Devil’s Lake is one of the most popular and scenic Wisconsin state parks. The picturesque bluffs and rocks that line this lake make Devil’s Lake a great place for many activities. Whether you want to go for a picturesque hike, have a beach day or rock climb, Devil’s Lake has a lot to offer. Located in central southern Wisconsin, about 45 miles northwest from Madison, Devil’s Lake State Park is an easy day trip or overnight camping trip from not only Madison but Milwaukee, La Crosse and Wausau as well. After visiting this park many times, here is our guide to visiting Devil’s Lake State Park.
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Devils Lake State Park Guide: Hike Around the Lake
If visiting Devil’s Lake State Park, make sure to go for at least one hike. We recommend that if you’re only doing one hike, that you hike around the entire lake, connecting the East Bluff and West Bluff trails. This loop hike is approximately 5 miles long with 1000 feet of elevation gain (highlighted in yellow on map below).
We recommend parking at the south shore parking lot at Devil’s Lake and then hiking counterclockwise starting on the East Bluff Trail. The beginning of the East Bluff trail from the south shore is the most difficult/technically challenging area of the hike. There are many steep and exposed rock ‘steps’ in this section whereas other up/down sections of this hike are a bit less steep and without such big rock drop offs. It is best to do this part of the hike going up as well with fresh legs. On this section of the East Bluff trail you will also go past the interesting balanced rock formation. We have hiked this loop around Devil’s Lake many times in different directions and think this is the best route to hike it. It will likely take you 2-3 hours to hike depending on your pace and how many breaks you take.
Looking to hike Devil’s Lake State Park with your baby? See our How to Hike with a Baby guide.
Other Recommended Devil’s Lake State Park Hikes
East Bluff Woods Trail
1.3 miles one way, flat but about 500 feet of elevation gain involved to reach the trail
Hike in the woods parallel to the East Bluff Trail. You will not get any bluff views on this trail. However, you will have this wooded trail mainly to yourself as this trail is much less busy than East Bluff Trail. You can make a loop out of the East Bluff Trail and the East Bluff Wooded Trail, starting and ending at the south shore parking lot or the north shore parking lot. We like this trail because there are very few people on it and it’s very peaceful. If you are visiting on a busy weekend, this might be a nice escape from the people. Additionally, if you are staying for more than one day, this loop serves as a great way to break up the elevation by doing the East and West Bluff trails on separate days.
Tumbled Rocks Trail
1 mile one way, flat
Hike along the lakeshore where you parallel yet remain below the West Bluff Trail. This is an easy flat hike and is a great option for anyone who does not want to hike very much elevation. This trail is almost completely in the sun though, so try to do it very early or make sure that you have good sun protection. You can also hike this trail in a loop with the West Bluff Trail or combine it with hiking around the lake on the East Bluff Trail or East Bluff Woods Trail.
2 miles, loop, 500 feet of elevation gain
This hike will take you past the impressive Devil’s Doorway rock formation. You can easily add reaching this spot onto hiking the Devil’s Lake loop too (see map, just off the East Bluff Trail). This hike requires some scrambling though and we would NOT recommend hiking it if baby wearing (which of late has been the only way we are hiking) or if you are afraid of heights/a rock scramble. This is a unique spot but can get very crowded on weekends. Last time we hiked this (without kids), it was so crowded it felt unsafe with little room to move. Try to hike this trail on a weekday or early in the day if possible.
0.7 miles, one way, 100 feet of elevation gain
This trail takes you through the woods and along some pretty rock formations. This is a bonus hike if you are looking for an easy walk through the woods. The other trails are more unique and we would recommend those over this one any day.
Visiting Devils Lake Guide: Devils Lake Beach
Devils Lake not only offers great hiking but also has several nice sandy beaches. You can spend some time at either the south shore beach or the north shore beach. The north shore beach is a bit busier and with a bit more infrastructure (larger concessions and more beach rentals). The south shore does not have as much infrastructure but is also a bit less busy. On the west side of the south shore beach, there is a beach area for dogs as well. Otherwise, dogs are not allowed in the main beach areas. Therefore, if you are bringing your dog, be sure to stick to the south shore on the west side where it is clearly marked that it is the pet beach. A boardwalk parallels this area as well, making it easy to differentiate from the rest of the beach.
We prefer the south shore beach over the north shore beach as we usually have our dog with us but both are very pretty and family friendly. If you are hiking around the whole lake, you will see both of these beaches. If you hike in the lake loop path in the direction we recommend, you will end up at the Devil’s Lake south shore beach, making it a natural relaxation spot after your hike. However, you can drive to either beach, making it easy to check out both.
Visiting Devil’s Lake State Park Guide: Go Camping
Pitch a tent or bring your camper to spend some more time at this park camping. There are plenty of camping spots. If you want to visit over particular dates, be sure to make your reservations early (can be made as early as 11 months in advance) to get the dates you want as this park is a very popular camping destination. Use this link to reserve a campsite.
Another option for overnight accommodations would be to stay in the Wisconsin Dells as that area is less than 30 minutes from the park and with many accommodations options.
Devil’s Lake State Park Guide: Go Rock Climbing
With all the pretty rock formations throughout Devils Lake State Park, there are plenty of places where you can go rock climbing. Natalie has gone rock climbing at Devil’s Lake with a friend who has a lot of experience rock climbing and all the gear. If you are new to rock climbing, or do not have any of the gear, you can hire someone to take you rock climbing. On our most recent trip, we saw several people rock climbing with guides they hired.
Here is a list of several outfitters/guides:
- Devils Lake Climbing Guides
- Apex Adventure Alliance: Devil’s Lake Rock Climbing Guides
- Midwest Mountain Guides
Devils Lake State Park Guide: Dog Friendly
As previously mentioned above, Devils Lake is dog friendly. There is a dog beach and dogs are allowed on the trails on a leash. They are also allowed at the campgrounds on a leash.
It is important to note though that some small dogs might not be able to climb up the rocks on parts of the trail very easily, particularly on the southside leading from the south shore parking lot up to the West Bluff Trail. Our 30 lb cavapoo is able to get up most of these rocks but some parts are a bit steep. We only had to carry him up one rock this last visit. If you have a smaller dog than that, you may have to carry them more. Be mindful of this, as it may be hard to keep your balance if you are carrying a dog. If this situation worries you, it might be best to leave your dog at home or avoid this trail.
Devils Lake State Park Guide: Bring Food
There is a concession stand at both the south and north entrance of the park but both have very limited options. We recommend you pack a picnic to enjoy at either the south or north shore beach where you have numerous picnic areas/tables to choose from. There are also some restaurants in the surrounding area but options are very limited as well.
Devils Lake State Park Guide: Use Wisconsin State Parks Pass
There is an entrance fee to every Wisconsin State Park ($8 per day). If you plan on visiting three or more state parks or one state park more than three times in the same calendar year, be sure to buy a Wisconsin State parks pass ahead of time. This pass is $28 (for WI resident, $35 non resident) and here is a link to buy the pass. We recommend buying this in advance. Depending on what time of day you arrive at any of the state parks, the entrance office may not be staffed and you will be left having to buy a day pass ($8, bring cash).
Looking to explore other Wisconsin State Parks? See our Dog Friendly Door County, Wisconsin Guide that details hiking in 3 different state parks in Door County. You may also enjoy reading our What to do Apostle Islands National Lakeshore for more information on Wisconsin travel.
We hope this guide helps you plan your trip to Devils Lake. Anything you’d add to our guide? We’d love to hear your feedback and questions. Please leave us a comment!
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