Great America Road Trip Day 27: Joyner Ridge and Red Beds Trails

After yesterday’s short hike around Bear’s Lodge, I wasn’t quite ready to leave this magnificent monolith. So I got up early to go on another hike in Devil’s Tower National Monument. We were camped at the KOA campground which is located right next to the entrance. It’s nice to be able to let Daniel sleep in while I go off on my own adventures.

I flashed my America the Beautiful pass at the gate attendant and walked in the park. Bear’s Lodge, also known as Devil’s Tower, dominated the skyline ahead of me. I walked along the road for about 10 minutes until I came to a trail crossing. Here, I was finally able to access the park’s network of hiking trails.

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Walking into Devil’s Tower National Monument along the entrance road
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Trail sign for the Red Beds Trail

Red Beds Trail

My plan for the morning to was to check out the Red Beds Trail. A 2.8-mile loop around Bear’s Lodge, the Red Beds Trail is longer and less popular than the Tower Trail.

The hike features great views Bear’s Lodge from every possible angle as well as the Belle Fourche River Valley down below. The highlight of the trail, however, is the collection of interesting red soil beds on the eastern end of the loop. These are red badlands and are clearly visible from the entrance road when driving into the monument.

Since I joined the trail at the southeastern part of the loop and headed counter-clockwise, I got to see the red badlands almost immediately. I don’t think I’ve seen dirt such a bright color before. It’s an interesting preview of what we’ll see at Badlands National Park in a few days.

The red badlands comprised a very small portion of the Red Beds Trail, however, and soon I was heading north. Not long afterwards, I came upon a trail junction for the Joyner Ridge Trail.

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Red badlands and Belle Fourche river as viewed from the entrance road
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Belle Fourche River valley
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Red beds
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Red Beds Trail
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Red Beds Trail Junction

Joyner Ridge Trail

After debating for a moment, I decided to go check out Joyner Ridge. I’d heard that the views of Bear’s Lodge are quite spectacular from the ridge. The vantage point is from a bit further away which is a nice change.

So I trekked along the connector trail until I reached the Joyner Ridge Trail. This hike is a 1.5-mile loop along the northern boundary of the park that follows Joyner Ridge and loops into a draw below.

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Red Beds – Joyner Ridge Connector Trail
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The Trail up Joyner Ridge

I headed uphill and soon I was on the ridge, taking in the glorious views of Bear’s Lodge. A bench is conveniently located at the top and I sat there for a while enjoying the view.

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View of Bear’s Lodge from Joyner Ridge
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A lovely spot for a break
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What a view!

Eventually I continued along the loop until I reached the Joyner Ridge Trailhead and parking area. Only one car was parked here this morning. From there it was a short walk back to the connector trail.

What a nice little trail! I’m glad that I bothered to check it out. This was my favorite part of the entire day. I only passed one other person and really got a feel for the different ecosystems present in the area.

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Bear’s Lodge as viewed from the Joyner Ridge Trailhead
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Another lovely spot for a break
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Joyner Ridge Trail

Red Beds Trail … Continued

Soon I was back on the Red Beds Trail along the northern part of the loop and heading west. Here, the trail drew closer to the Tower Trail and I could actually see people on it.

As the trail neared the main parking lot, I could hear the sounds of traffic along the main road. Before long, I arrived at same parking lot where we were last night. This is where the official trailhead for Red Beds is located.

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Back on the Red Beds Trail
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Bear’s Lodge as viewed from Red Beds Trail
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Another view of Bear’s Lodge

The place was absolutely packed with people. The Tower Trail, in particular, was especially crowded. I’m so glad that we hiked it last night rather than attempting it on a Saturday morning.

After filling my water bottles at the drinking fountain, I found the Red Beds Trail again and escaped the madness. Immediately, I was plunged back into the tranquility of the woods.

The rest of my hike was downhill and fairly easy going. I especially enjoyed the views of the Belle Fourche valley from this side of the tower. The one downside, however, was that I could both see and hear the traffic along the entrance road on this side. There were a lot of motorcycles here today and they were really loud.

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Belle Fourche River Valley
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Descending back towards the entrance
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Hiking along the west side of Red Beds Trail
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Bear’s Lodge as viewed from the west side of Red Beds Trail

As I returned to the entrance, I could see a long line of cars waiting to get in the park. Once again, I was glad we didn’t attempt to enter the park on a Saturday morning.

What a great hike. According to my hiking app, I hiked a total of 6.7 miles today. It was a great workout and just what I needed after being cooped up in the cabin last week.

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Cars lined up at the entrance to Devil’s Tower National Monument. This is why you shouldn’t arrive on a Saturday afternoon!
My hiking route along the Red Beds and Joyner Ridge Trails

Where are we now?

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We are at Bear’s Lodge (Devil’s Tower National Monument)

Date: August 1, 2020
Great American Road Trip Status: Day 27

Starting Location: Devil’s Tower KOA Campground, WY
Ending Location: Big Pine Campground, SD
Miles Traveled: 124.4
Total Trip Mileage: 2851.5

For more details on our Great America (Socially Distanced) Road Trip, see my previous posts:

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