Protruding out of the rolling prairie that surrounds Wyoming's Black Hills region, on the stretch of road between Mount Rushmore National Memorial and Yellowstone National Park, Devils Tower is a monolith of uncommon size, history, and composition.
Devil's Tower National Monument, the first national monument in the park service system, marks this spot. It's a blip on the radar of the park service map, but it's a site well worth visiting for its grandeur, its legends, and its natural appeal.
My family and I stopped here on our recent park-wide camping adventure and I'm so glad we did. Here are some of our favorite's sights:
Visitor Center. The Visitor Center at Devil's Tower is small but jam-packed with info and artifacts that kids of all ages will find cool. My girls's favorite tidbit was the Lakota legend of how the Tower came to be - An older sister turns into a bear and chases her young sister until the younger was raised into a platform to save her. Clearly this struck a chord with them. The visitor center is open mid-spring through fall. Hours vary season to season so call before you go.
Hiking trails. The trails that surround Devil's Tower are perfect for families with young kids. They meander for approximately 8 miles through Devils Tower National Monument lands, with most trails covering about a mile or two in length. The most popular trail is the 1.3 mile paved Tower Trail that circles Devils Tower itself. Other longer trails wander through tranquil forests and meadows in the monument.
Junior Ranger. My girls caught the Junior Ranger bug on our vacation and they were more than happy to take part in the program at Devil's Tower. The program requirements get more demanding as kids get older. Little kids need only an hour or so to complete the book, but older kids will need a little longer. When they're finished they earn a certificate, "swear-in" as a Junior Ranger, and get their own park service badge to take home.
All in all there is lots for families to see and do at Devil's Tower. It makes for an excellent pit stop on the road between Mount Rushmore and Yellowstone, or an even better day trip for those lucky enough to live in the area.