Home USA How to Visit and Hike Devils Tower National Monument

How to Visit and Hike Devils Tower National Monument

by Valerie Vanr

Hiking Devils Tower is the perfect way to experience this special place found on many travellers’ bucket lists. See the unique geology of this igneous monolith standing more than 1200 feet above the river valley. Explore the peace of this sacred place.  No matter the reason for visiting, this is an impressive place!

Red sandstone cliffs with Devils Tower in background

Devils Tower Trails

There are 5 interconnected hiking trails around Devils Tower. Each highlights different aspects of the tower and the valley but all provide stunning views of the tower. Spend an hour or a day. Everything is possible hiking Devils Tower.

Devils Tower Trail Map

Devils Tower map starred hiking trails
Click on the map for an interactive version.

Devils Tower Hikes

Tower Trail

2 pictures of person on Devils Tower hiking trail
The paved Tower Trail has interpretive panels telling the tower’s geology and history.

This 1.3-mile (2-kilometre), paved loop makes a nice walk around the base of the tower. While not a difficult hike, there are a couple steep sections. It will take about 45 minutes. Interpretive panels along the way explain the tower’s geology and history. Expect to see Native American prayer cloths, cloths or small bundles attached to trees. They represent tribal connections to the tower.

A boulder field of large pieces of the tower surround it. No one in recorded history has seen one of these large pieces fall but small basketball size pieces do fall regularly.

The trail passes through ponderosa pine forest and a boulder field. Scrambling in the boulder field requires a permit.

Tower Trail is the most popular trail in the park.  As it can get very busy, consider hiking early in the morning or at the end of the day. A weekday hike also cuts down on the crowds on this trail. Access to the trail is from the visitor center parking lot or the Red Beds Trail.

Red Beds Trail

This 2.8-mile (4.5-kilometre), loop trail also circles the entire tower and provides panoramic views of the Belle Fourche River Valley. It does have some steep sections with an elevation change of 450 feet and takes about 2.5 hours to hike.

See ponderosa pine forest, open prairie and brightly colored mud and sandstone. Walk quietly and you might see wildlife.

Access this trail from the visitor center parking lot. It has connections to all other park trails.

Person in grasslands on Devils Tower hiking trail
Hike through prairie grassland on Red Beds Trail.
Deer in meadow around Devils Tower
Deer, prairie dogs and peregrine falcons are some of the wildlife you may see at the tower.

Joyner Ridge Trail

For a quieter trail, try Joyner Ridge. The trail is a 1.5-mile (2.4-kilometre) loop following Joyner Ridge and into a ravine. There is some elevation change on this loop. Allow 45 minutes to hike the trail.

See prairie, forest and ravine habitats. The view of the tower from the parking area alone is worth the short drive to the trailhead.

The trailhead is accessed by a gravel road off the main park road. Joyner connects to Red Beds by a 0.6 mile connector.

Grassland and pine foreground Devils Tower background

South Side Trail and Valley View Trail

These 2 short trails are 0.6-mile (1-kilometre), connector trails to the Red Beds Trail.  South Side has a steep uphill section at the connection to Red Beds.  Valley View is practically flat and runs along the river.

Both trails begin at the amphitheatre near Belle Fourche River Campground and go through the prairie dog town.

Many of the trails provide great views of the Belle Fourche River valley.

Short Hike Suggestion

If short on time, enjoy a quick hike to get a flavour of the features of the monument.  Start at the amphitheatre and walk Valley View Trail to Red Beds. Turn left onto Red Beds and walk to the junction with South Side Trail. Return to the amphitheatre. On this 1.5-mile (2.4-kilometre) loop, see the prairie dog town, the Belle Fourche River valley and great views of the tower.

Tips for Devils Tower Hikes

Wear good walking shoes and carry plenty of water.
Watch out for poison ivy and rattlesnakes on all trails. 
Be aware: Pets are not allowed on any park trails.

Devils Tower Visitor Center

The visitor center, located at the base of the tower, provides information about the geology and history of the tower.  There is a bookstore and souvenir shop. It is open daily from spring through fall.  Park staff are available to answer your questions.

Ranger-led Programs are typically offered between Memorial Day and Labor Day. Check at the visitor center for the day’s activities.

Can I Hike to the Top of Devils Tower?

Unfortunately no. The tower is almost vertical. Climbing to the top is permitted. About 4,000 people climb the tower annually. Devils Tower is a mass of vertical columns created by parallel cracks in the rock. The tower has become one of the best traditional crack climbing areas in North America.

People shown climbing Devils Tower
Climbers free climb the tower without mechanical or artificial aid or ladder. They use equipment to protect them in the event of a fall. These climbers have ropes, harnesses and removable pieces of equipment placed in cracks in the tower.

Registration is required prior to climbing along with checking in upon completion. There is no fee to climb other than the standard entrance fee.  Climbing is not permitted in the month of June.  For full details, check the NPS Climbing Information page.

A technical rock climb takes an average of about 5 hours. Individual climbing times have varied over the years from 18 minutes to 16 hours.

Top of Devils Tower

Climbers reaching the top of Devils Tower discover a unique rounded plateau.  About the size of a football field, the surface is rocky and covered with grasses and shrubs.  Wildlife does live here with small chipmunks scavenging between the boulders.

