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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Where are we now?
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: