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Is Devils Tower National Monument, WY Worth Visiting?

Is Devils Tower National Monument, WY Worth Visiting?

Devils Tower National Monument is a remarkable geological wonder, but is it worth visiting on your road trip between South Dakota’s stunning Black Hills and Wyoming’s Yellowstone National Park?

We have driven from world famous sculpture Mount Rushmore to Yellowstone on two separate occasions. The first time we didn’t visit Devils Tower, but the second time we made sure to spare a day so we could finally see the striking landmark in northeast Wyoming.

In this guide we will cover:

  • What is Devils Tower and how did it form?
  • Directions to Devils Tower from popular nearby stops
  • Things to do at Devils Tower with easy half day itinerary
  • Hiking and climbing options for Devils Tower
  • Where to stay nearby and camping

Is Devils Tower National Monument in Wyoming worth visiting? Let’s find out!

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What Is Devils Tower?

Entrance to national monument in wyoming sign and rock formation in background

Devils Tower started out as igneous rocks originating from lava or magma, which cooled via weathering and caused cracks from contracting stresses. These cracks are why Devils Tower is made up of 5 sided and 6 sided columns and it is the largest known example of ‘columnar jointing’.

Devil’s Tower is in equal parts intriguing and mind-boggling. In some ways it is similar to Mount Rainier in Washington (but to a much lesser extent), where the landscape is flat and then boom, out of nowhere there’s this enormous natural feature dominating the skyline.

The cracks formed by molten rock cooling have created one of the most popular rock climbing faces in the US.

Sections of Devils Tower are subject to weathering and erosion, which is evident when you see the large boulder field at its base. The Tower used to be even taller and wider than it is today.

How Was Devils Tower Formed?

Devils Tower is the result of magma buried beneath the Earth’s surface, which cooled as sedimentary rock layers around and above the molten rock tower eroded, resulting in its exposure to typical erosion elements (rain, snow, wind and ice).

These natural processes formed the tower we see today.

How Tall Is Devils Tower?

Height: Devils Tower National Monument stands at 867 ft (265 m) from base to summit. It is 5,112 ft (1,599 m) above sea level.

Bursting high into the sky out of northeastern Wyoming prairie land, Devils Tower dominates an otherwise flat horizon for miles in all directions.

Devils Tower is eye-catching from afar and it looks relatively tall. But when you stand at its base, the looming and leaning Tower looks enormous.

Can You Go To The Top Of Devils Tower

Unless you are an experienced climber, you unfortunately cannot go to the top of Devils Tower.

We would really like to see what is on the top of Devils Tower and the vista, but we’re not climbers! It looks like grass and moss grow on top, with chipmunks and birds living on Devil’s Tower summit.

The view from the top of Devils Tower would be unobstructed 360 degrees and we imagine it is staggering. If you make it up there, let us know how it is!

Can You Go Inside Devils Tower?

You cannot go inside Devils Tower National Monument because the exterior is completely solid. There are no narrow passages leading to a hollow center of the rock formation.

Where Is Devils Tower National Monument?

Devils Tower National Monument is located in northeastern Wyoming, just 40 miles from the border with neighboring South Dakota and the beautiful Black Hills. But contrary to popular belief, Devils Tower is not in South Dakota.

The small towns of Hulett, Moorcroft and Sundance are close to Devils Tower. The latter two are located right off I-90 between the Black Hills of South Dakota and Bighorn National Forest in Wyoming.

Directions To Devils Tower National Monument

Let’s take a quick look at directions from Mount Rushmore and Yellowstone to Devils Tower. Most people visiting Devils Tower are starting and ending the vacation in these two areas as part of fantastic USA road trips in the area.

Devils Tower To Mount Rushmore

Arguably the most popular way to visit Devils Tower is to include the extraordinary national monument as part of a wider South Dakota Black Hills road trip, including Mount Rushmore, Custer and Badlands National Park.

There are 10 amazing things to do near Mount Rushmore on a South Dakota road trip and many of those things are within close proximity to one another. Devils Tower is a little further out but it still makes our list.

Driving distance from Mount Rushmore to Devils Tower is anywhere between 125 to 140 miles depending on which route you take.

Here’s how we did it and recommend you do the same:

  1. Mount Rushmore / Keystone to Deadwood
  2. Deadwood to Spearfish via Spearfish Canyon Byway (Alt-14)
  3. Spearfish to Devils Tower

If you’re in a rush, take I-90 from Spearfish to Sundance and head north. If you’re taking it easy, follow US-85 and turn left onto SD-34 before it transitions into WY-24 once you cross the border.

Devils Tower To Yellowstone

Are you driving from Devils Tower to Cody or Bozeman? Both are popular options to use for entering Yellowstone after visiting South Dakota.

