Devils Tower is an igneous intrusion or laccolith in the Bear Lodge Mountains (part of the Black Hills) in northeastern Wyoming, above the Belle Fourche River. It rises dramatically 1,267 feet (386 m) above the surrounding terrain and the summit is 5,114 feet (1,559 m) above sea level. Devils Tower was the first declared United States National Monument, established on September 24, 1906, by President Theodore Roosevelt. The Monument's boundary encloses an area of 1,347 acres (545 ha). Devils Tower National Monument is open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week and every day of the year except December 25th and January 1st. The Visitor Center and the Devils Tower Natural History Association Bookstore are open 9:00 AM to 4:00 PM daily.
The 1977 movie Close Encounters of the Third Kind used this formation as an important plot element and as the location of its climactic scenes. Its release was the cause of a large increase in visitors to the monument. I must admit that I was one of those people who became intrigued with Devils Tower after seeing "Close Encounters of the Third Kind" when I was quite young. So, when my family and I were travelling through Wyoming a few years ago, I seized the opportunity to finally see this monument in person.
From a distance, Devils Tower looming over its surroundings is somewhat eerie, as was walking around this monument. There are three trails at Devils Tower National Monument...Red Beds Trail, South Side Trail, and Tower Trail. The first two trails are quite a lengthy hike, and due to time constraints I was unable to walk them. The third trail (Tower Trail) is for the most part an easy 1.3 mile hike on paved surface which circles the Tower while taking you through ponderosa pines along the edge of a boulder field. The steepest part of the trail occurs in the first 100 yards and can be seen from the Visitor Center. If you can handle this part of the hike, the rest of the walk is relatively level and easy. Take the time to at least do Tower Trail, for you will get great views of Devils Tower (and the surrounding Wyoming countryside) such as the ones you see below.
For those more adventurous, Technical rock climbing is allowed in the monument. ALL PERSONS PLANNING TO CLIMB OR SCRAMBLE ABOVE THE BOULDER FIELD ARE REQUIRED TO REGISTER BEFORE AND CHECK IN AFTER A CLIMB. The Climbing Management Plan, implemented in 1995, manages Devils Tower as both a natural and cultural resource. To the Northern Plains Indians, Devils Tower is a sacred site. Out of deference to American Indian views, there is a voluntary climbing closure during the month of June. In recent years, about 1% of the Monument's 400,000 annual visitors climbed Devils Tower, mostly using traditional climbing techniques. Rest assured, I wasn't one of them.