Julie United States 15 Comments

Devils Tower National Monument is one of the most iconic landmarks in the United States. Sacred to Native Americans, popular road trip destination, and alien landing site a famous movie, Devils Tower evokes mystery and wonder from visitors of all ages.

Interesting Facts about Devils Tower

Devils Tower has long been sacred to Native Americans. Six tribes have a geographical or cultural tie to the tower, with the Lakota people having one of the strongest connections. They call the tower by names like Bear Lodge, Ghost Mountain, and Mythic-Owl Mountain.

Every year, ceremonies are conducted at Devils Tower by local tribes. As you walk around Devils Tower, you will see colorful cloths tied to the trees. These are prayer offerings and sometimes the cloths are placed in remembrance of another person.

Devils Tower was the first national monument in the USA, established on September 24, 1906 by President Theodore Roosevelt. He made Wyoming home not only to the first national monument, but also the first national park, Yellowstone National Park.

There are several theories about the formation of Devils Tower. The most likely theory is this: 50 million years ago, molten lava was forced into underground layers of sedimentary rock. As the magma cooled, it formed hexagonal columns of igneous rock. Over millions of years, the sedimentary rock eroded away, gradually revealing Devils Tower.

Devils Tower Hexagonal Columns

The hexagonal columns of Devils Tower

Devils Tower rises 867 feet from its base and stands 1,267 feet above the Belle Fourche River. It can be seen for miles on a clear day.

Devils Tower was featured in the 1977 movie Close Encounters of the Third Kind, which turns the tower into an alien landing site.

How to Get to Devils Tower

Devils Tower is located in northeastern Wyoming.

You can visit Devils Tower on a day trip from Rapid City or as part of a road trip across the USA. If you have plans to visit both Mount Rushmore and Yellowstone, there are several driving routes to choose from that cross Wyoming and Devils Tower can easily be added to this road trip.

Here are driving distances and times from nearby destinations:

  • Rapid City, South Dakota: 107 miles, 1.75 hours
  • Gillette, Wyoming: 66 miles, 1.25 hours
  • Cody, Wyoming: 300 miles, 5 hours
  • Yellowstone National Park: 350 hours, 6 hours
  • Billings, Montana: 265 miles, 4.25 hours

The closest airport is located in Gillette, Wyoming.

Rapid City, South Dakota has a larger airport, making this is a great home base, not only for visiting Devils Tower, but for exploring this part of the country. From Rapid City, you can also visit Badlands and Wind Cave National Parks, Mount Rushmore, Custer State Park, and numerous historic towns. You can also visit Devils Tower on a road trip with Mount Rushmore, Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks.

View of Devils Tower

View of Devils Tower from Highway 24

Best Things to Do at Devils Tower

On a visit to Devils Tower, you have the option to hike one of the trails that circle around its base, take a ranger tour, go rock climbing, or gaze up at the night skies. Here is a list of the things to do at Devils Tower.

Hike the Tower Trail

Distance: 1.3 mile loop | Difficulty: Easy | Length of Time: 45 minutes to 1 hour

If you do one thing on a visit to Devils Tower, it should be a walk on the Tower Trail.

The Tower Trail circles around the base of Devils Tower. From here, you get up-close views of the tower. You’ll have to crane your neck back quite a bit to look up at it, since you are standing so close, but you do get quite a few nice views of Devils Tower.

First View Devils Tower

Tower Trail Devils Tower

Devils Tower Tower Trail

From this walk, you get to truly appreciate the massive size of Devils Tower. You can also watch as rock climbers scale the columns of rock.

This is a paved trail that starts and ends at the visitor center. It is the most popular hike in the park.

Red Beds Trail

Distance: 2.8 mile loop | Difficulty: Moderate | Length of Time: 1.5 to 3 hours

For stunning views of Devils Tower and the Belle Fourche River Valley, put the Red Beds Trail on your to-do list. Like the Tower Trail, this trail loops around Devils Tower, but since the loop is located farther away from the base of the tower, you get better views of it.

From the Red Beds Trail, you get to see Devils Tower from all angles. You’ll see that its appearance changes depending on the direction you view it. The views over the river valley and the walk through the Red Beds are also very nice.

Tim Devils Tower

Best Devils Tower Hike

Belle Fourche Valley

Red Beds Trail

Red Beds

Devils Tower Silhouette

Since this trail is longer and more strenuous than the Tower Trail, there will be fewer people here. There are a few short climbs on the trail but kids should do just fine.

