Standing tall in the northeast corner of Wyoming, Devils Tower has captured curiosity for centuries. Long playing a role in Northern Plains Indian ceremonies, prayer bundles are still prominent on the landscapes surrounding the tower. Over 20 tribes have connections to the butte. Numerous tribes attribute the parallel cracks along the sides to the great bear climbing towards the top.
President Theodore Roosevelt, using the powers of the newly signed Antiquities Act, designated Devils Tower as the first national monument in 1906. In the subsequent 100 plus years generations have visited the site. The monument is especially popular with travels experiencing nearby (around 2.5 hours) Mount Rushmore and the other famous sites of the Black Hills. Devils Tower is about 30 miles north of Interstate 90, and nearby towns include Hulett, Sundance, and Moorcroft.
The prominent 867 foot tall butte is visible from miles away. My grandmother could see the tower from her bedroom window some 20 miles away when she was growing up. The red dirt countryside and evergreen Ponderosa Pine forests contrast nicely at the base of the tower. Upon entering the national monument, visitors immediately cross the Belle Fourche River. A popular pull out along the entrance road is near the active Black-tailed Prairie Dog town. As with all wildlife people are reminded to not feed or approach these 2 – 3 pound critters.
The visitor center is open mid-spring through fall daily, and a limited number of campsites are located within the national monument too. Interpretive programs are offered regularly, and the popular Junior Ranger program is also an option for kids. I saw numerous families searching for Junior Ranger answers on my recent visit, and watch one youngster beaming with pride when he received his award badge.
While the views of Devils Tower are stunning from the parking lot, over 8 miles of trail, including 1 mile and 3 mile loops around the tower, give visitors a fuller perspective of the spire. Since it wraps around the base of the tower and provides the closest views, Pa Keffer and I opted for the shortest loop. Be sure to fill your water bottles at the visitor center before you begin.
The geologic formation of Devils Tower is fascinating. The feature is an igneous intrusion of magma that penetrated the sedimentary rock. The sedimentary rock has then eroded, and the cooled and hardened magma core remains. The unique columnar structure of Devils Tower provides numerous small platforms for birds including Prairie Falcons and Turkey Vultures to nest on. Rattlesnakes have also been reported from the tower’s rock climbers.
The tower is a mecca for rock climbing enthusiasts. While there is a voluntary ban on climbing Devils Tower in June, an especially sacred time for the Indian Tribes of the area, there were and multiple parties scaling the tower the July day I was there. The tower’s first climbers built a wooden later up the sides of the rock, while today’s climbers use safety harnesses and ropes as they attempt the feat.
I have been to Devils Tower dozens of times, and I am in awe by the formation every single trip. It is a family friendly destination, and is a worthy stop if you ever find yourself in Wyoming.