Our summer road trip took us cross-country from Oregon to Illinois and back, giving us lots of opportunities to explore national parks & monuments in the Great Plains. Ever since watching Spielberg’s “Close Encounters of the Third Kind” in the 1970s, I’d wanted to see Devils Tower National Monument in person.
Since I-90 passes just south of it, we added it to our itinerary — and it was well worth the stop. Picturesque, accessible, dramatic, and complete with a 2 km (1.3 mi) loop trail around the base, even without any aliens it made for a great afternoon!
Entering northeastern Wyoming from southern Montana, we drove through rolling green hills and pockets of forest — a nice diversion from the sparse landscape we’d been passing through. The monolith is visible from quite a distance, and gets quite impressive up close.
The National Monument –the nation’s first– offers a 40-site campground among the cottonwoods at the edge of the meandering Belle Fourche River. A prairie dog town dots the landscape near the tower, and at the entrance to the campground, the “Wind Circle” sculpture offers not only a unique tower view, but an opportunity to reflect on its importance to local Native American culture. We met some friends at their shaded campsite for a breezy happy hour with a spectacular view — a cold beverage sure hit the spot on a hot summer day!
After a trip to the visitor center to stamp our National Parks Passport and learn a bit more about the monument, we set off on the loop trail around the base of the monument. Paved and wheelchair-accessible, it’s an easy stroll around the base of the tower. Each side provided a unique view — forest, rockslides, changing light & shadows, historical artifacts, and even rock climbers! And while the prairie dog town and campground are on a gentle slope on the southeast side of the tower, the view to the north helped us appreciate just why the tower was visible from so far away.
Our four-hour stop let us soak in more than just a quick look at the monument, and, as with most of our travel stops, left us longing to spend a bit more time there. We would love to camp in the shady, breezy campground, watch those adorable prairie dogs, do some birding, and photograph the tower at both sunrise and sunset, but our itinerary pushed us eastward. Next time!
What quick travel stops have been pleasant surprises for you? Enjoy your week or your weekend!