We unhooked from our campsite in Black Hawk, South Dakota in the morning. After visiting the dump station at the campground to flush out our black tank with non-potable water (we never want to do this with a fresh water hookup so bacteria cannot slip back to the fresh water hookups), we headed out for the 130 mile trip to our nation’s first national monument, Devil’s Tower.
As we headed into Wyoming on 90 West, it was a little more of a winding, climbing trip than through South Dakota, but still a very easy drive. And again – very pretty. The trip was quick and I was able to talk to my mom on the phone to catch up, only to lose strong AT&T signal about thirty-five minutes in. Overall, between Verizon and AT&T, we have had strong coverage on our trip so far!
Yesterday, we had been trying to decide whether to drive through to Billings, Montana and stop at Devil’s Tower or camp somewhere near Devil’s Tower so that we could take our time. After learning that there was a first-come, first-served basis campground at the base of the monument for only $12 a night, we decided we would definitely choose this option. We called the information number ahead of time to see what the protocol was and they only recommended getting there no later than 6pm. Not difficult standards!
There were no hookups or even public showers, but there were restrooms and we were able to fill up on fresh water at our previous campground. We also had our generator on hand if needed but have not used it to date, only relying on charging our cell phones in the truck or with external chargers, running our fridge off of propane once it is level, and using our LED (low energy) lights minimally.
Once we got to the aforementioned Belle Fourche campground, we were blown away with how close to the monument we were and how majestic this large rock formation looked jutting into the sky. After thinking the sites looked easy to pull into and hastily getting one of the camper tires stuck on a wooden post which nearly took off one of our electric jacks, we settled on a site. There were very few people there when we got there and lots of sites to choose from. We paid for our site using a self-pay system, and got ourselves level. We then set out to check out Devil’s Tower!
Right outside the campground was another prairie dog town, except we got to walk on a narrow path through this one! Holes as far the eye could see, they were popping up everywhere! They totally reminded me of an adorable version of the “whack-a-mole” games you see on the boardwalk.
We then decided to take the 0.6 mile hike to the main trails, which the trailhead for was right outside this prairie dog town. What I thought would be a leisurely stroll actually turned into a pretty steep zigzag hike up the hill Devil’s Tower sits on, where at times we only had a foot and a half width to walk on an overgrown path along quite a steep dropoff. My fear of heights started to stress me out at times, but I knew that going down was probably even worse and persisted, just being careful. Afterwards, I was quite proud of myself for making it through and definitely felt like we had gotten more of a workout this way, too.
Once we reached the visitor’s center, we diverged onto the Red Beds Trail, a 2.8 mile trail around the tower (one of two main trails around). This was a much easier hike than the one we took to get there, but nonetheless even more scenic. We got fantastic views of the tower from different vantage points, but honestly did not even find ourselves looking up at it most of the time because there was so much else to see. Sweeping views of valleys and, best of all, the namesake part of the trail, where there were desert-like mounds of red soil. Signs at the visitor’s center had said that the short distance around the tower supported three different types of habitats and this really drove it home.
Shortly thereafter, we were led to a different trail back to the campground, which was a simple straightaway that took us back through the prairie dog town with more great views of the tower. We grilled at our campsite, enjoying the view from our table before storms took over.
All night, there were frequent flashes of lightning off in the distance and low rumbles of thunder on an otherwise pitch dark night. It was easy to see why the Native Americans have named this a spiritual place – it really is quite an eerie, mysterious, and beautiful area. To this day, there are signs requesting that visitors stay on the trails out of respect.
If you have the ability and time to do so, staying at the Belle Fourche campground is really the best way to experience this unique national monument!
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