Devils Tower, Wyoming doesn’t look real. But it is real. I’ve seen it.
Devils Tower is a long way from anything. The closest city is Rapid City, South Dakota (1h45m away). The closest towns are Gillette and Deadwood.
If you’re in the area, then Devils Tower is worth a visit. It’s only 2 hours away from Mount Rushmore.
We visited Devils Tower on a road trip through the United States. We started in Alberta, drove to Billings, then headed to Devils Tower via Sheridan the next day, ending the day in Deadwood, South Dakota.
Here’s a quick travel guide for Devils Tower, Wyoming.
What Is Devils Tower?
Devils Tower is a 900 foot rock tower in rural Wyoming. It has a distinctive appearance: it’s a huge column of rock thrusting out of the ground. You may have seen it in Close Encounters of the Third Kind.
Devils Tower was the first National Monument in the United States, as President Teddy Roosevelt declared it a National Monument in 1906. Since then, sites like the Statue of Liberty and Petrified Forest have been declared National Monuments as well.
The top of Devils Tower is flat. In fact, you’re allowed to climb it. Approximately 5,000 to 6,000 climbers visit Devils Tower each year.
Most people visit Devils Tower by car: you drive to the parking lot at the base, then walk a paved half-mile hiking trail that circles the base of the tower.
How to Visit Devils Tower
Put Devils Tower Visitor Center into Google Maps or your GPS, then start driving. Devils Tower is a long way from anywhere.
There’s a very tiny town called Devils Tower beneath the monument. There’s a post office, a supply store, a general store, and a couple places to eat.
All of this was closed when we visited in early March. However, Devils Tower gets reasonably busy during the summer months.
You pay $25 to enter Devils Tower National Monument. When we visited in the offseason, there was a self-pay deposit box. In the high season, a Park Ranger runs the booth.
Alternatively, you can use or buy an annual NPS pass ($80), which is worth it if you’re visiting other landmarks (like nearby Mount Rushmore).
After paying, you drive up a winding road to reach the Devils Tower Visitor Center. Park your car and walk around. You can learn more about the tower and how it formed at the visitor center. There are also signs all over the parking lot.
Then, you walk the Tower Trail, a half-mile paved loop around the base of the tower. You get great views of Devils Tower from every angle. At one point, you get a nice view over the Belle Fourche River and surrounding countryside. It’s a seriously beautiful part of the country.
Look for climbers on Devils Tower as you walk around. Climbing is allowed, and it does not damage the tower.
Once you’ve done the half-mile loop, you’ve completed Devils Tower.
On your way out, you might want to visit Alex Prairie Dog Town, a small protected area for prairie dogs. Look for a pullout on the side of the road.
How Did Devils Tower Form?
Devils Tower formed 50 million years ago.
The short version: Underground lava pushed a bunch of rocks upward.
The long (more geologically correct version): Devils Tower is an igneous intrusion, which means it formed underground from molten rock. Magna pushed up into the surrounding sedimentary rock, then cooled and hardened. Over time, erosion revealed the distinctive rock we see today. The rock is called phonolite porphyry.
The National Park Service compares Devils Tower to “a bunch of pencils held together by gravity”. There are thousands of columns of rock within Devils Tower.
You can see these columns when you visit. You can see fallen columns around the base of Devils Tower. However, the NPS claims there have been no major falls in the last 200 years.
Why Is It Called Devils Tower?
Native Americans get credit for the name Devils Tower.
Colonel Richard Dodge, the U.S. Army commander in charge of the military escort for an 1875 scientific expedition, wrote that “the Indians call the shaft “Bad God’s Tower”, which he took to mean “Devil’s Tower”.
The earliest maps of the region list other names. Multiple maps name the tower “Bear Lodge”, which is a direct translation of the Lakota name Mato Tipila.
Where to Stay
There’s a KOA campground in the small town of Devils Tower. There’s also, surprisingly, a nearby bed and breakfast called Devils Tower Lodge. There’s also a small motel called Devils Tower View and a couple other random houses or rentals in the immediate vicinity.
The nearby town of Hulett (10 minutes away) has a Best Western and a motel.
Aside from that, your best bet for lodging are nearby population hubs like Gillette, Deadwood, Spearfish, Sturgis, or Rapid City (we picked Deadwood, which is worth a visit on its own).
Devils Tower Road Trip
We visited Devils Tower as part of a road trip, going from Canada to the southern United States.
On our way south, we spent one night each in Billings, Deadwood, and Sioux Falls. We visited Devils Tower, Mount Rushmore, Wall Drug, and the Corn Palace along the way.
Unless you live in the area, you’re probably visiting the Devils Tower region for Mount Rushmore.
Final Word: Is Devils Tower Worth a Visit?
Devils Tower is unlike anything I’ve seen before. It’s very cool to see it come into view as you drive up, getting larger on the horizon until you’re right below it.
Devils Tower is 2 hours from Mount Rushmore, and I would say it’s worth the drive.