Driving distances:

  • Devils Tower to Cody is 350 miles and 6h 15m
  • Devils Tower to Gardiner is 435 miles and 6h 45m

Follow I-90 from Devils Tower for the quickest way to reach Bozeman.

But if you’re heading for Cody, we highly recommend you pass high over the Southern edge of Bighorn National Forest on scenic highway 16 (Cloud Peak Skyway), which is incredibly picturesque.

Both Yellowstone and Grand Teton are among the best USA national parks and we highly recommend visiting both before or after you visit Devils Tower National Monument in Wyoming.

How Much Does It Cost To Get Into Devils Tower National Monument?

Entrance fee information board

Devils Tower Entrance Fees are as follows (valid for 7 days):

  • Vehicle: US$ 25
  • Motorcycle: US$ 20
  • Walk / Bicycle: US$ 15
  • Camping: US$ 20 / night

Top tip: Entry to Devils Tower National Monument is free with America the Beautiful Annual National Parks Pass (listed as ‘Interagency Annual’ on sign).

Best Things To Do At Devils Tower National Monument

What are the best things to do at Devils Tower and are they worth the visit? Let’s take a look at what you can get up to when you arrive at the National Monument.

Devils Tower Hikes

Halfway Point Along Hiking Trail in Wyoming in Forest

There are 5 hiking trails at Devils Tower National Monument in Wyoming, spanning the length and difficulty range. Each trail is interconnected, which means you can walk between loops and spend as much time as you like hiking.

It’s important to note that pets are not allowed on any trail.

Let’s take a brief look at the 5 Devils Tower hikes:

1. Devils Tower Trail

Devils Tower Trail is the most popular hike at the National Monument, beginning right at the visitor center parking lot and looping around the Tower base. Tower Trail is paved, easy and just 1.3 miles long.

It has a steep section at the beginning / end but otherwise is flat. Expect this trail to be exceptionally busy and parking to be challenging during peak season.

2. Joyner Ridge Trail

Joyner Ridge Trail was deserted when we visited (read more below). This viewpoint offers fantastic views over Devils Tower with trees and prairie as stunning foreground.

This hike is a 1.5 miles roundtrip loop but does feature a sharp elevation change.

3. Red Beds Trail

Red Beds Trail effectively circles around the Tower in a much wider loop. The trailhead is located at the visitor center but is different to the traditional Tower Trail.

A little more challenging with steep sections, Red Beds clocks in at 2.8 miles roundtrip and connects to each of the other trails.

4. South Side Trail

South Side Trail is technically an out-and-back 0.6 mile spur from Red Beds to an amphitheater near the campground and Belle Fourche River.

However, most hikers will include South Side Trail with Valley View Trail to create a separate loop from Red Beds. This is flat, easy and takes you through prairie dog town.

5. Valley View Trail

The other ‘half’ of the South Side / Valley View loop. This section of trail also begins / ends at the amphitheater and winds through prairie dog town before joining back up with Red Beds.

Valley View is flat, easy and scenic.

Devils Tower Climbing

Man climbing on rock face with hexagonal shaped cracks

Devils Tower National Monument is one of the most sought after and best examples of crack climbing in the US and North American continent.

Cracks are found in all shapes and sizes: Some pencil wide and others legs- in-splits wide; some are centimeters tall and others are up to 400 ft tall.

Climbers must register at the kiosk located in the visitor center parking lot before ascending.

Non climbers can look out for what remains of the old Rogers & Ripley Stake Ladder built from the base to two-thirds of the way up back in 1893. Read the brilliant story of Rogers & Ripley.

Note: Be aware that climbing access is closed off each year for the entire month of June.

Hidden Gem Viewpoint – Joyner Ridge

Devils Tower National Monument Wyoming bursting into the air with forest and grassland foreground

Although we mentioned Joyner Ridge as one of the hikes above, most visitors only walk around the base of Devils Tower. If you really want to make a visit to Devils Tower worth it, don’t miss out on Joyner Ridge.

The ridge is a very secluded section of the monument grounds that we can’t recommend highly enough. We think this stunning view alone makes it worth seeing Devils Tower National Monument.

As you leave the main parking lot to exit you will see a right turn onto W rd around half a mile down the road. Take that road for 0.3 mile until you reach a very small parking lot at Joyner Ridge.

There is a 1.5 mile roundtrip loop here but you don’t need to hike the trail to enjoy spectacular views over grassland, trees and eventually Devils Tower.

It’s not exactly a ‘hidden’ gem, but it certainly will be much quieter than the Tower itself. We spent an hour walking the loop and saw only one other group the entire trail.

Devils Tower National Monument Itinerary

Stunning photo of a split log in a sparse forest with the awesome devils tower rock formation bursting into the sky

The average visitor will only need 2-3 hours on site at Devils Tower, but climbers, photographers and avid hikers could easily spend a full day at the National Monument.

