Date of Travel: August 24, 2017
Total Cost Per Night: $20
Site: B11 (Dry Camping)
I’m an obsessive planner. I honestly probably spent 150 hours planning, organizing and scheming about our 25 night cross-country trip. Don’t get me wrong, I love the process…but I’ve also learned that quite often even the best plans have to be changed mid-stroke. When we planned this trip we intended on camping just outside Mt. Rushmore for one night, then driving the 750 miles to Glacier National Park the next day. Devils Tower had not been on our agenda. At one point during the planning phase, I considered it but marked it off as an option. We didn’t think we would have time for it, and really we barely did.
We’re not afraid to drive some long miles, but the idea of knocking 100 miles off of our 750 journey to Glacier and getting to see Devils Tower along the way sounded kind of appealing. We packed up from Blue Bell Campground pretty early, headed to Mt. Rushmore then were on our way to Devils Tower.
With taking a few hours at Rushmore, we were going to get into Devils Tower around 3 pm. We knew that we were taking a little bit of a risk arriving so late since the campground is first-come-first-served but it was worth the risk.
An important note…There’s a rest area with a dump station at Exit 189, as you get off to turn to Devils Tower. It’s free!
When we got there went straight to the campground to see what we could find. Things looked full and we didn’t know if we’d find anything. There was definitely some stress involved as we and a couple other campers were circling the loops, looking for anything open. We ended up in a handicapped site since nothing else was available. After a few minutes of trying not to freak out about maybe not getting a site we were very happy to set up camp. There’s about 50 sites and there are no electricity or water hookups, though they do have some spigots. No dump station either. There are bathrooms which were clean, but no showers.
There are two loops in the campground. If I’m not mistaken, the entire campground is comprised of pull-thru sites. The sites vary in size and situation, but the sites are clean and relatively flat. We did have to use a couple of blocks even on the paved handicapped site that we were on. It’s a great campground for kids to ride their bikes around as the roads are paved and flat.
The whole area is just beautiful. There was something magical about seeing the tower for the first time on the drive in. The closer we came to it, the more astounding it became and it was just mesmerizing. The campground sits practically right at the base of it and many sites have a clear view of the it. The campground sits in a copse of Cottonwoods so some views can be obstructed, but the trees are beautiful as well.
After we set up camp we drove up to the visitor center to start working on our junior ranger programs. From the campground, the elevation climbs a good 500-1,000 feet as you approach the visitor’s center. After checking in and getting our Junior Ranger books the kids started feverishly filling out all the info (this book was a lot more in-depth than many ranger books!). Once the kids were all caught up we hit the trail.
We were all tired and a little grumpy which kind of tarnished the hike around the tower. In spite of this, this hike was one of the coolest and most memorable ones we did during our 25 day trip. The paved trail is just over a mile long and is relatively flat, though there were some hills. It’s really doable for just about everyone. We had fun trying to pick out climbers on the monument. Scattered throughout the woods surrounding the tower were Native American prayer cloths in the trees. It was interesting to see living displays of another culture and it gave us good opportunities for conversation with our kids. It was a beautiful afternoon and we wished we could have another day here. The kids were exhausted and we put them to bed very early, but the grownups got to sit and enjoy the evening with an epic view.
We hit the road the next morning before 6am, so we didn’t have a lot of time to properly enjoy this campground. It really is a gorgeous little place just an hour off of the interstate. It felt a shame to rush off…2 nights here would have been ideal. But we had reservations in Glacier the next night and a really long drive ahead of us so we were up and on the road early for more adventure. If there is a next time we’ll stay longer and soak it up better.