This airport to destination road trip to Devils Tower begins in Rapid City, South Dakota. Distance between Rapid City and Devils Tower: 107 miles/1.75 hours. In this post we will be highlighting four bonus stops along the way and listing things to do at each stop. We’re even including a bonus road trip! Let’s check out Rapid City before we hit the road.
Lying just east of the Black Hills National Forest in western South Dakota, Rapid City was settled by prospectors during the Black Hills Gold Rush days of the late 1800s. From its humble beginnings on the banks of Rapid Creek, Rapid City has grown into a flourishing metropolitan area. Nicknamed the City of Presidents because bronze statues of every U.S. president can be found on downtown streets and because of the city’s proximity to Mount Rushmore. As a vacation hotspot, Rapid City has practically anything a visitor could want in the way of accommodations, dining, shopping, and entertainment.
Things to do in Rapid City
Click the venue name for information about these family favorites:
- Bear Country USA – drive through wildlife park
- Chapel in the Hills – replica of a famous Norwegian church
- Main Street Square – urban park area with a summer splashpad and winter ice skating rink
- Reptile Gardens – the world’s largest reptile zoo
- Art Alley – urban art installment located in a downtown alley
When to go? Anytime, but we recommend May, June, July and September. Note that the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally takes place during the first two weeks of August. Visiting during this time is not recommended unless you plan to participate in the rally.
Things to Do near Rapid City
Rapid City is also a perfect road trip “home base” due to its proximity to several state and national parks. (Click the park name for information.)
- Badlands National Park – 62 miles/54 minutes
- Minuteman Missile National Historic Park – 75 miles/1 hour
- Mount Rushmore National Memorial – 23 miles/31 minutes
- Devils Tower National Monument – 107 miles/1.75 hours
- Wind Cave National Park – 42.5 miles/51 minutes
- Jewel Cave National Monument – 53 miles/1 hour
- Custer State Park – 30 miles/38 minutes
- The Mammoth Site – 57 miles/1 hour
Now, let’s begin our road trip to Devils Tower…
⇒Take I-90 west toward Sturgis via Black Hawk. Distance between Rapid City and Sturgis: 29 miles/30 minutes.
Bonus Stop: Sturgis, South Dakota. Home of the world’s largest motorcycle rally. The city has some interesting stops whether you are interested in motorcycles or just a little history.
Things to do in Sturgis
- Sturgis Motorcycle Museum & Hall of Fame – 999 Main St, Sturgis
- Saab Heritage Car Museum USA – 940 Dickson Dr, Sturgis
- Black Hills National Cemetery – 20901 Pleasant Valley Dr (3 miles east of Sturgis)
- Old Fort Meade Museum – 50 Sheridan St, Fort Meade, SD (1.5 miles east of Sturgis via Highways 34 and 79)
No road trip to Sturgis would be complete without a visit to the world’s largest biker bar. Full Throttle Saloon (19942 Hwy 79, Vale, SD) is the real deal. While you’re there, grab a bite to eat, an ice-cold beverage, and a souvenir or two. Most of the time the bar is open from 8:00 am to around 8:30 pm. If in doubt about the hours, give them a call – (605) 423-4584. Distance between Sturgis and Full Throttle Saloon: – 20 miles/20 minutes.
⇒ Continue west on I-90 toward Spearfish. Distance between Sturgis and Spearfish: 21.7 miles/22 minutes.
Bonus Stop: Spearfish Canyon Scenic Byway via Exit 10 or Exit 14 off of I-90. US Highway 14A is the 19-mile-long Spearfish Canyon Scenic Byway. Without stops, the drive takes approximately 30 minutes, but we recommend allowing 1-1.5 hours for sightseeing along this beautiful byway. The canyon features three waterfalls, wildlife, and hiking trails as well as steep cliff walls and a variety of trees and other plant life. Free to visit.
Things to do in Spearfish
- High Plains Western Heritage Center (museum) – 825 Heritage Dr, Spearfish
- D.C. Booth Historic National Fish Hatchery – 423 Hatchery Cir, Spearfish
- Spearfish Rec & Aquatics Center (water park) – 122 Recreation Ln, Spearfish
Bonus Road Trip: Deadwood, South Dakota. Back during the gold rush Deadwood was a rambunctious Old West town that catered to the likes of Wild Bill Hickok and Calamity Jane. Their gravesites in the Mount Moriah Cemetery are a popular stop for tourists. Today, this National Historic Landmark town features a lively Main Street with gun fight reenactments and plenty of shopping and dining.
Things to do in Deadwood
- Gambling resorts and gaming halls
- Gold mine tour
- Tatanka, Story of the Bison – exhibit featuring bronze sculptures depicting a bison hunt
- Northern Plains Peoples Interpretive Center
Distance between Spearfish and Deadwood: 15 miles/18 minutes – via US Highway 85 south.
