sunset
sunset

14 Comments

  1. We missed visiting the Devil’s Tower when we travelled through Wyoming.  It certainly is recognizable as you drive.  So I am sure we didn’t even pass it.  It sounds like we would need to plan a long stop so we could do a hike too.  Good to know there are trails of different levels of difficulty.  But we might want to do more than one for the different things to see along the path.  We will leave the climbing to others!

  2. I’ve never heard of this place – which is probably totally on me. However, this rock looks just amazing – I love the light colors. I would definitely spend the night close by since I’d like to see it while the sun is rising 🙂

  3. I’ve not been to this part of the US as yet but certainly is on my cards. Wow, Devils Tower sounds interesting but I will not be climbing! I will surely hike around the area though. 

  4. Wow what an unusual and quirky landscape, its almost like its been carved to stand out. I love places like this, they look just a little alien and remind me the power of mother nature. 

  5. okay I did not know that a) this was the first national monument and b) that you could actually climb this – so fun to learn about 🙂 

  6. The devils tower monument certainly is magnificent. I’d love to do the red beds trail as it sounds a bit more challenging. I’d take your advice as well and try and be in the area for night as I’d love to see how it looks in the dark. 

  7. I’ve never even heard of Devil’s Tower, but I also haven’t been to Wyoming yet. I love that it was used in a movie = so fun! It’s incredibly stately and interesting out there all on its own. Such a fun site to see!

  8. The name of this rock is such intriguing – Devils Tower! It’s interesting to know that it’s the first national monument. I’d love to take the Tower trail and view the Devils Tower up close. 

  9. This is something I would like to do. Devils tower monument looks really fascinating. Climbing it would be really cool. Very detailed guide!

  10. Wow, that’s certainly an impressive monument! I think I’d love to hike around the area. Good to know that there are a few easy trails. The Devils Tower is amazing to look at, but climbing it is beyond my capability, I’m afraid.

  11. Until today, I didn’t have any idea about the Devils Tower National Monument. quite interesting to know that Devils Tower was the first United States national monument. The snow-capped landscape around the tower is quite mesmerizing. Climbing the tower would be an experience of a lifetime. It was a great read.

  12. This looks interesting. I have never been to Wyoming and not really familiar with the devil’s tower. In fact, this is the first time I heard about it so, I appreciate the facts that you shared. Definitely, learning new today, and interesting to know that Wyoming has the first US national park and national monument. 

  13. This certainly is a masterpiece. No doubt why Devil’s Tower is a National Monument. Loved reading about the different facets of the tower. Climbing up would be real fun with friends around. I would probably take more than six hours as I would require many periods of rest in between.

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