A wide, windswept plain near dusk. Two riders on horseback approach a city with high walls. They ride slowly; they are in no hurry to get back. Meanwhile, inside the city, men in tuxedos, women in evening gowns, and servants carrying food and bottles of expensive wine pace back and forth on the walls, coming and going as if at a party. Torches are lit as the sun goes down. Every once in a while, the men look anxiously beyond the walls to see if anyone is approaching. There are no trees in sight, only low brush as far as the eye can see. The brush vibrates as the wind begins to pick up.
The description above is only one highly subjective way of visualizing the setting of "All Along the Watchtower." Obviously, much has been added; Dylan only provides the bare bones of a scene, and the listener's imagination has to provide the rest. Parts of the song seem to call to mind the American Old West, with riders on horseback, wildcats, and long stretches of empty land. Parts of it seem like Biblical times, like the barefoot servants, the walled city, and the wealthy princes. Parts of it could refer to contemporary American life or even to the watchtowers of Vietnam. Somehow it all fits together into a single vision – just not a strictly realistic one.