⇒Continue west from Spearfish on I-90 toward Beulah, Wyoming. Distance between Spearfish and Beulah: 15 miles/15 minutes.
Welcome to Wyoming
Wyoming’s welcome centers are definitely worth a stop. The Northeast Wyoming Welcome Center at Beulah includes museum-type exhibits, free maps and other tourist information, clean restrooms, and extremely helpful employees. Travelers can also enjoy a paved walking trail and wayside information boards that detail interesting historical facts about the area.
Bonus Stop: Vore Buffalo Jump. This active archaeological site is located approximately 3 miles west of Beulah on the US Highway 14 access road. See archaeologists at work recovering bison bones and other artifacts left by the Plains Indians in a trap/sink hole dating to 1500-1800 AD. The site is open daily June 1 through Labor Day, but tours may be able to be arranged during other times of the year by calling (888) 945-7676.
⇒Continue west on US Highway 14 toward Sundance, Wyoming. Distance between Beulah and Sundance: 18 miles/20 minutes
Bonus Stop: Sundance, Wyoming. Sundance is the county seat of Crook County, Wyoming. Harry A. Longabaugh was an outlaw who served time in the Crook County Jail for theft. He joined Butch Cassidy and his Wild Bunch Gang after being released from prison around 1896 and became known as the Sundance Kid. It is widely believed that Butch and Sundance both died in Bolivia in 1908 during a shootout with the Bolivian army. Crook County Museum – 120 North 4th Street – holds an array of historic relics from the area, including some exhibits about Longabaugh, and also features an art gallery. Admission is free and the museum is well worth the stop. Allow 1-1.5 hours.
⇒Continue west on US Highway 14, then take Highway 24 north to Devils Tower. Distance between Sundance and Devils Tower: 27 miles/31 minutes.
Destination: Devils Tower National Monument
What is it? The result of ancient volcanic activity, Devils Tower is a rock butte rising 1,267 feet above the Belle Fourche River. The National Park Service explains:
“We know that the Tower is formed of a rare igneous rock, phonolite porphyry, and is the largest example of columnar jointing in the world.”
Devils Tower is sacred to Northern Plains Indian tribes who traditionally refer to the butte as Bear Lodge. The tower has been called by other names, but Bear Lodge or Bear Lodge Butte is what appears most commonly in early explorers’ notes and maps. Somehow through explorers’ translations of Lakota Indian words, the probable misinterpretation of “bad gods tower” evolved into Devil’s Tower. The government entity that manages place names officially proclaimed the monument Devils Tower and dropped the apostrophe due to their policy against possessive names. President Theodore Roosevelt designated Devils Tower as our country’s first national monument in 1906.
- Website link: Devils Tower National Monument
- The park is open 24 hours every day
- Cost: $25.00 per car for a 7-day pass – credit card only or purchase pass online
Note that parking at the visitor center is limited and can be difficult for maneuvering long RVs and travel trailers. Check the website for information regarding RV parking.
Things to do at Devils Tower
- Stop at Devils Tower Trading Post just before entering the park to pick up snacks or souvenirs and then take some postcard worthy shots of the tower
- Camp – RV and tent camping available at the Belle Fourche River Campground – first come only, no reservations
- Picnic – large picnic area with tables
- Hike – several trails available
- Join a ranger program or night sky program
- Visit the park’s resident prairie dogs at Prairie Dog Town
- Climb. Climbing is permitted with registration of climbers. Note: during the month of June when Native American rituals and religious services take place, climbers are asked not to climb due to the sanctity of the site.
Thank you so much for joining us on our road trip to Devils Tower!
Travel safe, travel smart, and we will see you down the road or at a national park.
Mike and Kellye
Need more US road trip inspiration? Click on these other exciting destinations:
Abilene, Texas Road Trip: Things to Do
Albuquerque to Taos Road Trip: Things to Do
10 Amazing Things to See and Do at Big Bend National Park
As always, we strive to be as accurate with our information as possible. If we made a mistake, it was unintentional. (Hey, we’re only human!) We aren’t paid for our recommendations, and we only recommend our own tried and true vendors and venues. Our suggestions are for places that we’ve heard good things about but haven’t visited personally, and our opinions are our own.
43 thoughts on “Devils Tower Road Trip: Things to Do”
How incredibly cool. We house sat for a couple last year who did a road trip across the country. They stopped in South Dakota and had inspired pictures to share. Rocking shots.
Thank you for checking it out, Ryan!
What an extensive and thorough guide! Very helpful!
This is a great guide for a short but incredibly interesting road trip. It might take me two weeks with all of the fun things to do on the way. Devils Tower is famous to me because of the movie Close Encounters of the Third Kind.
Thank you, John. Anyone close to our age will fondly remember Devils Tower because of Close Encounters. I still envision Richard Dreyfus with the mashed potatoes!
