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badlands National Park

 Devil's Tower National Monument

 

 Red Beds Trail, Devil's Tower National Monument, Wyoming, United States, copyright 1999, OutdoorPlaces.Com, all rights reserved
Although Devil's Tower National Monument only offers seven miles of hiking trails, it offers some of the most spectacular day hiking in northeastern Wyoming.  Most visitors who make it as far as the Visitor Center opt to take the 1.3 mile paved Tower Trail.  This trail goes around the base of the tower and offers some wonderful views.  In the late afternoon make sure to look up at the top of the tower and watch the bald eagles soaring overhead.

The best trail in the park is the 3.0 mile easy to moderate Red Beds Trail.  The trailhead is located at the starting point of the Tower Trail.  Taking the Red Beds Trail north, you walk through a wonderful ponderosa pine forest.  This is an excellent place to view wild life and if you move quietly an encounter with white tail deer is all but guaranteed.  As you walk on the trail the natural beauty that surrounds you can make you forget the 867 foot stone tower looming behind you.  Make sure to turn around and enjoy a view that less than 25,000 people get to see.

After hiking about 3/4 of a mile, the ponderosa forest gives way to meadow and a series of very mild switchbacks leads you down and away from the tower.  Hiking in June can offer you an opportunity to view an artist's palette of wildflowers.  As the trail turns back to the north, you will hike almost a 1/2 mile where the grasses suddenly give way to deep red clay and sand.  Only some tenacious pine trees and cacti grow here,  You have entered the red beds that gives the trail it's name.

 
FUN FACT:
  When hiking the Red Beds Trail you will come to an area that starts at the Valley View Trailhead and ends almost at the Visitor's Center that has been burned.  The National Park Service did a very controversial controlled burn in April of 1998 that effected about 15% of the parks acreage.  This was done because past fire suppression efforts had allowed dead wood and pine needles to accumulate over five feet deep in this area.  Hiking in this area provides an interesting view of a forest in recovery with grasses, wildflowers and seedlings growing among the blackened snags.
 

 
The trail loops around these red badland formations at the base of the tower, which now looms far above you to the southwest.  The trail continues to head south almost 3/4 of a mile where you can access the 6/10 of a mile southerly Valley View Trail, which will take you to the park access road and around the east side of the Prairie Dog Town, ultimately ending at Belle Fourche Campground.  The Red Beds Trail continues uphill for the rest of the way west back to the Devil's Tower National Monument Visitor Center.  You can also access the 6/10 of a mile southerly South Side Trail which also leads to the Belle Fourche Campground and passes the west side of the Prairie Dog Town.

The Joyner Ridge Trail is north of the tower and is accessible from a dirt access road that is about one mile before the Visitor Center.  This 1-1/2 mile trail takes the hiker east along the forest ridge line and offers excellent views of the tower to the south.  Looping around, it comes down into the same meadow that is accessible from the Red Bed Trails, but on it's north side.  The same opportunities to view wild life are offered here.  If you decide to dead reckon across the meadow to access the Red Beds Trail (about 2/10 of a mile due south), be sure to watch for rattlesnakes.

The Belle Fourche Campground offers 50 first come, first serve campsites for tent campers, RV's up to 35 feet in length, and offers three group campsites.  None of the sites offer hookups and there are no dump stations.  Tent campers should also note that showers are not available.  Standard overnight camping rates are $12 per night, in addition to the parks $8 access fee.

The Devil's Tower National Monument outdoor amphitheater is located just north of the campground and is accessible by road, and both the South Rim and Valley View Trails.  Devil's Tower offers some of the finest fireside programs in the National Park service, with informative and entertaining discussions on Native American, local, and geological history, as well as information on wildlife.  You can find out about these programs by going to the Visitor Center.

Black Tail Prairie Dogs at Devil's Tower National Monument...

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