Devils Tower is actually in the Black Hills, but just across the South Dakota state line in northeastern Wyoming. It’s an easy fit into a Black Hills vacation. It was one of those places we missed seeing on our 1987 Yellowstone/Tetons road trip. This visit we decided to stay two nights at the KOA campground just outside the park entrance, giving us plenty of time to take in the jaw dropping views.
We arrived late afternoon and spent the evening watching golden rays from the setting sun light up the tower and surrounding landscape. The colors were vibrant and mesmerizing. That experience alone was worth the visit.
We read parking at the Visitor Center and trailhead could get difficult between 10:00 AM and 3:00 PM during summer months, especially for RVs, so we made our way into the park about 8:00 AM. As a result we were the second RV in the designated RV parking, and had the trail mostly to ourselves. There are several hiking trails in the park. The one closest to the base is paved, with slight elevation changes, and goes around the entire base of the tower with a total length of about 1.3 miles. It provides stunning views of the tower as well as long-range views of the surrounding prairies.
What captured our attention most on our walk around the base of the tower were the rock climbers. Watching them was almost addictive. They were tiny specks on that massive rock, but we could zoom in with our cameras and follow their every movement. To us it looked death defying, but it appeared they were completely comfortable scrambling up this towering rock with a few ropes and some metal contraptions wedged into the crevices! If a storm hadn’t been brewing, we probably would have followed their complete ascent to the top.
Most people are familiar with Devils Tower as a result of the movie “Close Encounters of the Third Kind”, a sci-fi movie. This stunning monolith, however, has been sacred to Native Americans for hundreds of years. It does have an aura that creates a sense of reverence. We had a thunderstorm in the very early dawn of morning that made me imagine living a couple of hundred years ago near that site with a mean, dark sky developing, and lightning bolts shooting downward from the heavens, followed by thunderous roars. I suspect I would consider the site all-powerful and honor it as well.
Devils Tower was the first US National Monument and is definitely worthy of being the first. We highly recommend taking the time to visit this unique geologic, and yes, sacred structure.