Badlands National Park… I immediately had images of Martin Sheen and Sissy Spacek in my head. Such a dramatic and (for me at least) pleasingly sinister landscape that I would love to experience someday. As for Devil’s Tower I was going to say Close Encounters too but John beat me to it. Rapid City looks really quaint and so clean, is that really the case? Or are those websites showing a somewhat airbrushed image? Anyway, this comment could go on and on as this is a road trip absolutely stuffed with things to do and see considering the relatively short distance. I love all the names of these places and the many more connections to iconic movies (Sundance Kid!) that there are.
Rapid City is nice, but we didn’t spend too much time in the city because there is so much to do outside of the city. We found some good places to eat there and enjoyed having a place to “go home” to after long days of touring the parks, etc. I don’t think any of us can see Devils Tower without thinking of Close Encounters. Mike and I had a lot of fun trying to figure out where things were filmed in the movie, and of course we hummed the song about a million times!
What a great list! So many wonderful things to do. I wonder how many Bridalveil Falls there are. We saw one in Yosemite.
Interesting you would say that about Bridal Veil Falls. Mike and I were just having that conversation last night. Our bet is that there are 100 or more in the US. Thanks for reading, Lyssy!
I agree! A bridal veil is a good way to describe a waterfall 🙂
Would love to see Mount Rushmore. Photos look like John Wayne and the US cavalry are going to come over the hill
We kept imagining tipis and buffalo during that trip. And because we spent a lot of time on the road, we spent a lot of time trying to decide what our Native American names would be… you know, if we actually were Native Americans. Thanks for reading!
I really love this corner of the country! It is such an underappreciated area that is packed full of interesting places to visit. The last time I visited Devil’s Tower it was covered in snow and it was just beautiful with the contrast. Great post!
Thank you, Meg! I (Kellye) bet it was gorgeous in the snow!
We are saving all this information, I want to see it all! Thank you so much for all of your advice!
Thank you for this post. We had talked about going that way when we left Michigan and onto Yellowstone. But then someone mentioned Sturgis to me, and I was like, Sturgis – what is that? 🙂 So, we decided to come home for a bit before heading to Yellowstone. We do plan to visit that area in the next year or two though, so I will definitely be referring back to your post. I think it would be fun to stop at the Full Throttle Saloon – just to say we have been there! I love all the links which make the info handy. I am also interested in the Vore Buffalo Jump. So much to see and do!
I hope you get to go, but you definitely don’t want to go during the motorcycle rally. Almost a million people show up in South Dakota for it. Mike has been to the rally, and he says it’s crazy. Have a lovely weekend!
You don’t have to worry about that! We will never go anywhere near Sturgis. 🙂 Hope you have a lovely weekend, too!
Fantastic guide to a very cool part of the world!
After the success of our first ever US road trip just now, we’re eager to pick up info ready for our next one. The biggest bikers’ bar in the world!? Wonderful waterfalls, Devil’s Tower, Mount Rushmore…yep, this one’s gotta go on the list!
It’s definitely a good one, and so close to many national parks!
Complete guide to explore close to Rapid City. Loved how you cover these places. These are some of the places I wish to travel in future. Thanks for the share.
Our pleasure, Vignesh!
Wow what an amazing route with so much to do – Badlands looks amazing and Devil’s Tower too. There are so many places in the US I’ve never heard of and would love to visit 🙂
We would love to have you visit our beautiful country someday. Hope you can.
This looks amazing! I would love to visit one day, very informative. Also I had no idea you guys have geysers over there!
Thanks, Wayne. Yes, we have geysers in Wyoming. Lassen Volcanic National Park in California has some geothermal activity but no geysers. Yellowstone National Park has the largest concentration of geysers in the world. It’s very otherworldly to see and smell (sulphur) them. Come on over…you would love it!
Oh wow that’s really fascinating, thanks for sharing. One day I will make it over all being well 🙏🏼.
I hope you had your photo taken with the Sundance Kid!
Actually, we didn’t:( Maybe next time!
Wow, I love this post, very informative! I am hoping my family can visit next summer 🙂 Thanks for sharing!
Our pleasure, Tara! Hope you can go. It’s a great road trip.
Love the last shot Kellye
Hopefully Mike is a faithful geyser
The names of the towns reminds me of all those Westerns I loved to watch when I was a kid
Thank you, Ali!
Thank you for sharing! I loved the pictures and learning about places that I have not been.
Our pleasure! Thanks for reading our post:)
I’m enjoying seeing your western itinerary…all the same stops I did two years ago with Devil’s Tower being the primary target and all the other stops built around it. DT was wish fulfillment for me since I’d waited most of my life since I was a kid to see it.
Thank you, Ray! There are so many more places we want to see too. Our goal is to visit all of the national parks. BTW, I am in the middle of your Headbangers Ball post:)
Great Post. It brings back memories from when we visited last year.