Mato Tipila, or Devils Tower National Monument, Wyoming
photo by Jason Sturner

Devils Tower National Monument

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Devils Tower National Monument is a United States National Monument that is located in Crook County in northeastern Wyoming. The Monument was established as the first national monument by President Theodore Roosevelt in 1906 through his use of the Antiquities Act. The Monument is the core of an ancient volcano; the surrounding softer rock has over time been eroded to reveal cooled magma hardened into igneous rock, appearing as fluted shafts and columns rising over 500 feet in the air. The monolithic tower rises above the Belle Fourche River at the edge of the Black Hills region, known in this section as the Bear Lodge Mountains.



The Tower was known as "Mateo Tipi" by American indians of the region, and is considered sacred. "Mateo Tipi" translates as "Bear Lodge", as the Indian legend revolves around the creation of the tower as a refuge for a group of indian youths being pursued by a giant bear. Imploring the great spirit to save them, a rock they were standing on began to rise into the air. The bear tried to reach them, with its claws carving the fluted columns into the rock. The youths then were taken up and became what is known as the seven sisters constellation. A U.S. cavalry scouting party reached the tower in 1876 and incorrectly translated the name to mean "Bad God's Tower" and thus its present name remains.

Devils Tower is probably best known as the location of the alien-human rendezvous point in Steven Spielberg's oscar winning 1977 Science Fiction film, Close Encounters of the Third Kind. Production designer Joe Alves traveled the west looking for a proper landmark and stumbled across the obscure park finding it a perfect fit for use in the film. Devils Tower National Monument is administered by the National Park Service, a part of the Department of Interior, and is a popular place for rock climbing, hiking, and as a tourist waypoint located between popular destinations such as Mount Rushmore National Memorial, Badlands National Park, Yellowstone National Park and Grand Teton National Park.

Flora and fauna

Prairie falcons nest on the monument, and some climbing trails are closed yearly to protect the nestlings. Annual information about closings is available on the National Park Service web site.

The meadows on the approach roads to the Tower are the home to colonies of Prairie Dogs. Visitors are advised not to approach these creatures due to the risk of contracting rabies if bitten.

Getting there

By air

The nearest airport with commercial service is the Gillette-Campbell County Airport (IATA : GCC) in Gillette, with commuter service to Salt Lake City and Denver. The closest full-service airport is Rapid City Regional Airport (IATA : RAP) , across the border in South Dakota and served by five airlines. US Route 14 links the two cities.

By car

Devils Tower National Monument is located off Wyoming State Route 24, which is accessed via US Route 14. The US-14/WY-24 intersection is about 1 hour east of Gillette and 1 hour and 30 minutes west of Rapid City.

Traveling around

Most visitors enter the park by car or bus from the east, to take a two mile or so drive to the base of the tower on its northwest side. There they find a visitors' center with background on the park and interesting books and souvenirs. Nearby, they will find modern restrooms. From the visitors' center, they can choose to walk the full perimeter of the tower at its base on a path approximately 1.3 miles long. In primary tourists season, the more adventuresome can apply for permission to climb the tower after showing adequate preparation and qualification.


In addition to offerings at the visitors' center, you'll find a post office and trading post just outside the park entrance. The latter offers snacks and soft drinks plus another collection of souvenirs.


  • $10 - 7 day pass for an individual vehicle

  • $5 - 7 day pass for individual pedestrian / bicycle / motorbike

Source: National Park Service website

Alternatively, if you plan to visit multiple National Parks in the US, purchase a National Parks Pass. This allows entry to any National Park for a period of 12 months for your vehicle and any passengers within. The price is only $80. The park also honors the "permanent" Golden Pass for seniors by the National Park Service.

Contact & location

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The photos displayed on this page are the property of one of the following authors:

Jason Sturner, Jim Bowen, Scott Robinson, Colin Palmer

Some photos courtesy of: . The photos provided by Flickr are under the copyright of their owners.

This travel guide also includes text from Wikitravel articles, all available at WikitravelView full credits

Eric Polk, Nick Roux, David, Ryan Holliday, Stuart Edwards, Rob Payne and Colin Jensen

This travel guide also includes text from Wikipedia articles, all available at WikipediaView full credits

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