Hundreds of parallel cracks divide Devils Tower into large hexagonal columns. These features make it one of the finest traditional crack climbing areas in North America. The cracks vary in length and width: some are wide enough to fit your entire body, others barely have room for your fingers; the longest crack extends nearly 400 feet upwards.
Technical difficulty ratings range from 5.7 to 5.13; many modern climbers consider the oldest routes (Durrance and Wiessner) harder than their original ratings. The majority of routes at the Tower are not bolt protected and require the appropriate selection of camming devices or other temporary anchors. The few bolted face climbs that exist were established in the 1980s and 1990s; the condition of some bolts reflect that era.
Registration is required for all persons planning to climb or scramble above the boulder field; register before your climb, and deposit the return slip at the end of each climb. Registration is free and in the best interests of you and the climbing community: it ensures climber safety, documents use of the Tower as a climbing resource, and becomes part of a historical database that has been maintained since 1937.
Most climbers choose to self-register. This can be completed at the kiosk in the center of the paved parking area. Complete the left side of the card and keep the right side to deposit after your climb. You may also register in the climbing office, Visitor Center, or administration building.
Climbers are asked to park their vehicles in the lower gravel parking lot. This can be reached by taking a right at the stop sign when they reach the top of the park road.
The park employs climbing rangers, generally from late spring to early fall. Although they are not always in the office (they are climbers, after all), visitors wishing to consult experienced Devils Tower climbers can check in at the building on the west side of the paved parking lot. The climbing office has information on weather, hazards, routes, closures, climbing history and other climbing destinations. You may also contact the climbing office by phone at (307) 467-5283 x632.
Words of Wisdom
Climbing Management Plan
The Climbing Management Plan (CMP) for Devils Tower National Monument was released in February 1995. This plan provides direction for climbing activities at Devils Tower to protect the natural and cultural resources of the park.
A Climbing Management Plan Update was completed in 2006. The CMP Update clarifies points related to climber education, safety standards and climbing access routes. This update also continues the June voluntary climbing closure (see below).
Regulations are essential to protect the natural environment, the heritage and culture of American Indians, climbers, and the general public. The park asks all climbers to act responsibly by knowing and adhering to park regulations. The 1995 Climbing Management Plan and the 2006 CMP Update are available for the public.
June Voluntary Climbing Closure
American Indians have regarded the Tower as a sacred site long before climbers found their way to the area. As visitation increased and climbing became more popular, American Indian people have expressed concerns about recreational climbing at the Tower. Some perceive climbing on the Tower as a desecration to their sacred site.
A key element of the Climbing Management Plan is the June Voluntary Climbing Closure. The National Park Service advocates this closure to promote understanding and encourage respect for the culture of American Indian tribes affiliated with the Tower. June is a culturally significant time when many (but not all) Indian ceremonies occur. Although voluntary, this closure has been very successful - resulting in an 80% reduction in the number of climbers during June.
Throughout June, the park asks visitors to voluntarily refrain from climbing on the Tower or scrambling inside of the Tower Trail loop. Please consider the closure when planning a climbing trip to Devils Tower. Alternative climbing areas are located within 100 miles of Devils Tower National Monument. The Access Fund, a national climbing organization, fully supports the voluntary closure and the park's CMP.
Protect the Tower
The Tower base, sides and summit are fragile environments. Use established approach trails to climbing routes to protect the soils, plants and wildlife at the base of the Tower. Be mindful of animal homes and sensitive plants as you climb. Minimize your impact on the summit by stepping on rocks rather than plants or soil. Practice Leave No Trace ethics: stay on trails, respect other visitors, pack out all litter, etc. Human waste must be packed out (supplies are available at the visitor center bookstore).
Commercial Guide Services
Several climbing guide companies hold permits for operating at Devils Tower National Monument. You may download a list of commercial guides, contact the park, or search the internet for more information. When using a commercial guide service, make certain the company has a valid permit for guiding climbs at Devils Tower.
Establishing New Routes
Since the installation of new bolts and fixed pitons is prohibited, new route establishment is rare. This regulation must dictate the style of your ascent. If you do pioneer a new route or variation, climbers are asked to fill out a form available in the Climbing Office.