Anchoring the northeast corner of Wyoming is the country’s first national monument—Devils Tower. A laccolithic butte that is made up of igneous rocks, Devils Tower is a jaw-dropping geological feature that rises 867 feet above Wyoming’s rolling prairies. It is as much as 70 million years old. A stunning geological formation, from a volcanic eruption, it has been shaped and scarred by a millennium of erosion. Known in contemporary culture from the film Close Encounters of the Third Kind, the tower is sacred to many Northern Plains Indian tribes, as well as the Kiowa Tribe, who made their homes in the Black Hills region.
With oral storytelling and a history that dates back thousands of years, some twenty Indian tribes have said to have close and sacred encounters with this natural beauty for thousands of years. It is also known as Bear Lodge and Bear tipi. According to the legends of the native American tribes of the Kiowa and Sioux Lakhota, in the distant past, young girls went out to play and were seen by giant bears, who began to chase them. In an effort to escape the bears, the girls climbed on top of a rock, got on their knees, and prayed to the Great Spirit to save them. Upon hearing their prayers, the Great Spirit made the rock grow from the Earth towards heaven so that the bears could not reach the girls. The bears, in their attempt to climb the rock, which had become too steep to climb, left deep claw marks on the sides. When the girls reached heaven, they became the constellation of the Pleiades. Today American Indian tribes continue to hold sacred ceremonies at the tower including Sun Dances, vision quests, and other ceremonial customs.
The park is covered with pine forests, woodlands, and grasslands. While visiting the park you are bound to see deer, prairie dogs, and other wildlife. There are five hiking trails at Devils Tower National Monument—Tower, Red Beds, Joyner Ridge, South Side, and Valley View—provide different views and perspectives of the tower. Tower Trail is the most popular route as it takes its visitors along a 1.3-mile-long path around the base of the tower. Meanwhile, Joyner Ridge is an easy 1.5-mile-long hike that offers pretty perspectives of the tower, especially at dusk.
Belle Fourche River Campground is located within Devils Tower National Monument. A popular 50-site campground, Belle Fourche is open from May to October, weather permitting. All sites are on a first-come, first-serve basis. There are also campgrounds near the entrance of the tower that provide guests with easy access and jaw-dropping views. In addition, lodging can be found in the nearby towns of Hulett and Sundance.