Summer Expectations as Devils Tower Experiences Record-Breaking Visitation

Jim Bowen, Flickr

DTNM 5-8-21

Following the busiest fall and winter on record, visitation continues to climb at Devils Tower National Monument. Recreation visits September 2020 through April 2021 were up 46% over the five year-average for the same time period.  This equates to nearly an additional 50,000 visitors.  The visitation trend is expected to continue throughout the summer season.

Visitors should expect modified operations that are subject to change based on future conditions and public health guidance. To protect the health of those who live, work, and visit national parks and National Park Service (NPS) facilities, face coverings are required in all park building and facilities.  Masks are also required when physical distancing cannot be maintained, including trails and parking lots.  Please do not visit if you are sick or were recently exposed to COVID-19.  

On May 15, the Belle Fourche River Campground and picnic area will open. The park bookstore is open Tuesday through Saturday.  Guided ranger programs will not be available for the foreseeable future. Rangers will be roving park trails and parking lots. Visitors are encouraged to plan ahead and arrive early.

Work continues on a construction project to improve physical accessibility to the visitor center, Tower Trail, restroom, parking, and parking lot walkways. Visitors are to use caution around this area and patience is greatly appreciated.

Rock climbers should be aware that some of the over 200 routes on the Tower are temporarily closed due to nesting falcons (closures are posted online and at the climber registration kiosk). Peregrine Falcons use the Tower to raise their chicks and routes are closed for the protection of climbers and the birds.

The annual voluntary June climbing closure at Devils Tower will begin on June 1 and run through June 30. During the month, visitors are strongly discouraged from climbing, out of respect for the cultural and spiritual significance of the Tower. 

The closure zone includes all areas inside the loop of the Tower Trail.  This voluntary closure was an agreement reached during the development of the park’s Climbing Management Plan by a work group that included representatives from climbing organizations and American Indian tribes. The Final Climbing Management Plan (1995) established the June closure as a way to balance the cultural significance of the Tower with its history as a unique world-class rock climbing destination. The Access Fund, a nonprofit organization working to maintain access to climbing areas and protect the climbing environment, fully supports the voluntary climbing closure in support of these interests.

Over 20 American Indian tribes consider Devils Tower a sacred place.  Activities and ceremonies occur in the park throughout the year; however, the month of June is an especially significant time for traditional tribal ceremonial expression. Climbers are asked to consider tribal perspectives and to seek out other climbing in the region during the month of June.