South Side Trail

Distance: 0.6 miles | Difficulty: Easy | Length of Time: 15 to 30 minutes

Walk through a prairie dog town on this short, easy trail. It connects the picnic area parking lot with the Red Beds Trail.

Valley View Trail

Distance: 0.6 miles | Difficulty: Easy | Length of Time: 15 to 30 minutes

This flat trail also starts at the picnic area parking lot, heads through prairie dog lands, and travels beside the Belle Fourche River.

Joyner Ridge Trail

Distance: 1.5 mile loop | Difficulty: Moderate | Length of Time: 1 hour

Leave the crowds behind and have a unique view of Devils Tower. This trail travels along a ridgeline, offering great views of Devils Tower, before dropping down into the valley and looping back to the parking lot.

Prairie Dog Town

On highway 110, as you drive through the park, there will be a few turnouts where you can park your car and look out over the prairie dog town. Another way to see the prairie dogs is on the South Side Trail and Valley View Trail.

Prairie Dog Town

Circle of Sacred Smoke Sculpture

This modern sculpture, also called the Wind Circle Sculpture, is located near the prairie dog town and the picnic area. The sculpture was created by Japanese artist Junkyu Muto and it is the third in a series of “peace sculptures” that are located at important sites around the world.

Climb Devils Tower

Devils Tower unique shape and hexagonal towers attract rock climbers from around the world.

The most popular way to reach the summit is on the Durrance Route, a 5.7 crack climb, although there are numerous routes to the top.

Climbers on Devils Tower

Can you spot the rock climbers?

Before you climb, register at the visitor center. Even if you only plan to rock scramble on the boulder field you must register in advance.

In June, climbing is suspended when the Native Americans hold their ceremonies. In the spring, some routes will be closed for nesting falcons. Learn more on the National Park Service website. 

Ranger Programs

Ranger programs are typically offered from Memorial Day through Labor Day. Go on a ranger-guided hike, learn more about the history and geology of Devils Rock, or view the night sky.

Night Sky Viewing

Devils Tower, with its remote location away from light pollution, is a great place to gaze up at the night sky. During the summer months, the national park service offers ranger-led night sky programs. Or, you can simply view Devils Tower and the night sky from one of the hiking trails.

Please practice the seven principles of Leave No Trace: plan ahead, stay on the trail, pack out what you bring to the hiking trail, properly dispose of waste, leave areas as you found them, minimize campfire impacts, be considerate of other hikers, and do not approach or feed wildlife.

What to Expect on Your Visit

Devils Tower National Monument is small and easy to visit. Devils Tower National Monument Road runs through the park, connecting the entrance station with the top places to visit and the visitor center.

After passing through a small collection of shops and restaurants, you will pay your fee at the entrance station ($25 per vehicle, valid for 7 days).

Devils Tower Trading Post

Before entering the park, you will pass a few shops and restaurants.

Continue on Devils Tower National Monument Road, cross the Belle Fourche River, and you will come to the Prairie Dog Town. You can stop now to see the prairie dogs or save it for the end of your visit.

Devils Tower National Monument Road ends at the visitor center. From this large parking lot, you can hike the Tower Trail and the Red Beds Trail. If you plan to climb Devils Tower, this is also where you will park. There are restrooms here if you need one.

Once you are finished here, you can drive to the parking lot for the Joyner Trail or begin your drive out of the park. You will drive past the prairie dog town and the picnic area parking lot, where you have the option to hike the Valley View Trail or South Side Trail or see the Circle of Sacred Smoke Sculpture. 

Map of Devils Tower NM

Map courtesy of the national park service.

Wyoming Travel Guide

How Much Time Do You Need in Devils Tower?

For the best experience, plan on spending at least half of a day at Devils Tower. It takes at least an hour to drive here, so I think it’s worth spending a few hours in the park, to see the tower from different perspectives.

With that being said, one hour is really all that you need to see Devils Tower. Park in the visitor center parking lot and hike the Tower Trail.

With more time, I recommend hiking the Red Beds Trail. This hike offers a different perspective of Devils Tower and, with lower crowds, is more enjoyable that the Tower Trail. It’s possible to hike both of these trails even if you only have a half of a day.

With one full day at Devils Tower, hike the Tower Trail, take your pick from the Joyner Trail and the Red Beds Trail, and have a picnic lunch at the picnic area. Walk the South Side Trail or Valley View Trail to get up close with the prairie dogs and/or the Belle Fourche River. Consider joining a ranger program if you are visiting during the summer months. For the full experience, stick around until after sunset to view the night sky.

