Thursday, July 16, 2015

Bear Lodge, aka Devil's Tower National Monument

Our first stop in Wyoming was a couple of nights at Keyhole State Park for the purpose of visiting Devils Tower National Monument. Just 23 miles due south of Devils Tower, Keyhole Lake is a worthy stopover itself. It's got 10 different campgrounds, all the water sports you could possibly want, plus wildlife and birding galore.

The cloud show our first evening was spectacular...and brought us a good inch of rain overnight.

Early the next morning we spotted a couple dozen pronghorns grazing in the meadow across from the campground.

We took the good dirt road North from Keyhole through beautiful Wyoming countryside.
Devil's Tower could be seen in the distance once we gained a tiny bit of elevation. 

Bear Lodge was one of many Native American names for the imposing tower of igneous rock (a laccolith, just like Bear Butte in my last post), but like many sites important to American Indians, a white man reported a different name to his superiors and that name stuck: Devils Tower.

About 50 million years ago molten magma was forced into sedimentary rock but then cooled under ground. As it cooled the magma contracted and fractured into columns. Over millions of years the sedimentary deposits eroded and exposed this amazing geological feature. The tower rises 867 feet from its base and the diameter of its base is 1,000 feet.

We started our visit by taking the paved 1.3 mile Tower Trail around the base.
Even the rubble field is impressive!

People have been climbing the tower since 1893.

Every angle of this imposing laccolith takes ones breath away.

The columnar fragments are striking too.


This little guy was busy gathering mouthfuls of grass and carrying them up a tree.

Back at the beginning of the paved trail we discovered dozens of people about to start the loop...making us really glad we had done the easy trail first (we started about 8:30 am)! Next we took the outer loop, Red Beds Trail, a 2.8 mile natural surface trail with a fair amount of ups and downs.

Lots of this going on, every single view of the tower is stunning!

This is why the trail is called Red Beds...
The Spearfish Formation, composed of dark red sandstone and maroon siltstone,
was laid down in a shallow sea 225 to 195 million years ago.
The Belle Fourche River winds past the dramatic red bluffs.

Leaving the main Monument parking lot we saw a little side road leading to the Joyner Ridge Trail. Though we did not hike the entire loop, we took advantage of a perfectly placed bench on the trail to enjoy lunch with a spectacular view.

View from Joyner Ridge.

The Monument from Joyner Ridge.

Keyhole State Park was a beautiful and peaceful place to stay away from the hordes of people who visit Devil's Tower. Only one of the 10 campgrounds in the park has hookups. Tatanka campground has electric and water hookups and the sites are nicely separated. Each site has a picnic table and fire pit. We had excellent Verizon signal. All sites in Tatanka are reservable.

The other nine campgrounds in the State Park have dry campsites, each with a picnic table and fire pit. Some are reservable, some are first come first serve. There are some really fabulous waterfront sites scattered throughout the dry campgrounds. All campgrounds have pit toilets. The private marina located in the park has showers.

Our site: #21 in Tatanka campground.
We only had a neighbor on one side, and that site was a decent distance away. 

One of the fabulous dry sites available in another campground at Keyhole State Park.


  1. Love that first shot of the thunderhead! Yep, you know you're in Wyoming when you see all the antelope. I plan to visit Devil's Tower later this summer en route to my annual SD visit.

  2. Nice spot! I'd like to see that monument too one day.

  3. Keyhole was a nice state park. We had a no hookup site in the Pronghorn Campground right on the bay. We loved Devil's Tower, too, and especially the prairie dog community.

  4. Where are all the great photos with you, Lisa!! Don't forget to include yourself:) I think we need to include Devil Tower in our trip west. It would be right in the line if we do 90. I would like to stop in the Badlands and Yellowstone, so this is right in the middle. I love this unique formation. That is a very impressive boulder field. Having Hans standing at the base really shows the huge size of those boulders. Your photos of all the various views are great. Thanks for sharing!

    1. Pam, If you stay at Keyhole State Park, you can take the dirt back road for a nice scenic drive to Devils Tower and not pay the higher rates close to Devils Tower. That is what we did.

  5. Bear Lodge is such a powerful place even in photos. I'm always surprised by how gray it is. In my mind it's always much darker. I will have to make sure to approach it early in the morning as well :-) Looks like a great park to see the area.

  6. Wow that is a great dry site you show at the end. Looks like a wonderful park. Your pictures of Bear Lodge and the views are really fantastic. I am always so amazed at the brilliance of your color. I loved visiting there and feel that after everything we did to the Native Americans, their wishes about both the name and not allowing climbing on this sacred place should be respected.

  7. What a great shot of that spectacular cloud formation! The laccolith seems very imposing !
    Can this be a day drive from Spearfish?

    1. It's 63 miles from Spearfish to Devils Tower, so I suppose it could be a long day trip.

  8. Keyhole State Park looks terrific. And your photos of Devil's Tower are amazing! That was quite the hike through the rubble field.

  9. Again you not only take me back to childhood at Devil's Tower but now I want to go check out more of Keyhole State Park since I've driven by it every trip I made back home not realizing the gem it is!

  10. Beautiful picture of the sky. Devil's Tower is just amazing.