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.