Friday, August 18, 2017

Hiking Devil's Tower, WY (Pictorial & Maps)

View from our hike on Devils Tower to the valley (& campground) below

Be sure to grab a NPS brochure

NOTE:  The elevation is 3900 ft at the campground (base of these hikes).  You'll need sunscreen or a long-sleeve shirt, hat, eye protection, lots of water (water fountain at visitor’s center), a snack and a trail map.

The start of Tower Trail around the base of Devils Tower

Just us and several hundred bikers...

It's even more stunning up close

At one point, the trail goes right up to the base

Tower Trail (easy, paved, 1.3 miles):  If you want a short hike or are limited on time, then the popular Tower Trail at the Visitor's Center is mandatory.  There are some great views from here.  However, I highly recommend taking the time for one of the two following options:

Start of Hike #1:  Prairie Dog Town

Belle Fourche River or "Pretty Fork River" was named by French fur trappers

The ancient red sandstone cliffs you see from the park entrance

Red Beds trail takes you right along the cliffs.  Wow!

Can you spot The Colonel?

From the Visitor Center trailhead

Hike #1 Red Beds Trail, longer loop (4.1 miles, easy-intermediate)Does not included Tower Trail loop.  See #2.  
Views of Belle Fourche river, the spectacular red sandstone cliffs, Devils Tower and the valley below.  Shallower sections through several meadows. (This side of Devils Tower should look look familiar from the movie, "Close Encounters of the Third Kind".)
  • From the Belle Fourche Campground (see Campground Review blog: camping-at-devils-tower-wy.html), take Valley View Trail along Prairie Dog Town and the Belle Fourche River for 0.6 mi.  
  • Cross the road & head up towards Red Beds Trail 
  • Turn RIGHT on Red Beds Trail for 3 miles. (You’ll have a more gradual climb than turning left and you’ll hike along the red cliff’s with a view down on the valley).  
  • About halfway, you’ll pop out at the Visitor’s Center (Tower Trail is another 1.3).  
  • Continue on Red Beds until you reach the South Side Trail 
  • Then head back down for 0.6 miles, back across the road, through the Prairie Dog Town to the campground.
The two routes through Prairie Dog Town

Pick your direction--left or right

A clearly defined, but single-file trail on hike #2

Hike #2 Red Beds shorter loop with Tower Trail (4.2 miles, intermediate):  
This was the hike we did first, but we both agreed the one above was our favorite.  Spectacular views of the river valley and Devils Tower.
  • From the campground, take the 0.6 miles South Side Trail through the Prairie Dog Town,
  • Cross the road, then climb up to join Red Beds Trail.  (This was the steepest part) 
  • Then turn left for a 0.7 mile more gentle climb than the first segment (but steeper than Hike #1) to the Visitor’s Center (and for us, a COMPLETELY FULL parking lot full of Harley’s).  
  • Tower Trail is a 1.3 mile gently rolling, paved path.  (Total elevation climb from the campground at 3900 ft to 4400 ft). This is fabulous walk because the Tower changes with the light.  There are American Indian prayer flags visible from the path.  You will be able to see several groups of rock climbers.  We saw a white tailed buck, hawk, and bluebird.
  • Return the same route.
NOTE:  While headed out on Hike #2, we ran into a family with two kids (8 & 10?), walking down the main road from the KOA.  We pointed them down to Southside Trail (Hike #1) as the shortest distance to the Visitor's Center.  As we reached the Visitor's Center, I wondered what happened to them.  A short distance later, we found them stopped & enjoying the view.  Their youngest daughter in flip flops, looked tired but was excited and was "glad they came"--although, they were a little disappointed we had caught them already!  So I call it intermediate because of the altitude, and it's not paved, but definitely possible even for kids.  Just stop to take pictures & catch your breath!

Interesting rock formations with a small cave

The intrepid adventurers...(intersection of Valley View & South Side--both hikes)

Option #3, next time:  Valley View, right on Red Beds Trail, Joyner Ridge Trail loop, return. (4.9 miles?)

Screenshots from MapMyRide of our hikes.  Click on the links to see more.

Reference links:

A good way to find hikes:

#FindYourPark @WyomingTourism #ThatsWY @WyoStateParks


  1. I love reading about places that I want to put on my list to check out. Thanks!!

  2. Nice post
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