I got to spend some time in this area when my family and I went to visit Wisconsin Dells. My children were still young and we all had a very good time in this area. Devil’s Lake State Park is about 19 miles south of the Wisconsin Dells area, so it was a short drive to see this Park. Devil’s Lake State Park is the most visited state park in Wisconsin, offering magnificent views of the 360-acre Devil’s Lake from 500-foot high quartzite bluffs. Devil’s Lake State Park is about 10,000 acres in size. It’s a popular destination for camping, hiking, trail running, boating and fishing. The 29 miles of hiking trails offer you stunning views of the lake and miles of solitude into the less popular wilderness. It’s also part of the 1,000-mile Ice Age National Scenic Trail connecting various parks across the state. Devil’s Lake State Park draws around 1.3 million people a year. Some people have said that Devil’s Lake State Park reminds them of a shrunken version of Yosemite National Park in northern California.
The name of Devil’s Lake State Park is thought to be either a reference to its otherworldly rock formations or a mistranslation of the original Ho-Chunk (Indian tribe) name or a clever bid to attract tourists. The area where the park now stands was first settled by pioneers in the mid-1800s. By the start of the 20th century, the area had become a popular vacation destination for wealthy families from Chicago and Madison. The first hotel was established in 1866, 50 years before the park was founded. No trace of this hotel remains. The Park was a resort area until 1904, with guests arriving on a rail line that still hugs the east shore. The state park was established only seven years later (1911), but three private cottages still occupy a corner of the west shore. From 1934 to 1941, approximately two hundred members of the Civilian Conservation Corps resided in a work camp. These young men built many of the trails, buildings, and benches still in use today. In 1974, the National Park Service declared the Southern portion of the Baraboo Hills (of which Devil’s Lake State Park is a part) a National Natural Landmark.
For rock climbers, Devil’s Lake is one of the top destinations in the Midwest. With 100-foot tall quartzite cliffs, the park offers terrain difficult to find anywhere else that far from the Rockies. There are more than 2,000 climbing routes of all skill levels to choose from in the park. Climbing areas include the East Bluff, West Bluff, South Bluff and Sandstone Bluff, with the greatest number of routes on the east and west bluffs. The highest number of routes—and most popular spot—is the East Rampart, a long band of the cliff which also features the longest climb in the park. The park has several American Indian mounds. Across the parking lot from the nature center are effigy mounds built in stylized animal shapes, such as a lynx and a sparrow. In front of the concession building is a linear mound, one of several geometric mounds in the park. These mounds were used as ancient burial sites by early North Americans. The nature center offers courses on the history of the effigy mounds
—- Location —-
Devil’s Lake State Park is located in Southcentral Wisconsin less than 10 miles South of Baraboo, Wisconsin. If you are driving and coming from the South on I-90/94: Take Exit 106 onto Hwy 33. Travel west to Baraboo. At 2nd stoplight, turn left on Hwy 123 South. Follow Hwy 123 south 3 miles to park entrance.
If you are driving and coming from the North on I-90/94: Take Exit 92 onto Hwy 12 East. Travel south about 10 miles to Hwy 159 East. Turn left on Hwy 159 East and proceed for approximately 2 miles to Hwy 123 South. Turn right on Hwy 123 South and follow to the park entrance. Madison, Wisconsin is the nearest city of any size that has a regional airport. If you are coming from Madison, Wisconsin to the Park, get on US-12 and follow it west (actually northwest on the map) for about 37 miles. Look for Ski Hi Road and turn east and follow it for 3 miles. When you intersect with South Shore Road turn left and stay on that road for 1.2 miles. Turn right onto Park Road for .6 miles and follow the signs into the Park.
—- Park Camping —-
Devils Lake has 4 different campgrounds with a total of 407 campsites. 9 of those campsites are for group campgrounds on the southeast side of Devil’s Lake. There are 136 modern sites with electric (up to 50A) and some of those sites will accommodate vehicles up to 70 feet in length. There are 200 tent sites here among the campgrounds on the northeast side of Devil’s Lake. 4 of those sites have electric hookups. There are also 2 tepee’s to rent. There is a nice campstore in the Ice Age campground that has groceries, camping supplies, ice, firewood, and souvenirs. Otherwise, all campsites have tables, grills, water, toilets, shower facilities, dump stations, pet-friendly and there is a boat launch here (no motors allowed on boats). Here is a link to the State Parks campground webpage for more information.
—- Free Camping —-
Based on https://freecampsites.net/#!devils%20lake%20st%20park%20wisconsin there are 5 free campgrounds within 37 miles of Devil’s Lake State Park.
—- Area Camping —-
—- Hiking & Biking —-
11 miles of the Ice Age National Scenic Trail passes through this State Park. The Devil’s Lake Segment of the Ice Age Trail connects directly to the IAT Sauk Point Segment heading westbound, and directly to the IAT Merrimac Segment heading eastbound. Along all of these trails, you will find the signature yellow rectangle blaze that indicates you are on the Ice Age Trail. Devil’s Lake has over 29 miles of hiking trails for any skill level. The trails vary in condition and difficulty from easy to challenging and are not maintained in the winter months. Steep climbs or descents and stairways are common on Devil’s Lake’s hiking trails. Only about 1.5 miles of park trails are considered accessible for people with disabilities. Mountain Biking is only allowed on the Uplands Loop and a connector trail which provides about 8 total miles of bike trail at Devil’s Lake State Park. The Steinke Basin Loop section of the trail offers some medium effort sections on occasionally mowed grass trails, but cyclists will soon find themselves climbing over 200 feet to ride the fairly challenging top of the Uplands Trail. Dirt, mud, loose rock and gravel, ruts, embedded boulders and fallen trees can create potential hazards on sections of the trail.
— Things to Do —-
Devil’s Lake State Park in Baraboo, Wisconsin offers some of the best rock climbing in the Midwest along with some of the best climbing guides, instructors, and Outfitters. Guides offer private and group climbing trips, anchors courses, bouldering and traditional lessons for everyone from beginners on up. For decades Devil’s Lake State Park has been one of Wisconsin’s most popular scuba diving destinations. With a maximum depth of about 45 feet, clear water, a fish-filled rocky shoreline and no motor boats Devil’s Lake is an ideal dive location. Most diving takes place on the northeast side of the lake by the furthest parking lot past the East Bluff Trail Head. Wisconsin Dells (city and theme parks) is located less than 20 miles to the north of the Park. The day we went there with my young children it was cool (to go to a waterpark) but they didn’t mind and had a good time there anyway.
—- References —-