Devils Tower: A Respite for the Weary
I honestly don’t even remember where we learned about Devils Tower National Monument. It was probably a travel blog or maybe a point of interest search on our RV Trip Wizard map. Either way, I am so glad we decided to stop here. When we left The Roost Resort in Custer, SD our plan was to stop at Devils Tower on the way to the Big Horn Mountains. We had no idea how exhausted we were going to be at the end of our travel day. When you begin RVing, there is a lot of mental energy that goes into planning, executing that planning, and then figuring out everything you didn’t know you needed to know along the way. As we were leaving Custer, we pulled into a big bay car wash to wash the RV for the first time. Even though this was a common thing to do on a much smaller scale there are still things you don’t think about, like: How do we get the hoses around the RV? How do we reach the roof top or just the top of the end cap? How much is it going to cost and how long will it take? Because there is no fast way to wash a rig as big as ours. This is the kind of constant thought processing I was doing throughout these first-time events over those few weeks. Our drive from Custer, SD to Devils Tower, WY was roughly 120 miles, but it was beautiful off the interstate type of drive. We decided to travel from Belle Fourche, SD to Hullet, WY via highway 24. There is another scenic drive through Spearfish that is highly recommended but we can’t speak to that one. We prefer to take the roads less traveled. Highway 24 is a drive filled with scenery from old homesteads to large ranches. These families literally have to drive a long way to access present day conveniences such as gas, groceries and restaurants which is probably why we liked it so much. The only commercialized thing we saw all day was the KOA at the entrance of Devil’s Tower.
Many turns we made unveiled a butte in the distance that made us gasp and ask, Is that Devils Tower? The closer we got to those we saw in the distance, it became evident that, that was not our destination. They didn’t even compare to the butte we were looking for. In 1906 President Theodore Roosevelt proclaimed Devils Tower the first national monument under the new Antiquities Act. There are many stories and false scientific claims about the tower but as a person looking at Devils Tower through a biblical lens, I can easily see the receding water lines from the Great Flood. As we traveled to many places the streaking that is seen all around Devils Tower is seen in various types of structures in many parts of the country. Another fact we observed was that all of our geological lsndmarks and monuments that are overseen by NPS feature information plaques that subscribe to the belief that the earth is billions of years old. However, in most false claims there are truths embedded in them we just have to decipher truths from non-truths. Well, I will get off of my soapbox for now and get back to our trip.
Once we saw the tower in the distance, we knew that had to be it. We pulled over and stopped at a lookout spot a handful of miles before the entrance to take pictures and allow John to get aerial footage. The park is open year-round but camping is open seasonally. We arrived in the first week of the season opening. When we drove in and saw the campground was wide-open, we immediately decided to stay for a night. The Bell Fourche River Campground is $20/night and has RV and tent sites on a first come first serve basis. Each campsite has a grill, picnic table and potable water close by. There are no hookups, showers, or laundry facilities. We found a site, unhooked the RV and went straight to the tower’s visitor center. If you opt not to stay the night at the campground, there is a parking area where you can unhitch your rig and drive up with just a vehicle.
We found the Junior Ranger self-serve station and received our stamp, pin and booklet. From there we went on a 1.3-mile hike around the base of the tower. This was an easy hike but we were not at all prepared with water or good walking shoes. If you remember from earlier, we were only going to stop by and then head to the mountains. As in our fly by the seat of our pants fashion, we didn’t realize 1) There was a hiking trail 2) the hike would take as long as it did and 3) we didn’t anticipate the heat as the day went on. Luckily, we had some bottles in the truck and we were able to fill them up at the water station when we returned. There are a few other trails to hike also. They range from 0.6 to 3 miles long, they are not wheelchair accessible and do not allow pets. If rock climbing interests you, a permit can be obtained to climb the side of the tower. We met a woman whose husband was repelling down at the time and it was his first time going up. The reason our hike lasted so long is because we kept stopping to admire the creation around us. It was a beautiful walk along the base of the tower through the wooded landscape. Most of the trail was paved and there was quite a bit of wildlife to be seen. We were very close to a doe and her yearling. Neither of them seemed to be the least bit annoyed that we were there. After the hike we went into the gift shop and looked around then headed to camp.
Generators usage is restricted from 8p-8a to preserve the silence and darkness of the night. The evenings were cool enough that we didn’t need to run ours. Once the sun went down, it was like no other night sky I had ever seen. There were so many stars twinkling and the only sound I heard was a fairly large racoon running by. I only saw his outline scampering by our site because it was so incredibly dark. The next time I went out I was sure to take a flashlight. The following day we decided to stay one more night in order to rest a bit more, but mainly to get our laundry done before going into the mountains for dispersed camping. We drove to Hullet, a small nearby town, to a nice clean laundromat to clean everything. We had reservations at a campground in the Big Horn Mountains but we cancelled them since we stayed at Devil’s Tower. We decided when we left the tower that we would try our hand at finding a boondocking spot again.
Devil’s Tower National Monument is worth the stop if you are out that way. It was the respite we needed to continue the adventure we were about to embark on. Check out our travel video on Devil’s Tower below, and be watching for the next episode where we take the rig up to 10,000 ft on 9% grades and realize the water spigots had not been turned on yet due to freezing temps in the Big Horn Mountains!