Devils Tower National Monument

Devils Tower National Monument has intrigued me for a long time. It’s indescribable—a colossal rock rising from the ground in the middle of nowhere. The site holds great significance as sacred ground for Native Americans, a healing place, and a subject of mystery for scientists. Having visited Devil’s Tower 10 years ago, I yearned to share this marvel with my family. Situated near Sundance, Wyoming, this incredible national monument stands as a massive rock visible from afar. We chose to visit during the off-season, expecting fewer crowds, but even then, finding a parking spot proved challenging.

After parking, we headed to the visitor center to learn more about the monument, which was divided into two sections—a display of the monument’s history on one side and a gift shop for souvenirs on the other.

A brief word about the tower

This awe-inspiring geologic feature, dating back 50 million years, emerges from the prairie surrounding the Black Hills. It holds deep cultural significance for Northern Plains Indians and other indigenous people. With its numerous parallel cracks, it has become one of North America’s most renowned crack climbing locations. The tower soars approximately 1,267 feet above the Belle Fourche River Valley. Erosion has gradually revealed the true nature of the igneous rock by stripping away the softer rock surrounding it. In 1906, President Roosevelt declared Devil’s Tower as the nation’s first national monument. Notably, it was also featured in Stephen Spielberg’s movie “Close Encounters of the Third Kind” in 1977.

Legends of the Devils Tower

According to Sioux legend, two young boys got lost in the vast prairie while trying to find their way home. Pursued by a ferocious and relentless Mato, an enormous giant bear, the boys sought rescue through prayer to the Great Spirit. Suddenly, the earth shook, and a giant pillar of rock lifted the boys into the sky! Mato, determined to catch them, clawed at the stone as he attempted to climb after them, leaving vertical striations in his wake. Despite his efforts, Mato couldn’t capture the boys, who remained just out of his reach. Exhausted and disappointed, Mato retreated, leaving the boys alone and terrified atop the mountain. The story concludes as the boys are carried back to their village on the wings of Wanblee, a giant eagle. Other legends, such as those from the Kiowa, Arapaho, and Cheyenne, offer different stories about the tower

Loop Hike Overview

Our adventure began with the Tower Trail hike, approximately 1.25 miles in total. Although there was a longer three-mile loop called the Red Bluff trail, we opted out due to time constraints. The tower appeared majestic and impressive, its bottom adorned with massive boulders, and its top a single giant piece of igneous rock. We were taken aback by the number of climbers on the rock that morning. They looked like tiny specks, only visible with binoculars. The tower’s mere sight made me feel dizzy, and though rock climbing wasn’t my forte, I found it fascinating to observe. An Instagram feed showcased climbers, and we later discovered we could identify them through the platform.

The walk around the tower was pleasant and undemanding, involving steep ascents, descents, and hilly stretches. Evergreens and pine trees lined the path, offering ample shade. The route was stroller-accessible, and we noticed many others relishing the hike. Along the way, we encountered signs sharing the monument’s history and cloths tied to tree branches, representing offerings from Native American people to their ancestors. It was considered bad luck to photograph or touch these offerings during the hike. Over 20 Indian tribes regard the tower as sacred and regularly conduct sacred ceremonies and sun dances in its vicinity.

Even though we were told that there would be so many wild animals that could be seen at the tower, we were not fortunate enough to see any except a few lizards. What you notice while walking was the burned-down trees. It seemed like there had been a fire and or lightning strike on the park. In some areas, we noticed that huge fallen boulder that lay looking like sleeping giants which was an impressive feature of the park.

Although we anticipated spotting various wildlife at the tower, we were fortunate to only encounter a few lizards. As we trekked, we noticed the aftermath of a fire or lightning strike in the park, evidenced by burned-down trees. Additionally, we encountered massive fallen boulders that resembled slumbering giants, a remarkable feature of the park.

We later learned that Devils Tower has limited campsites with no running water, and they do not accept reservations—first-come, first-served only. These campsites mainly cater to rock climbers, as rock climbing is the most popular activity at the monument. Climbers must adhere to seasonal restrictions due to nesting birds in the rocks.

One of the most captivating aspects of this national monument is the intrigue and mystery surrounding the rock itself. Hours after our visit, we delved into countless captivating stories about this colossal rock. Long before rock climbing became a sport, numerous individuals attempted to reach the top by any means possible. Some believe the rock was created by aliens from outer space, while others maintain that aliens still visit it. Scientists continue to hold diverse theories about the origin of this massive rock. These stories added an extra layer of fascination to our visit to Devils Tower.

Devils Tower may not be easily accessible, but if you find yourself near this national monument, it is undoubtedly worth the time to pause and embark on one of the short walks around it.

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