Hiking at Devil's Lake centers around the Lake itself. Options include easy, paved paths amongst the lakeshore talus slopes, rolling saunters amongst oak woodlands, and heart-thumping climbs along the 500-foot quartzite cliffs. On weekends and summer months, these trails are popular and well-used, but you can always find quiet serenity in the early morning hours, less-used trails and off-season months.
If you have already explored the main trails around Devil's Lake, it's worth hiking the longer trails east of main visitation area. Trails like Roznos Meadow and the Sauk Point Trail explore grasslands, wetlands, and riparian areas off the beaten path and provide longer distances for eager hikers.
You may see signs for the Ice Age National Scenic Trail around the Lake. The IANST is one of our country’s 11 National Scenic Trails, a 1,000-mile hiking trail stretching from Door County to the northwestern Wisconsin-Minnesota border. The Devils Lake section is maintained by a partnership between the Park and the volunteer-run Dane County Chapter of the Ice Age Trail Alliance. Helping build the Ice Age Trail is a fun, social, and physcial way to contribute to Devils Lake and the larger Ice Age Trail effort; see the Chapter's event calendar for opportunities to get involved.
Devil's Lake Hiking Trail Descriptions
Balanced Rock Trail - Strenuous (0.4 miles, 15 - 45 minutes)
A lakeshore-to-clifftop trail, Balanced Rock is a steep, uneven, blocky staircase ascending the quartzite talus slope from the South Shore Picnic area. During any summer weekend, hikers will likely encounter climbers at the Balanced Rock Wall, about 1/2-way up the trail. 100 steep yards further, signs point out Balanced Rock, the iconic trail namesake, perched precariouly above the climbs below. Balanced Rock is a great trail for scenic views, with lots of grand landscapes of Devils Lake, the South Bluff, and the South Shore beach area as the trail winds up the talus and in and out of the pines.
CCC Trail - Strenuous (0.3 miles, 15 - 45 minutes)
Built by the Civilian Conservation Corps in the 1930's, the CCC Trail is the steepest way to the clifftops at Devils Lake. The CCC Trail departs from a parking lot inside the Group Camp loop on the south shore and swiftly ascends the talus to gain the high views of the East Rampart. You may not FEEL swift on this trail, however, as the serious incline forces many hikers to catch their breadth along the way. At least the great views provide a good excuse!
The CCC Trail ends at the East Rampart, the largest and most popular climbing area at Devils Lake. Expect to see and hear lots of climbing activity near the top. Once you reach the top, head west on the East Bluff Trail to enjoy even more spectacular views of Devils Lake and see lots of climbing anchor systems along the cliff edge. If all the climbing activity inspires you, consider joining us for some rock climbing of your own!
Devil’s Doorway - Mild (0.1 miles, 5 minutes)
The Park lists this as an independent hike, but it’s more of a spur off the East Bluff trail. But what a spur! Devil’s Doorway is probably the most iconic formation at Devil’s Lake, a beautiful example of nature’s artistry. There's no better place to watch the sunset at Devils Lake, or to pose for that "we were there" family picture for the Christmas card.
Expect climbers lurking all about the Devil's Doorway bluffs, as there are a bevy of good routes on and beneath the Doorway formation. If you're lucky, you'll get to watch a party climb the Doorway itself.
East Bluff Trail - Moderate (1.7 miles, 45 - 90 minutes)
Connecting the North Shore and South Shore areas of Devils Lake State Park, the East Bluff Trail is one of two trails offering lofty, inspiring views of Devil's Lake and its tall, craggy bluffs. Departing from the east end of the North Shore Visitors’ Area is the easiest, most gradual way to reach the Devils Lake cliff tops.
The route mixes dirt trails with occasional stone stairways, all through a wonderful hardwood forest landscape with regular opportunities to see grand views of the Lake. While you gain 500 feet of elevation along the way, the East Bluff Trail is much more manageable then the heart-thumping Balanced Rock, Potholes, or CCC trails. Don’t miss Elephant Rock along the way!
East Bluff Woods Loop Trail - Mild/Moderate (3.4 miles, 2 - 3 hours)
This trail is makes a good loop hike with the East Bluff trail. Similar to the East Bluff Trail, the Woods Loop moderately ascends/descends the eastern flank of Devils Lake, but instead of following the cliff edge, the trail stays back in the woods with no views of the lake. Though the Woods Loop might have less dramatic flair, it provides a very nice stroll through a beautiful, open woodland with much less traffic than the more popular cliffside hikes.
Grottos Trail - Mild (0.7 miles, 20 - 30 minutes)
This level, gravel access trail runs parellel to the South Shore Road, serving mainly to connect the three steep ground-to-clifftop trails along the South Shore. Grotto Trail starts at the South Shore Parking Area, then heads east along the talus edge, spurring off to the Balanced Rock, Potholes, and CCC Trails. You can make a nice, mild woodsy loop by linking the Grottos Trail with the Group Camp Trail, about 1.5 miles total.
Group Camp Trail - Mild (0.5 miles, 15 - 20 minutes)
This access trail links the Group Camp area with the South Shore picnic and beach area. Rolling and mild with a few steps along the way, link this trail with the Grottos Trail for an easy, enjoyable loop hike.