Devils Tower National Monument makes a great day trip from South Dakota. If you will be in Rapid City, you can visit Devils Tower on a one day road trip that also includes Spearfish Canyon, Deadwood, and Lead. If you have a bigger road trip planned, you can also visit Devils Tower on the drive between Yellowstone National Park and the Black Hills of South Dakota.

Devils Tower Guide

Practical Information

Devils Tower National Monument is open 24 hours a day 365 days per year.

Entrance Fee: $25 per vehicle, valid for 7 days. If you have an America the Beautiful Pass, you do not have to pay the entrance fee.

Restrooms are located at the visitor center and the picnic area.

There are no restaurants in the park, however, you can get food at the small shops and cafes that sit right outside of the park, just beyond the entrance station.

If you plan to view the night sky, consider camping at the Belle Fourche River Campground, to save yourself a late night drive. 

Before you go, get updates on park conditions and closures on the official website. 

If you have any questions about planning your visit to Devils Tower, or if you want to share your experience, let us know in the comment section below.

More Information for Your Trip to Wyoming

SCENIC DRIVES IN WYOMING: Beartooth Highway is located along the border of Montana and Wyoming, near Yellowstone, and is one of the most scenic drives in the USA. If you have plans to drive between Yellowstone and Devils Tower or Mount Rushmore, take your pick between Cloud Peak Skyway and Bighorn Scenic Byway.

YELLOWSTONE, DEVILS TOWER & MOUNT RUSHMORE: This 10-day road trip itinerary is one of the best in the USA. Traveling point-to-point, start in Grand Teton and visit Yellowstone, Devils Tower, Mount Rushmore, the Black Hills of South Dakota, and Badlands and Wind Cave National Parks.

SOUTH DAKOTA: In South Dakota, visit Custer State Park, spend some time at Mount Rushmore, visit Badlands and Wind Cave National Parks. For a complete list, check out our guide to the best things to do in South Dakota.

YELLOWSTONE & GRAND TETON: Planning a trip to Yellowstone & Grand Teton and don’t know where to start? In our Yellowstone and Grand Teton Itinerary, get lots of practical information about how and where to rent a car, road trip routes, and advice on how to plan your time.

USA ROAD TRIPS: Planning your next big adventure in the USA? Check our our USA Road Trip Guide for travel ideas and sample itineraries.

If this is part of a bigger road trip through Wyoming and the USA, visit our United States Travel Guide for more inspiration and travel planning tips.


Devils Tower Ultimate Guide


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Comments 15

  1. Avatar for BEA
    1. Avatar for Julie Post
  2. Avatar for Lindsay

    Hello! Your website is amazing! We will be traveling to Devil’s Tower in June. When we go, we will be pulling a travel trailer. Where is the best (and closest to the visitor center) place to park with a trailer? Thank you so much!

    1. Avatar for Julie Post

      That’s a good question. You might be able to park in the lot next to the visitor center, which is the best place to park since most of the trails start right here. The official website usually has a guide to parking, and where certain types of vehicles to park. I found this which should help answer your question. I hope you have a great time at Devils Tower! Cheers, Julie

  3. Avatar for James king
    1. Avatar for Julie Post

      Hello James. You will have a great view of Devils Tower as you drive up to it on Highway 24. I actually think that some of the best views of it are right from this road. This viewpoint on Highway 24 is very good. I think it is still worth driving up to the upper parking lot for closer views, even if you don’t plan on doing a lot of walking. It’s also helpful to take a look at the Accessibility section on the NPS website. Cheers, Julie

  4. Avatar for Marc

    Thanks for the info. I have just visited the Devils tower and it was simply impressive. We only did the small loop and took us about an hour to complete with kids. The parking lot was crowded and the wait was long. And for the Trading post, they do not have anything vegetarian. We were hoping for a good vegan meal. We left hungry without having anything to eat there. Keep up the work.

  5. Avatar for Maria Sulzer
    Maria Sulzer

    My husband is disabled and has the Access Pass, can we get in for free at The Devil’s Tower? We’re planning to be there June 30, 2021

    Thank you

    1. Avatar for Julie Post
  6. Avatar for Kristel

    This website is fantastic! We are on a 5 week RV trip on the northwest and I keep coming back to this website because it is so thorough and good!

    1. Avatar for Julie Post
  7. Avatar for Sally Skiera
    Sally Skiera

    What a fantastic, thorough post. We stayed at Devils Tower Lodge and climbed with their guiding service – this was an experience all in itself! It is located IN the actual park. Looking forward to using your experience for future trips to the parks.

    1. Avatar for Julie Post
  8. Avatar for Carolyn
    1. Avatar for Julie Post

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