My name is Jessica Cepele. Welcome to my article on Devils Tower National Monument. I was born and raised in the suburbs of Chicago. After high school, I was accepted into the School of the Art Institute of Chicago where I studied downtown and received my BFA in photography.
Post graduation, I worked for several years as the lead product photographer for Chicago-based companies. Then I started Jessica Cepele Photography so I could pursue my passion of travel and photography.
My passion for landscape photography really comes from one special lighthouse in Michigan where I spent summers playing on the beach. Capturing that lighthouse showed me how much I love photography. I still photograph that lighthouse to this day. Today, I am back in Chicago but I spend weeks at a time on the road seeing all that the world has to offer.
My Experience at Devils Tower
My trip to Devils Tower came after a month-long road trip through the southwest and up the west coast. On our way home, we traveled back east through Wyoming. I had always wanted to see Devils Tower National Monument ever since I watched the movie: Close Encounters of the Third Kind. Since it was on the way, we took a detour from the highway to see it.
This was my first visit to Devils Tower National Monument and I had no idea what to expect before coming. It was raining and cloudy all day, and my hopes for getting a good shot were low. But I really wanted to see the tower if it could still be seen (cloud cover and rain can make it barely visible).
In the end, the size of Devils Tower surprised me. The rock formation was massive. You could see people climbing it and they looked so small in comparison. It was not what I expected. Images are often not a very reliable judge of scale – so I was surprised to see how large the monolith was.
We spent a good few hours hiking around the tower and exploring places that I wanted to shoot. Once the clouds parted, the sun began to set and we were treated to a spectacular sunset. We only needed one day and evening to explore this location (I like to shoot after dark). Devils Tower is a great place to visit for the afternoon and take a quick hike around!
Best Things To Do in Devils Tower
- Hike the Devils Tower Trail: This loop trail goes around the base of the tower lasting for around 1.2 miles of walking. A fun way to see the tower from different viewpoints and experience the national monument.
- Watch the Sunset over the Tower: The sunset I watched after a cloudy day was beautiful and one of the best moments of my trip. The clouds were illuminated in a pink glow and the tower as my foreground – with its rich texture – was standing tall above the trees. Just breathtaking!
- Go Camping under the Stars: The tower is incredibly beautiful under the stars. I’m a big fan of night photography and I had tons of fun capturing the monolith with a starry night sky above.
- Take a Longer Hike on the Joyner Ridge Trail: If you love big walks then I recommend hiking the Joyner Ridge Trail. It goes around the tower and grounds of the area for a lovely 1.5 mile loop. Arguably the best views of Devils Tower can be found on this hike and you might even have the opportunity to see some unique Wyoming wildlife.
- Visit Prairie Dog Town: A stop along the drive to the tower within the monument grounds where you can watch Prairie Dogs pop in and out of their holes. It’s a fun way to see some cute wildlife and just another great stop to take advantage of in Devils Tower National Monument.
- Climb to the Top of Devils Tower: Climbers can obtain a permit to climb this monument. It would be a wonderful experience to scale up the cracks of Devils Tower and reach the top with views over the monument. The best route to the summit is the Durrance Route.
Where to Stay at Devils Tower
There is a KOA and the Belle Fourche River Campground that are both walking distance and have nice views of the tower. Rapid City, South Dakota is two hours from Devils Tower and makes a good day trip to visit if you are also seeing Mount Rushmore. Rapid City has a decent variety of places to eat and stay for those who like creature comforts.
Other Places to Visit in Wyoming
We went from Devils Tower straight to Mount Rushmore and then on to Badlands National Park in South Dakota. I recommend stopping at both of those locations when you are planning a trip in that direction. If you are specifically going to Wyoming, then I recommend that you go to Grand Teton National Park and Yellowstone National Park. Both are amazing!
Need to Know Before you Go
As per my experience, the weather can change rapidly and since you are in a hilly location this could expose you to the elements. I suggest bringing plenty of outdoor gear and layers. Apart from that just enjoy your time! If you would like to check out some of my prints of Devils Tower – like Devils Tower Sunset Matted Print – you can click the link here for more info.