Home USA How to Visit and Hike Devils Tower National Monument

How to Visit and Hike Devils Tower National Monument

by Valerie Vanr

Devils Tower National Monument is a special place and on many travellers’ bucket lists. Some are intrigued by its unique geology. For others it is a sacred place. Some come to find inspiration. Others look forward to the recreational opportunities.  Whatever your reason, it is an impressive place to enjoy nature by hiking on the trails around the monument.

Red sandstone cliffs with Devils Tower in background

Devils Tower Trails

There are 5 interconnected hiking trails at Devils Tower providing amazing views as you hike around the tower.

  • Tower Trail
  • Red Beds Trail
  • Joyner Ridge Trail
  • South Side Trail
  • Valley View Trail

Hiking Tips.  Wear good walking shoes and take water with you. Watch out for poison ivy and rattlesnakes on all trails.  Note: Pets are not allowed on any park trails.

Devils Tower Trail Map

Devils Tower Hiking map
Click on the map to access the full 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 paved loop makes a nice walk around the base of the tower. While not a difficult walk, 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.

Red Beds Trail

This 3-mile loop trail also takes you around 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.

Person in grasslands on Devils Tower hiking trail
Hike through prairie grassland on Red Beds Trail.

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

Deer in meadow around Devils Tower
Deer, prairie dogs and peregrin falcons are some of the wildlife you may see at the tower.

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

Joyner Ridge Trail

For a quieter trail, try Joyner Ridge. The trail is a 1.5 mile loop following Joyner Ridge and into a ravine. There is some elevation change on this loop.

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

Grassland and pine foreground Devils Tower background

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

South Side Trail and Valley View Trail

These 2 short trails are 0.6 mile connector trails to the Red Beds Trail.  South Side has a steep uphill section as you meet 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.

Red Beds Trail gets its name from the red muds visible in the Belle Fourche River valley.

Short Hike suggestion

If you are just passing through Devils Tower and are short of time, you can still enjoy a quick hike and 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 loop you’ll see the prairie dog town, the Belle Fourche River valley and great views of the tower.

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

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

Devils Tower Climbing

Can you climb Devils Tower?  Yes, climbing is permitted. About 4,000 people climb the tower annually.

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.

You must register before your climb and check in upon your return. 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.

Devils Tower Top

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.  You can visit at night since the park is open 24 hours a day.  Situated far away from urban lights, you’ll have a great dark sky experience here.  Bring your binoculars, camera and tripod.

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 the tower “Devil’s Tower”.  There have been several attempts to officially change the name to Bear Lodge. However, the name Devils Tower endures and the debate continues.

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 we see 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 1280 feet above the Belle Fourche River. Its mineral composition allows us to see it as different colors depending on the position of the sun and the weather conditions.

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.

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

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 stayed here. 

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

Directions to Devils Tower

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 Moorecroft 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 you may want to 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. You can 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.

Map of Devils Tower

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

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