Entering the park you will see an area with what appear to be mounds of dirt with lots of cars parked nearby taking pictures. Upon closer inspection these are the burrows of prairie dogs. These adorable little rodents once covered tens of thousands of acres throughout the west however today their territory is limited to less than 2% of what it was 200 years ago. Wyoming and South Dakota have many preserves.
Prairie dogs eat mainly grasses, forbs and insects. They are highly social characters. Their burrow structure is fascinating and there are often times several entrance points to each prairie dogs home. The little guys love to bask in the sun at the top of a burrow when they know that it is safe. If you watch and wait outside long enough you will hear a prairie dog warn of a predator with a high screeching call much like a dog.
Many visitors to the Devil’s Tower apparently simply drive to the parking lot at the Visitor Center and look at the Tower from there without taking another step. OK, for some people that’s as much as they can manage and I can really understand that, but if you are just a little bit fit then you can definitely do this walk.
The trail is 1.3 miles in length and after the initial fairly steep climb that gets you closer to the base of the Tower it’s pretty level and paved throughout, making it easy walking with just few ups and downs. There are also benches provided at various points. Interpretive boards along the way provide interesting snippets of information about the formation of the Tower, geology and local wildlife.
Following this trail allows you to see the Tower from all sides and appreciate its scale. It also allows you to get away from the crowds! If you can, take some binoculars along with you and pause from time to time to scan the face of the rock for climbers both human and animal – we spotted prairie dogs way up high and a couple of vultures’ nests. Another thing that fascinated me were the various prayer bundles and ribbons tied to the trees around the base by Native Americans, who believe that this is a sacred place – the atmosphere was such that I could really understand this belief.
The website and the information leaflet we were given tells you it will take about 45 minutes to 1 hour to complete this walk but we took a little longer than that because we kept stopping to stare at the Tower, to enjoy the serenity of the surrounding woods, and to chat to the few other visitors we met along the way.
After you enter the park surrounding Devil’s Tower look out on your left for several pull-outs. Park and look carefully at the grassy area next to the road. You’ll see lots of prairie dogs – popping in and out of their burrows, nibbling at the grass and other vegetation, and pausing from time to time to check out the tourists and make sure there’s no danger nearby. I really enjoyed watching their behaviour and their interactions with each other.
If you want to find out more about prairie dogs you can buy an interesting little leaflet from a box in the parking area for only a few cents. It describes their burrows, communication systems, what they eat and how they organise themselves and raise their young. For instance, I knew that prairie dogs warn of approaching danger by emitting a series of "barks," but not that they have specific barks for specific dangers, e.g. for a hawk they use a higher pitched and shorter bark.
It's very important that you don't feed the prairie dogs. Human food is hard for them dogs to digest and often contains additives that can make them sick. Also, prairie dogs are wild animals and can inflict a painful bite. They may also be host to fleas that can transmit bubonic plague to humans.
If you are not a rock climber the best way to get a feel for Devils Tower is taking a hike. The most popular hike is the Tower Trail. The 1.3 mile trail winds around the tower. Just a few gradual rises and drops but basically the trail is flat and I would rate it easy. There are several postings along the trail that describe the history, the rock itself and the flora you are looking at. The trail took us about an hour and a half because we made so many stops and took a lot of pictures.
It is best to take the trail either early in the morning or late in the afternoon when there are fewer people on it. Around sunset, weather permitting, it provides a great backdrop for pictures.
The visitors center at Devils Tower is small and cramped. The exhibits are informative but in need of updating. The building almost looks like a log cabin.
Despite these shortcomings the staff at the visitors center are extremely helpful in answering questions about things to see, programs during the day and evening and information about climbing the tower.
The visitors center is open seven days a week from 9 am to 4 pm.
Right outside of the visitors center through one side of the parking lot is a mini amphitheater where the rangers give talks. Straight ahead is the Devils Tower in all of its glory.
At Devil's Tower, there are many trails available to visitors to walk on. If you like to walk, you may want to take some of the longer trails, but if you just want to see the tower, then I suggest taking the trail that encircles the monument. To walk around it, take pictures, and admire Devil's Tower, I'd say you can expect to spend about an hour there. If you walk non-stop or if you rest/stop and look at the tower, it may take you more or less time.
As if this impresive monument wasn't enough, you get the added treat of hanging out with hundreds of prairrie dogs! After entering the park, you begin driving a circular road around the base of the tower. Prairrie dog town is not far along this road. You'll see the numerous pullofffs with an open expanse of land on either side of the road. You will see tons of little dirt mounds, and when you stop to look closer, you can see tons of little Prairrie dogs scurrying about! These guys are worth spending some time with, they are so adorable! Please don't feed them though, they get very sick when they ingest people food!
