About half a million years ago the eastern half of Wisconsin was pummeled flat by glaciers. The western half, which escaped this brutal punishment, is home to some of the most beautiful, primeval and unique scenery on earth – the driftless region.
One of the best ways to explore this geologic wonderland is with a trip to Devil’s Lake State Park. With its stunning bluffs, winding trails and clean lake, Devil’s Lake is Wisconsin’s largest and most popular state park with over one million visitors each year. Devil’s Lake itself was formed 15,000 years ago when the Wisconsin Glacier deposited two rock dams creating a lake from an ancient river. Today, the quartzite bluffs tower 500 feet above the surrounding lake.
This state park has something for everyone: large, wooded campgrounds, swimming, hiking, biking, fishing and rock climbing. (We here at L&A can’t speak for the last two, but we thought we should mention it.) The hiking is the real draw: 29 miles of paths spread out over 17 trails will keep you coming back for more.
The east side of the lake is home to the more popular, but also more difficult trails. The East Bluff Trail ascends 500 feet up (gradually, but still – whew!) to offer a stunning panoramic view of the surrounding area. Continue on past Balanced Rock, and make your way back down along the rocky steps of the Potholes Trail. From here you can loop back along the East Bluff Woods Trail. Depending on your pace and how often you stop to enjoy the views, this is a pretty good hike for an afternoon.
The western side of the lake is the road less traveled. Start by hiking up the West Bluff Trail and loop back along the lake on the paved and flat Tumbled Rocks Trail. This loop is shorter and less strenuous, but no less scenic than the east side trails.
Dress appropriately. The trails can be steep so good footwear is a must. You will probably work up quite a sweat, so make sure you dress in layers and bring plenty of water. Know your limitations as some of the trails can be difficult (Potholes Trail, we’re looking at you).
Devil’s Lake can be popular, but do not get discouraged: it is a big park and there is plenty of room for everyone. So what if you have to park your car a little further away? You are there to hike, right?
Wisconsin State Parks require an admission sticker that can be purchased at the park office. Open from 6am-11pm daily.
Consider a stop at Dr. Evermor’s on your way to or from the park to check out a truly unique sculpture garden.
Camp here for a weekend or just make a day trip out of it; either way, you will have an unforgettable experience.