Just a quick 60 minutes from where we were staying near Mt. Rushmore was Devils Tower. It’s near Sundance, Wyoming (which is where the Sundance Kid got his name, by the way), and we knew it was something we didn’t want the kids to miss.
As you weave through the mountains, all you can see are trees. Eventually, the horizon flattens, and there’s nothing in sight for miles. Until you see it. Devils Tower pops up out of nowhere and it’s a miraculous sight to behold.
As you approach, it gets bigger and bigger, until you can’t see past it.
Our visit was a cold, rainy one, but I would do it again, no matter the weather.
About Devils Tower
The story behind Devils Tower changes, depending on who you talk to. There are several different theories as to how it was formed, but geologists agree on one thing. It was made from dried magma. I was shocked to learn that there used to be a volcano in this very location, and this volcanic plug proves it.
Stress points in the top of the formation cause the columns you see. They’re what give it its unique, cascading appearance. As water settles into these weak spots at the top of the rock, they cause vertical fractures. This increases erosion to the point of breaking away from the tower.
Just as centuries ago the tower was larger than it is today, one day, the tower will likely be completely gone as these columns continue to fall.
Most columns are hexagonal in shape, but there are a few that look different. However, none of them are completely round.
In the debris around the hiking trails, you can see up-close evidence of these shapes in the columns that have already fallen away.
The Northern Plains Indians and other indigenous people consider Devils Tower sacred, but no matter what you believe, it truly is awe-inspiring.
To find out more, you’ll just have to visit yourself.
It was only $10 for a passenger vehicle to get in, and the pass was good for 7 days. The price is right, so don’t let that stop you. I asked for Jr. Ranger booklets and badges, and we drove on through.
At the base of the tower is a prairie dog town, and I’m so thankful it wasn’t quite as rainy when we arrived as when we left, because prairie dog after prairie dog was basking in the sun and peeking out to inquire as to our visit.
Unfortunately, the Visitor’s Center was closed when we were there and climbing the tower was prohibited for a short time, so we didn’t get to see anyone scaling the sides. However, the path around the tower was open, and we took advantage of that.
It was a 1.5-mile hike of moderate difficulty and intense views. About a quarter of the way around, we stopped to see the expanse of pasture below, filled with cattle, trees, rivers, and all the other things that make you feel so small in such a big world.
We also looked through a telescope at the primitive wooden ladder that explorers used to use to climb to the top. No, thank you.
The kids had a blast climbing and jumping from rock to rock, the lingering results of columns fallen away from the tower.
As it started to drizzle, our pace quickened, and the complaining started. But we were already halfway around, and quitters we’re not. We finished up, hustled back to the car, and headed to dinner.
Devils Tower Gulch
This restaurant is conveniently situated about a half mile away from the Devils Tower entrance. It’s a family-owned place, which is our type of thing. We were prepared to spend a pretty penny on dinner for 6, but the prices were actually quite reasonable, and the food was delicious.
Justin had a bison burger and we filled up on a healthy (or not so healthy) portion of fried appetizers. And no tourist outing is complete without a trip to the gift shop, where everyone got a souvenir.
Mom and Dad splurged on a beautiful painting of a bison by a local artist.
We got home late, we were thoroughly soaked, and we slept soundly that night for sure. But it was one of the most spectacular parts of our trip to South Dakota. I would highly recommend that anyone passing through stop, or even go slightly out of their way to see it.