Here’s a brief outline of the perfect easy itinerary to visit Devils Tower in just a few relaxing hours:

  • Arrive at the parking lot and check out the visitor center.
  • Walk up the steep path to begin your loop hike around the base of Devils Tower.
  • Choose either clockwise or anti clockwise direction – we chose anti clockwise.
  • Look through gaps in gorgeous ponderosa pine trees as you walk the flat, easy and well maintained paved trail.
  • Look up at cracks in the rock face to see tiny ant-sized climbers.
  • Take a ton of photos of Devils Tower on the short loop trail.
  • Look how the Tower changes shape as you circumnavigate the base.

Tips For Visiting

  • There are no real ‘best’ sunset locations in the monument grounds, but Joyner Ridge is the perfect sunrise location for photographers and lovers of early mornings! 
  • Parking is very limited at the visitor center so plan to arrive early if possible.
  • Hike the Tower Trail before any other trails to beat the mid-morning rush.
  • Top tip: Remember, entry is US$ 25 per vehicle but if you have an America the Beautiful Annual National Parks Pass you get in for free.

Where To Stay Nearby

Devils Tower National Monument is located in a very rural part of northeastern Wyoming. There are no major cities or even big towns nearby.

If you are planning to visit Devils Tower as a day trip from South Dakota’s Black Hills, read our guide to the best hotels near Mount Rushmore to pick the perfect lodging option for your visit.

However, if you’d rather stay close to Devils Tower, there are a number of excellent lodging options in the nearby surrounding rural areas:

Devils Tower Lodge

Located close to Joyner Ridge trailhead, this lodge has the best location and views by far of any accommodation near the monument itself. It is rated at 8.7 / 10 by previous guests on Booking.com.

Check prices for Devils Tower Lodge

Lake Guest Ranch

Around 6 miles further along the same road past Joyner Ridge trailhead, you will find this farm stay with fantastic homemade breakfast and optional dinner. Guest ratings of 9 /10.

Check prices for Lake Guest Ranch

Sawin’ Logs Inn

With a whopping 9.5 / 10 guest rating and within just 6 minutes drive of the monument entrance, this popular B&B comes with sun terrace and excellent homemade breakfast.

Check prices for Sawin’ Logs Inn

Devils Tower Camping

Belle Fourche River Campground in Devils Tower National Monument Wyoming empty camping site

There is only one campground inside Devils Tower National Monument in Wyoming – Belle Fourche River Campground. All sites are first come first served, there are no reservations.

  • Total of 46 sites across 2 loops (no electrical hookups).
  • Drinking water and restrooms.
  • The campground is shaded by trees.
  • RV maximum length is 35 ft.

Is Devils Tower National Monument Wyoming Worth Visiting?

So is Devils Tower is worth visiting? Yes, Devils Tower is certainly worth a visit either on your South Dakota itinerary or on your Mount Rushmore to Yellowstone and Grand Teton road trip.

Okay, you will lose a bit of time from your itinerary but we can assure you Devils Tower National Monument is worth visiting.

The unique natural formation really does leave you impressed and you will take home a collection of stunning photos of Devils Tower from several viewpoints.

You will allocate a full day for driving between Yellowstone and Mount Rushmore anyway, and it only takes 2-3 hours to see the best of Devils Tower.

Is It Worth Paying $25 To Visit Devils Tower?

We still think Devils Tower is well worth the money if you don’t have an America the Beautiful annual interagency pass and you have to pay $25 for entrance.

You can tick off multiple top bucket list US vacation spots in one trip by visiting the Black Hills, Yellowstone and Grand Teton.

We think Devils Tower National Monument is an unmissable stop between South Dakota and Wyoming, and we hope you thoroughly enjoy your trip!

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We hope this guide to Devils Tower National Monument in Wyoming helps you decide if it is worth visiting on your trip to the area!

Have you been to Wyoming or South Dakota? Which places did you enjoy the most? 

Please let us know if you have any questions or need any help planning your visit.

Happy Travels,

Mark and Kristen

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Karen

Monday 29th of August 2022

We drove out from Rapid City to see Devils Tower. However we traveled thru the countryside instead of taking the interstate highway. Well worth the extra time. The countryside is beautiful and we passed thru some very interesting tiny towns where only 5-15 people live. Would highly recommend this drive as it also gets you to Devils Tower. The country road we traveled on was on the north side of the interstate. Devils Tower was amazing to see. As a matter of fact, the entire state of South Dakota is well worth the trip.

Mark and Kristen Morgan

Wednesday 31st of August 2022

Hi Karen, sounds like you had a great time. Yes we agree the north approach through countryside is much more attractive than sitting on I-90!