Ice Age National Scenic Trail Loop - Moderate/Strenuous (13.7 miles, 8 - 10 hours)
The most ambitious hiking route at Devils Lake, the Ice Age Loop combines the Sauk Point, Johnson Moraine, West Bluff, East Bluff, and Roznos Meadow trails for a scenic, burly, and athletic trail day. Traversing meadowlands, wetlands, forests, cliffs, creeks, and rocky glens, there is no better way to get to know Devils Lake State Park. Bring lots of food and water, and wear good shoes!
See the Devils Lake Trail Map (above) for the complete Ice Age Loop, highlighted in a wide, gray line. The hike is actually not a loop, and requires a cars shuttle from Parfrey's Glen to the Roznows Meadown trailheads.
Johnson Moraine Loop Trail - Mild (2.8 miles, 60 - 90 minutes)
A moderate trail exploring the kettle-moraine country north of County DL, this is the northern-most trail at Devils Lake. The trail connects the Northern Lights and Ice Age campgrounds to Steinke Basin, creating good loop opportunities witht he Steinke Basin system. Excellent birding in the marsh sections of the Johnson Moraine Loop.
Parfrey’s Glen Trail - Moderate (0.7 miles, 15 - 30 minutes)
This moderate, gently ascending gravel footpath follows a small creek to locally famous Parfrey's Glen, the very first State Natural Area in Wisconsin. While a flood wiped out cherished trail interpretation and structures a few years ago, the Glen is still a sublime and intimate place where huge boulders and delicate ferns compliment and accentuate each other. A popular location for photographers, Parfrey's Glen is an example of the unique geologic features the Baraboo Range offers that you can't find many other places in Wisconsin. Visitors must stay on the trail to protect unique and endangered species in this State Natural Area. No food, drink or pets here.
Potholes Trail - Strenuous (0.3 miles, 20 - 30 minutes)
A natural Stairmaster, the stone steps of this steeply climbing trail provide a serious workout while taking you to the top of the East Rampart. Start from the north end of the South Shore parking lot, crossing the railroad track then heading east (right). Enjoy the flat, wooded Grottos Trail for a few minutes, then find a left turn (signed) heading straight up the bluff. The visual highlight of this trail is undoubtedly the natural stone hallway at Red Rocks, about 3/4 of the way up, where you are surrounded by tall, beautiful red Baraboo Quartzite. A huge pine grows inside the hallway; it is really neat, like being in Bryce Canyon National Park. Near the top, look for ancient rounded eroded potholes formed by swirling water and a cool, tight hallway through red quartzite faces. The upper end of the Potholes Trail emerges just east of the famous Devil's Doorway.
Roznos Meadow Trail - Mild/Moderate (1.8 miles, 45 - 90 minutes)
The park’s newest trail, an easy grassy walk through a prairie restoration project in the valley with a great view of a glacial terminal moraine, then ascends/descends through the woods to join the Uplands Trail.
Sauk Point Trail - Moderate/Strenuous (4.5 miles, 2 - 4 hours)
Connects the main body of Devil's Lake State Park with Parfrey's Glen, Wisconsin's first State Natural Area. The trail follows wooded ridges and hollows through reclaimed forest acreage. About half-way, the trail nears Sauk Point, the highest point in the Baraboo Hills (look for the tall cell phone tower to the north), in an open meadowy clearing. On a clear day, you can see the Wisconsin River and even Blue Mounds in the far distance.
Steinke Basin Loop Trail - Mild (2.4 miles, 1 - 2 hours)
The Steinke Basin trail system consists of wide gravel/grass trails that serve as cross-country ski route during winter. Level and easy, paths cross meadows and woodlands, with occasional small stream crossings along the way. Steinke Basin holds a number of small bouldering areas which require some route-finding to locate, but are fun diversions from the hordes during the busy season.
Tumbled Rocks Trail - Mild (1.0 mile, 20 - 45 minutes minutes)
Tumbled Rocks is a gorgeous lake-level meander through the lower West Bluff talus field, with fine Lake views and relatively flat terrain. As the most accessible and popular hike at Devils Lake, Tumbled Rocks can get crowded on busy weekends, but there are lots of opportunities along the shore or amongst the talus to find a quiet nook to sit and watch the world go by.
Uplands Loop Trail - Moderate (3.8 miles, 75 - 120 minutes)
A high loop trail with some limited vistas, then partly in grassy meadows near Steinke Basin. Can view the Wisconsin River and Lake Wisconsin if you know where to look. Mountain bikes may travel this loop, so keep your eyes and ears peeled for speedy wheelers, especially around corners.
West Bluff Trail - Moderate/Strenuous (1.4 miles, 60 - 90 minutes)
Trail with numerous but moderate ups and downs with scenic views of the lake from atop the West Bluff; many stone steps at the north end, and a steep ascent at the south end.te for local dining. Minutes away from the North Shore Entrance, the LVC sits on Baraboo’s quaint town square and offers a beautiful combination of ambiance, menu, and beverages.