Devils Tower at Night

Devils Tower is the perfect location for Night Sky viewing situated far away from urban lights.  The park is open 24 hours a day.  Bring binoculars, camera and tripod and enjoy!

Without nearby city lights, Devils Tower is a great place to see the night sky.

How did Devils Tower Get its Name?

The Lakotas were the dominant tribe in the area in the 1850s and their name for the tower is Bear Lodge. In 1876, a set of field notes from a geologic expedition were published. They noted the translation of the tribal name as “bad god’s tower” and dubbed it “Devil’s Tower”.  There have been several attempts to officially change the name to Bear Lodge. However, the name Devils Tower endures.

Devils Tower Formation

The tower is made of a rare igneous rock called phonolite porphyry.

It is a Volcano?  This has been the subject of lots of scientific debate.  Most geologists agree that it formed from molten material. This magma pushed through sedimentary rock layers but did not break through the earth’s surface and form a volcano. It cooled and crystallized as an intrusion in the sedimentary rock. The softer sedimentary rock has eroded over time exposing the igneous tower visible today. Geologists believe that 1.5 vertical miles of rock were eroded over the fifty million years ago since the magma intrusion.

The tower stands 1267 feet (386 metres) above the Belle Fourche River and 867 feet (264 metres) from its base. Due to Its mineral composition, it appears to change color depending on the position of the sun and the weather conditions.

Couple standing in meadow Devils Tower in background
Devils Tower stands alone in the relatively flat countryside.

Devils Tower Camping

There are two campgrounds near Devils Tower that are open seasonally.

Belle Fourche River Campground

This campground is located inside the park.  Sites are available on a first-come, first-served basis. The RV and tent sites each have a grill, picnic table and nearby potable water. There are no serviced campsites. Restrooms are available but no showers or laundry facilities exist.

Devils Tower KOA (Kampground of America)

This campground is adjacent to the park entrance. It has fully serviced RV sites, tent sites and cabin-style lodging with restrooms, showers and laundry facilities. We enjoy our stay at this KOA. 

Campground and river foreground Devils Tower background
Devils Tower KOA is right beside the tower in the Belle Fourche River Valley

Devils Tower Movie

Wasn’t Devils Tower in a Hollywood movie? 
Yes.  Steven Spielberg utilized Devils Tower prominently in his movie “Close Encounters of the Third Kind” (1977).  The movie became a hit and is now a part of cultural lore.  Devils Tower KOA campground shows this movie every single night.

After watching Close Encounters, you may find yourself looking at mashed potatoes in a totally different way. 

Person making a tower from mashed potatoes
Try making a mashed potato tower after watching Close Encounters at Devils Tower KOA.

Know Before You Go

Devils Tower Location and Directions

The tower is in the northeast corner of Wyoming in the Black Hills National Forest about 30 miles from the South Dakota border.

Coming from the west, the entrance station is 33 miles northeast of Moorcroft WY via US Hwy 14/WY24. From the east, it is 27 miles northwest of Sundance WY via US Hwy 14/WY24 and 52 miles southwest of Belle Fourche SD via SC34/WY24.

The nearest large regional airport is in Rapid City, South Dakota.

Is Devils Tower open year round?

Yes it is open year round, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

What is the best time to visit Devils Tower?

You can visit anytime but most visitors come in June, July and August. Summer weekends are the most popular so try to schedule a weekday summer visit. If you want to avoid crowds and cold temperatures, visit in the late Spring or early Fall. May is the rainiest month at Devils Tower.

How long do you need to visit?

You can visit the monument for a couple hours and see all the highlights (Visitor Center and the Tower Trail) or for a couple days, taking things more leisurely and enjoying multiple hikes.

Is there food available in the park?

No. There are no food concessions or camp store within Devils Tower. Full services are available just outside the park entrance.

Devils Tower Trading Post just outside park

Where Can I Park at Devils Tower?

Parking at Devils Tower is very difficult in the summer and the parking lots are often full from 10am to 3pm. The main parking area is the visitor center lot, which is 3 miles from the entrance.

If that lot is full, park in the picnic area lot or in the gravel parking lot at Joyner’s Ridge Trailhead. Walk from these alternate parking lots to the visitor center via the connector trails and the Red Beds Trail.

If you are travelling in an RV or pulling a trailer and your unit length is over 19 feet, your best option is to park in the long vehicle parking lot near the picnic area.

Road Trip Options

Wyoming and South Dakotas are great summer road trip destinations.

Drive through Badlands National Park. Explore the Big Horn and Black Hills National Forests.   Visit Mount Rushmore and Custer State Park. Discover the wild west in Cody. See the splendor in Yellowstone National Park.

We’ve put together road trips touring this beautiful part of the American northwest.

Enjoy our 1-week South Dakota Road Trip covering all the major attractions in South Dakota.

Parked on Badlands Loop Road

Our road trip between Devils Tower National Monument and Yellowstone National Park highlights the historic places and awe-inspiring scenery between these two bucket-list destinations.

Road to forest pillar background
Wyoming Road Trip – Devils Tower to Yellowstone: AvrexTravel.com

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