Aliens weren’t the only stars in Steven Spielberg’s iconic 1977 film, Close Encounters of the Third Kind. Devils Tower played a major role, too, as the landing site of the mothership and setting for the movie’s dramatic climax. Today, many earthlings still get chills when making first contact with this imposing monolith. Humans have always been moved by it. For thousands of years, Northern Plains Indians have considered it sacred. And in 1906, President Theodore Roosevelt made Devils Tower the first national monument. This marvelous rock isn’t a volcano but something geologists call an igneous intrusion. About 50 million years ago, molten magma cooled into columns. Erosion of the surrounding sedimentary rock exposed the Tower, which stands 867 feet tall, measured from its base. Most of us are happy enough to hike the easy loop trail. But each year, as many as 6000 climbers scale the sides. And what’s up top? Well, according to the National Park Service, “The summit is slightly dome-shaped and rocky, with native grasses, cactus and sagebrush. Chipmunks, mice, pack rats and the occasional snake are found on top." Don't ask me how they get there.
Moorcroft is 32 miles away but has limited services. Better options can be found going an hour west to Gillette or 1½ hours east to Rapid City, SD.
Routes & Maps
Following I-90, US 14 and WY 24, Devils Tower is 108 miles west of Rapid City, SD.
The paved 1.3-mile Tower Trail circles the base and takes about an hour to walk. There are several other nearby trails worth hiking as well.
Best Time to Visit
Year-round but Wyoming winters can be very windy and cold!
The Devils Tower official site has maps, fees and tips.
South Dakota’s Badlands National Park