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History, Heritage & Fun

Our family adventure to Devils Tower

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Devils Tower, Wyoming

Trevor, my wonderful husband for 18 years, has Native American ancestry. One of our goals is to teach our kids—Lila, age 15 and Collin, age 10—more about their heritage, so we are naturally drawn to places that have some connection to it. As a child, Trevor spent time with his family in Crook County, Wyoming, at Devils Tower, so we decided to revisit his memories and see if we couldn’t create some new ones with our kids. We set off on a Monday morning in May to make the most of an overnight stay surrounded by the vast, untamed beauty of Wyoming.

Devils Tower, Wyoming

Switching things up in an evocative place

A climber in red ascends the sheer rocks of Devils Tower, Wyoming

With so much rich heritage in one place, Trevor and I couldn’t wait to get started on teaching it to our kids. The plan was for Trevor to spend the day hiking and climbing with our adventurous child, Lila, while I took advantage of some kid-friendly activities with our mellow nature lover, Collin.

A climber in red ascends the sheer rocks of Devils Tower, Wyoming

We arrived at Devils Tower and stopped for a minute to take in the area’s beauty and the vast structure in front of us. Devils Tower stretches dramatically from the ground to the sky, a spectacular rock formation sitting more than 5,000 feet above sea level, created by magma over thousands of years. Trevor and Lila signed up for an introductory class that would take them climbing up to 200 feet up the structure. Since it was close to a five-hour experience, Collin and I would have plenty of time together. We watched as Trevor and Lila prepared for their hike and free-climbing experience up the tower. Collin was already looking for fossils and rocks at its base.

Nature, wildlife and some childlike fun

A light brown prairie dog holds blades of grass at the prairie dog town near Devils Tower, Wyoming

Now that Trevor and Lila were starting their climb, I couldn’t wait to spend the day with Collin. I watched him eagerly running along the trail looking for wildlife. Collin is a sweet boy by nature and loves anything with a heartbeat, from the smallest caterpillar to his own big sister, whom he adores.

To please my young animal lover, we would spend time on a few of the trails around Devils Tower, which are home to more than 150 species of birds. We made a checklist of all the animals we wanted to see that day. His included buffalo, prairie dogs and chipmunks. Mine included frogs, porcupines and bobcats—although I knew the last one was a stretch. 

Collin was in seventh heaven as we hiked the 2.8-mile Red Beds Trail loop, and he pointed out wildflowers in every color of the rainbow as we passed them. I looked up at the rock in front of us, amazed by its sheer beauty.

A light brown prairie dog holds blades of grass at the prairie dog town near Devils Tower, Wyoming

To bring us closer in, our second hike was the easy Tower Trail around the base of the mountain. We looked up at the climbers in the distance and imagined that we could see Trevor and Lila every time we noticed clothing in similar colors. Collin pointed out different rocks to me and I chased him around the curves of the trail as he started an impromptu game of tag. It was a perfect moment in a sacred place.

A few hours after they’d started their ascent up the tower, we saw Trevor and Lila bouncing down the trail toward us. Lila had a small scratch on her knee, dirt on her face and a spark in her eye I had never seen before. 

“Mom, it’s absolutely AMAZING up there!” she exclaimed as she threw her arm around her little brother. “Collin, you’ll have to go up the mountain with us next time,” Lila said.

He flashed her an excited grin.

A museum visit to remember

A night sky is filled with stars with Devils Tower, Wyoming in silhouette

We wanted our kids to understand the importance of this area in relation to their ancestors, so we stopped at the museum after a day of fun and memorable experiences. The kids learned all about the Lakotas and other tribes that consider Devils Tower to be a sacred place, and how they performed their Sun Dance during the summer solstice in the area at one time. Our family read about prayer offerings, vision quests and funerals of a people that were directly connected to them, but also very different. Through books, exhibits and even a small gift shop, we were educated about the first climbers of Devils Tower in 1893 and the various Native American tribes around the area.

A night sky is filled with stars with Devils Tower, Wyoming in silhouette

Checking off our list one prairie dog at a time

We ended the day at the prairie dog “town.” This town is close to 40 acres in size and Collin was determined to see these social animals in their element. We watched them feed on local plants and heard them “bark” when visitors got too close. They burrowed in their holes and ran around on their short muscly legs while we laughed at their antics. Collin reminded us all that he read in the Visitor’s Center that human food can make the animals sick and Trevor and I smiled at his tender heart.

That evening, we were mesmerized by the clarity and beauty of the night sky in the area.  The stars seemed to be right on top of us since they were so sharp and bright. Collin and Lila were able to see the Milky Way among all those breathtaking lights in the sky, and Trevor and I were amazed at how visible it was from a place that seemed so far away. The brightness of the night sky is famous here and I could see why after I witnessed it myself.

The kids fell asleep in the car after our fun-filled day. I was glad they were already resting, as we had another exciting day planned here—exploring the area around Hulett, just 10 miles from Devils Tower, plus a taste of the beauty of the Black Hills National Forest. I quietly turned to get one more glance at their sweet faces and thought to myself that moments like these must always be treasured.

I was grateful that we got the opportunity to teach them more about their Native American backgrounds, while exploring in such a fun area.  

Learn more about Devils Tower Country and plan your Crook County getaway.