As part of your trip to the Mount Rushmore area, we recommend adding a day trip to visit Devils Tower National Monument. The 230-mile-long loop includes a drive through the Black Forest and stops at Spearfish, Deadwood, and Sturgis.
Rapids City to Devils Tower
Get up early and head west into Wyoming on Interstate 90 and then turn on Highway 14/24. Devils Tower is 110 miles away from Rapid City or about 1.75-2 hours. Pack a lunch, water, and snacks. Depending on the number of visitors which adds to the time to get into the park and how long it takes you to visit the monument, you’ll be glad you have both options.
You’ll see the tower miles away as it rises 1267 feet above the Belle Fourche River. The laccolithic butte of igneous rocks is mesmerizing. The tower has cultural and religious significance to over two dozen federally recognized Native American tribes.
Open daily from spring through fall, you’ll find park staff, a bookstore, and exhibits. The pine log center was built with the help of the Civilian Conservation Corps and completed in 1935.
Hike the Trails
- Tower Trail – 1.3 miles of paved footpath that is for the most part stroller friendly
- Joyner Ridge Trail – 1.5-mile loop located near the north boundary of the park
- Red Beds Trail – 2.8-mile loop with 450 feet of elevation change.
- South Side Trail – the 0.6-mile trail starts at the amphitheater and links into Red Beds Trail
- Valley View Trail – this gentle 0.6-mile trail starts from the amphitheater and also links into Red Beds Trail
Stop at the Visitor Center to get your booklet and pencil. Space is limited inside so complete your booklets outside and return to be sworn in as a Junior Ranger.
Ranger Programs and Park Events
- Tower Walk – guided walk around the Tower Trail
- Ranger Talk – 15-20 minute talk from the main parking area
- Evening Program – 45-minute presentation at the park amphitheater
- Astronomy Programs – check the park website for dates and times
- Guest Speakers – check for dates and times
- Old Settlers’ Picnic – annual event featuring music, ice cream, and stories.
Tips for Visiting:
- Parking is often full from 10 AM – 3 PM in the summer on the weekends. Visit early or late in the day. Or visit during the week.
- The parking lot near the Visitor Center has plenty of porta potties but there is also indoor plumbing located on the back, lower level of the Visitor Center. The ladies’ room door is located on the left side of the building.
- The tower is sacred to many Native American tribes, be respectful when visiting.
- Stop along the trails to look away from the tower. Great views all around!
- While on the Tower Trail, you may see cloths or small bundles attached to the trees. These are Native American prayer cloths that should not be removed or photographed.
- 80% of the park’s 500,000 yearly visitors visit between Memorial Day and Labor Day
- The park is also very busy during the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally which happens every year during the first full week of August.
- Visit the Circle of Sacred Smoke Sculpture by Junkyu Muto located near the campground and picnic area. After you enter the park, take your first left and another left.
- Bear Lodge was one of many Native American names for the tower. Colonel Richard Dodge named it Devils tower in 1875.
- Around 5000 rock climbers, from all over the world, visit each year to climb the tower.
- In 1906, President Theodore Roosevelt proclaimed Devils Tower the first national monument.
Devils Tower to Black Hills National Forest to Spearfish
When you leave Devils Tower we suggest driving Highway 24 through the Black Hills National Forest of Wyoming. The scenery is lovely and the road offers some fun curves to take it all in. Depending on what time it is and how hungry your crew is, you might want to stop in Spearfish to eat or continue on to Deadwood.
Known as a Wild West town, Deadwood’s history focuses on the discovery of gold in 1874 and famous gamblers and gunslingers like Wild Bill Hickok. Now a National Historic Landmark, your big family will enjoy exploring this Gold Rush-era town.
- Adams Museum – Learn about Wild Bill Hickok, Calamity Jane, Seth Bullock through the display of their personal belongings, memorabilia, and artifacts. The museum covers the area’s history of gambling and crime. Note, some subject matter in the far right corner of the museum dealing with “professional ladies” of the time may not be suitable for younger visitors.
- Mount Moriah Cemetery – Stop by for a self-guided tour and visit the graves of Wild Bill Hickok and Calamity Jane.
- Historic Main Street – Print off the walking tour to learn about the history of the building as you walk the streets of Deadwood. The self-guided tour includes 21 points of interest.
- Main Street Shootouts – Historically accurate free re-enactments of Deadwood’s history held on Main Street.
- The Historic Adams House – Tour this 1892 Queen Anne-style home with hand-painted canvas wall coverings, stained-glass windows, and original furnishings.
- The Friendship Tower – The tower was built to honor the friendship between Sheriff Bullock and President Teddy Roosevelt.
- Days of ’76 Museum – See the large collection of horse-drawn vehicles, learn about the city’s first pioneers, and view American Indian artifacts.
Well known for the annual biker Rally, your family can visit the following museums and park.
- Visit the Sturgis Motorcycle Museum
- Check out the Saab Heritage Car Museum
- Check out Bear Butte State Park
Depending on your family, you might want to remove a few of the suggested activities or split this itinerary into two days. As is, the day is fully packed. Many tourists spend around 2 hours at Devils Tower. Adding the travel time to and from will bring you to around 6. Additional time may need to be factored in depending on when you visit and how many others are queued up to visit the monument.