Devil’s Tower, Wyoming

Photo by Bradley Davis

Where in the West Should I Go? • 52 Places to Visit in 2022

It rises like a colossal claw from the ground. On a clear day, you can see it from I-90, way off in the distance (if you know where to look). This 867-foot mass of rare columned igneous rock in Crook County, Wyo., is Devil’s Tower, a beacon for climbers, hikers and adventure-seekers, as well as Northern Plains Indians, who hold the area sacred. 

Theories on how the tower formed vary, but scientists agree on one thing: Devil’s Tower began as molten rock (magma) beneath the earth’s surface. How the magma cooled to form the massive tower remains a mystery. The rock is composed of a series of narrow irregular-shaped columns, a geological feature known as columnar joining.

Mystery itself, in fact, is a tremendous draw to the tower. The sense of wonder the tower evokes is contagious; you can’t help but be taken aback by its sheer size, rising above the sweeping, mainly flat eastern Wyoming landscape. Be prepared to leave the site with more questions than answers. 

Devil’s Tower holds the designation of America’s first National Monument, recognized 10 years before the National Park Service was founded. Today, prayer bundles on and near the Tower Trail are a testament to the religious practices of Native Americans that still take place around the tower today. 

Hike that trail around the rock’s base to see the geological phenomenon from all angles. If you look closely, there’s a good chance you’ll spot a climber or two somewhere along the rigid rock face.