As you enter or exit the monument, the first (or last) real attraction is the Prairie Dog town. There are a number of good sized parking areas where you can pull off and watch and listen to these guys. Two of the trails on the south side of the park border the town, but I'm not sure how close they actually get to the dogs themselves. Of course, don't feed them or mess around with them in any way - just watching them is fun enough. Be aware that rattlesnakes may take home in abandoned holes. And don't forget to turn around and see yet another interesting angle of Devils Tower!
There is a trail system which circles the entire tower. Devils Tower is America's first National Park. It is rugged, hot and beautiful.
Took the kids on a day trip to Devils Tower. It is about a two hour drive from Sturgis, South Dakota. Devils Tower is run by the National Park Service. They offer guided tours and information about the history of Devils Tower. As usual, the Park Rangers are extremely knowledgable. This never stops impressing me.
The trail which circles Devils Tower actually splits, there is a trail farther out from the tower which is fairly easy to walk. The near trail is a bit more rugged. There are plenty of large boulders for the children, and the childlike father, to climb and play on. Be careful there are plenty of ways to get hurt if you are not careful.
The nearly vertical monolith known as Devils Tower rises 1,267 feet above the meandering Belle Fourche River. Once hidden below the earth's surface, erosion has stripped away the softer rock layers revealing Devils Tower.
Known by several northern plains tribes as Bears Lodge, it is a sacred site of worship for many American Indians. The rolling hills of this 1,347 acre park are covered with pine forests, deciduous woodlands, and prairie grasslands. Deer, prairie dogs, and other wildlife are abundant.
Proclaimed September 24, 1906 as the nation's first national monument by President Theodore Roosevelt.
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Devils Tower is basically a very large rock (almost 1300ft high) protruding out of the middle of an otherwise fairly barren part of Wyoming. It is also the first National Monument, established by President Teddy Roosevelt in 1906. The name comes from a badly-translated Native American name for the place, but it stuck and led to some pretty hokey souvenirs in the gift shop/restaurant (tourist trap) that is along the entrance to the Tower (I still recommend checking out the tourist-trap part of course).
I have been to Devils Tower at least twice, possibly three times. I very much enjoy the place--it's very beautiful and serene, in the middle of a bit of forest. There is a hiking trail that goes all the way around Devils Tower, so you can get a 360-degree view of the laccolith. I love hiking the trail, as well as climbing around on the large boulders at the base of Devils Tower and throughout the area. You can usually see people climbing up the tower as well, which is always an interesting sight. More serious rock climbers might enjoy the challenge of Devils Tower and the view from the top, not just the beautiful views along the hike around the base which I enjoy.
You may see prayer flags (pieces of colored fabric) tied in the trees as you hike around Devils Tower. Please remember that this is a sacred site for many Native Americans, and respect that by staying on the trail.
Devils Tower offers a fun option for those touring with children. The Junior Ranger program gives children the opportunity to learn about the tower and the history and legends related to it in a way that will keep them interested. As you walk around the tower, the children have a small book of animals, plants, etc. to look for and mark off on a checklist if they see them. By giving children this task, they are more likely to stay interested. If they get bored of listening to the guide, they can simply look around to see if they can find the things on their checklist. At the end of the tour, the children all receive a Jr. Ranger Certificate, which they can be proud of!
While geologists agree that Devil's Tower is an igneous extrusion, their remains some disagreement over whether this is the remains of a volcanic plug or is a laccolith. The latter seems most likely as there are no other volcanoes in the area, while igneous magma is fairly common. Along the trail, there is an excellent visual display that shows how the magma rose and cooled into a structure composed of six sided columns, a very strong natural formation. Basically, the magma is expanded by heat, but as it cools stress points form within a perfect matrix. These stress points create fractures that form equally sized six sided structures.
After crossing the bridge, there's a trail head, and then a fork. Go left and follow the Joynier Ridge Trail which ends at the Devil's Tower Visitor's Center near the base of the tower itself. This trail's best feature are the sandstone tertiary period strata and balancing magma stones. There's also some great views of the river basin from above. This is about a 1.5 mile hike on an uphill trail. It's pretty easy, really.
The paved tower trail is the way most visitors, old and young, appreciate Devil's Tower. The 1 mile trail circumnavigates the tower, and has numerous explanatory notes and diagrams. There are benches, binoculars, and even drinking fountains in places. This trail is wheel chair accessible.