Devils Tower – A Unique Rock Formation; Have a “Close Encounter”

We all agree that Yosemite is #1 but how many times can you hike Half Dome? (I won’t answer that :>).   I continue the quest for Carpe Diem and love our other national parks. Just over the northwestern border of South Dakota lies the 800 foot high monolith irreverently called Devils Tower.

It’s igneous rock, which means it is born from magma. The hot magma moved towards the surface

about 200 million years ago. This pluton settled well below the earth level. The intense pressure of the earth above morphed it into granite. Years of erosion exposed it.

Simply, Devils Tower was created by an uplift of rock followed by eons of erosion. The slab-like sides were the result of exfoliation as sheets of the rock weathered and fell away. This is similar to Half Dome. The surrounding land was further eroded to make the tower stand tall at 1200 feet above the visitor center.

In 1906, Teddy Roosevelt named it the first National Monument. Today, 400,000 people visit it annually. Walkers can circumnavigate via the walking trail in about an hour. It is not rigorous.

It was made famous by the sci-fi classic “Close Encounters of the Third Kind.” That means actual contact with aliens from another world.  Richard Dreyfuss played a utility man who experiences weird happenings and later becomes obsessed with the rock.

While it’s a great National Park Service site, it’s pretty hard to get to. Unless you are traveling to the site of the Little Big Horn in Wyoming, or the Black Hills of South Dakota, you’d need to make a special trip.

You can fly into Rapid City, South Dakota and rent a car to drive the 2 hours.

It lies at 5,100 feet above sea level.

An Indian legend tells of young children who were running from a bear and the earth lifted them up to safety. The bear clawed at the sides to try to get up – this created the plates of rock. OK, it’s a legend.

Only climbers are permitted up the walls. Sorry, but the end of the movie shows the stars hiking to the top to “encounter” the space ship. No can do. The walls are vertical with no path to the top.

Unrelated thought worth quoting: “When I drink alone, I prefer to be by myself.”

MrHalfDome™ – Rick Deutsch –

One Best Hike: Yosemite’s Half Dome

About Mr Half Dome - Rick Deutsch

Mr Half Dome. Has written the only half dome hiking guide, One Best Hike: Yosemite's Half Dome. Has hiked it 31 times to day. Lives in San Jose, CA Available for presentations. Carpe Diem Experience, LLC
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One Response to Devils Tower – A Unique Rock Formation; Have a “Close Encounter”

  1. Kristin I. says:

    Devil’s Tower was amazing! We climbed Little Devil’s Tower in SD last year. Didn’t see the similarity until we were on another rock on Harney Peak. Very, very cool.

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