I lived in Wisconsin for over 20 years. I’ve seen a lot of parts of the state, but embarrassingly enough there are still areas I haven’t explored much (it’s a big state, cut me some slack). Door County, Lake Geneva, Lake Superior, and Devil’s Lake State Park are all awesome places that top my “Wisconsin Bucket List”.
Last weekend I finally got the chance to tick one of those off the list: Devil’s Lake State Park!
Devil’s Lake State Park is actually only about an 1.5 hours from where I grew up. It’s well known by Wisconsinites as one of our state’s natural wonders. A beautiful clear lake nestled right between huge bluffs of glacial rocks and forest. Everyone who speaks of it always says how beautiful and serene it is. I’d always meant to visit, but just never got around to it (kind of like Myakka River State Park). When I told my college roommate Erin that I’d never been to Devil’s Lake she could hardly believe it. She immediately told me I had to see it so we scratched our plans to visit the Dane County Farmers Market (also a Wisconsin Bucket List worthy event, but I lived in Madison for a Summer so I’ve visited often) and set out for an early Saturday morning hike at Devil’s Lake.
About Devil’s Lake State Park
Devil’s Lake State Park is visited by over 3 million people each year and is located in Baraboo, Wisconsin, about an hour away from Madison, the state’s capitol city. It is Wisconsin’s largest state park and stretches for over 9,000 acres. It is famous for its 500 foot tall quartzite bluffs that sit right along Devil’s Lake. The bluffs were created completely by mother nature approximately 12,000 years ago during the last ice age. Due to the impressive geological history of Devil’s Lake the area has been used in geological research for many years.
Erin and I entered the Park from the South Shore. From there we started with the Balanced Rock Trail. This trail is only .4 miles long but it is a difficult hike with steep climbing on stone steps and rocks the entire way up. The approximate hike time is 1 hour (short, but brutal). The picture below is what the entire hike is more or less like.
From balanced rock we followed the signs and made our way to the ever popular Devil’s Door Way. This is one of the most iconic views of the entire park. We took some pictures and even stopped to rest here for a little bit to enjoy the view.
For our descent down we decided to take the CCC Trail to catch another view of the lake. This was a steep trail, but had a lot more trees and forest area.
Other things to do at Devil’s Lake State Park
Rock Climbing — Devil’s Lake offers some of the best rock climbing in the Midwest. During our hike we saw several rock climbers, some who were hobby rock climbers and others who were lead by a tour.
Swimming — the park has two very large sandy beaches located on both the north and south shores. There is a bathhouse and concession stand at each beach, but lifeguards are not provided.
Picnic areas — grills and children’s play areas including climbing gyms and slides are located throughout the park.
Water Activities — Devil’s Lake is a beautiful 360 acre lake with clear, clean water. Gas engine boats are not allowed. Canoes, kayaks and paddle boards are all available for rental at either side of the lake.
Biking — Bicycles are allowed on certain trails in the park, but will share those trails with hikers.
Cross Country skiing & Snow shoeing — over 5 miles of skiing trails with different loops ranging from beginner to moderate.
If you go
- Devil’s Lake State Park is daily open from 6 a.m. to 11 p.m. Visitor Center hours are from 8 a.m. to 11 p.m. daily in the summer and 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. in other seasons.
- There is a fee to enter the park. It’s technically a fee to park. Depending on how long you’re there and if your a resident or not, you’ll pay anywhere from $3 to $15.
- The park is split up two ways: The North Shore and the South Shore. The North Shore gets more sun and tends to be busier.
- There are 3 stores or concession buildings in the park: The North Shore Chateau, The Ice Age Store, and The South Shore Concessions. The North Shore Chateau & South Shore Concessions offer food & drinks, boat rentals, souvenirs, etc..
- Gasoline Motors are not allowed on the lake. Electric Motors only, maximum of 5 mph, no wake.
- Pets are welcome but need to be on a leash at all times unless it is a specific off-leash area.
- It tends to get very busy on the weekends. We purposely arrived early (right around 8am) and only saw a few other hikers and several rock climbers. It was getting super busy as we were leaving the park around 10:30 am.