Last updated on August 16th, 2019
Devils Tower is one of the most breathtaking natural wonders you’ll ever come across. With a tower that protrudes out of the earth like nothing else, it’s easy to see why it attracts so many visitors. It’s a good 20-minute drive from any nearby highways, but visitors still make the journey. While climbing the tower may get the most attention, the Devils Tower hikes are what the most people spend their time doing.
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Devils Towers Formation
The tower is deep seeded with myths and ledges in the Native American community. But geologists have found that the tower was formed entirely underground by magma, filling crevices. As erosion ate away at the surrounding sediment the tower was unveiled forming the unique rock structure today. So no, it’s not a volcano or even a hollow shell. But what’s so amazing about Devils Tower, is its pillar-like structures the magma formed. This crystallizing rock formation is also seen in Devil’s Postpile National Monument in California but on a much smaller scale.
Ever since William Rodgers and Willard Ripley first climbed the tower using a wooden latter on July 4th, 1893, climbers have scaled to the top. They didn’t start using traditional equipment until 1937. Now about 4000 climbers ascend Devils Tower each year. As climbing equipment has changed, they are able to ascend without impacting the wall of the tower, preserving it for years to come.
Native American’s still consider Devils Tower a sacred site. During the month of June, out of respect for the sacred spot, there is a voluntary climbing ban.
The Tower Trail Devils Tower Hike
If you aren’t a climber, the next best way to see Devils Tower is to hike around it. The closest and most popular path is the Tower Trail loop. The narrow paved path is a 1.3-mile loop around Devils Tower. It will take you about 45 mins to an hour to complete. Just because it’s paved, doesn’t mean it’s going to be an easy adventure, especially on hot days. The path is narrow enough so two people can just barely walk side by side. It twists and turns and avoids boulders and goes up steep inclines along the way. But also provides you with some fantastic views.
There are 13 different interpretive signs that I highly recommend you stop to get some more information about the formation and history of the land. Along the way you’ll find different scenic overlooks, benches to rest at and even gimps whats left of the original ladder that was used to first ascended the Tower. When you are walking around the tower, make sure to keep an eye of for climbers on the wall.
The Devils Tower Hike also includes a few speed bumps. This kind of threw me for a loop because after walking on the trail, I’m unsure as to who they are for. The trail is unsuitable for biking with the number of pedestrians that walk the path. But during less popular times it could be doable but still a risky trip. The park does encourage biking on the Main Park Road leading up to the visitors center. The only logical thing I can think of is that they reminiscence of a past installment.
There are 3 primary Devils Tower hikes you can do. In addition to the Tower Trail, there is also a Red Beds Trail that is 2.8 miles long. This is a more traditional style trail and makes a loop around the tower as well. But you enter the Bell Fourchce River Valley. Similar to the Tower Trail, there are a lot of steep inclines, and it is accessible from the visitors center.
The Joyner Riddle Trail is a favorite around sunset. It’s a 1.5-mile loop that is more scenic than the rest and the least traveled by guests. Be warned, there is some significant elevation in this trail, but it’s worth it for the views. You can access this trail by taking the dirt road just off the Main Park Road. The trail links up .06 miles.
The park is home to a bunch of different types of raptors. Like the Osprey, American Kestrel, Prairie Falcon, and my personal favorite the Golden Eagle. Make sure to take a few minutes at some of the overlooks, and you’ll be bound to spot one flying overhead.
At the entrance, they have a large community of Black-Tailed Prairie Dogs. The park has set up parking next to their Towns so you can get a closer look at them. Make sure to stay behind the ropes and move slow to get good pictures. From my experience, these Prairie Dogs are a lot more used to people than the ones in the Badlands. If you miss them coming in, it’s actually a little easier to pull off on the way out of the park to visit with them.
TIPS for the Devils Tower Hikes
- Get there early. I cannot emphasize this enough during the summer months. They get thousands of visitors a day with only about 200 spaces for cars to park in the main visitor’s lot. Between 10am-3pm it will be almost impossible to park up top. Its recommended to do some of the other hikes that don’t start at the visitors center, or hike or bike to the visitors center.
- Bring a bottle of water or two with you. The temperatures may be colder when you are down at the entry gate, but it can quickly rise another 5-10 degrees once your assent to the top of the tower’s base. For the small hike, we went through 2 bottles of water by the halfway mark. There is a mix of shade and sun on the Tower Trail, but it can be a recipe for disaster if you are not prepared.
- Take your time and enjoy the view. This isn’t a power hike situation. Take advantage of the benches and look around. You’ll be amazed at some of the stuff you’ll find.
- Wooden Later is still visible if you have some sharp eyes. Better yet, bring a pair of binoculars with you to make sure you get a good glimpse. They have a marker for its location on the Tower Trail so you won’t miss it.
- Bring a Camera for obvious reasons.
- Pets are not allowed on the trails, so make sure to leave them home.
- Pick up a copy of the Junior Ranger Program guide at the visitors center for your kids or print it off at home and bring it with you.
- Consider visiting during Spring or Fall to avoid some of the crowds and heat.
Have you been to Devils Tower yet?
Devils Tower is something that everyone should visit especially if you are visiting the Back Hills. If you have time, spend a day in the park so you can really enjoy some of the different trails and programs they offer their guest. You won’t regret it.