Devils Tower National Monument

America’s first National Monument, Devils Tower is famous for its incredible granite sculpture reminiscent of an enormous stone tree stump. Movie fans may recognize this National Monument from Close Encounters of the Third Kind.

This striking monolith is only two hours away from Mount Rushmore and is extremely popular for casual views and avid climbers alike- as you get closer to the tower you start to realize that those little tiny specks moving on the rocks are in fact climbers! The tower itself is about 1,200ft from top to bottom and 1,000ft around the base, though dimensions are difficult to grasp until you get closer to it.

While the park itself isn’t particularly large, there are a few different hiking options to consider when visiting. We only had a limited amount of time on our visit, but the 1.3m Tower Trail loop around the base of the tower is definitely worth a try for those in a hurry.

There are many tribal connections to this location- the National Park Service’s Devils Tower site lists six tribes, the Lakota, Arapahoe, Cheyenne, Shoshone, Apsáalooke, and Kiowa, that all have ties to the tower. Many of these tribes are still active in the area- even on my quick visit, I saw a fair number of colorful prayer cloths tied around trees along my hike.

While one could spend a day in this park, I only spent a few hours and didn’t feel as though I had missed out on anything. Its size makes it the perfect day trip away from Mount Rushmore and an easy break from a lengthy road trip between Yellowstone and Rapid City.

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