Baraboo Hills are the remnants of an ancient mountain range in south central Wisconsin. While the hills are not exactly a world class mountain range, they are a very welcomed change from the monotonous flatlands of the American midwest.
The focal point of the range is Devil's Lake, a pristine stream-fed lake without a surface outlet that is one mile long (NS) by 0.6 mile wide (EW) and sits at an elevation of 960 ft. To the east, west and south, the lake is bound by bluffs that rise to an elevation of 1450 ft (highest point:1467 ft on top of West Bluff). The bluffs are made of cliffs and large talus fields and are partially covered by a forest of White Pines, Mountain Ash and Birch trees.
Countless cliffs with illustrious names such as: Balanced Rock, Leaning Tower, Aladin's Castle... seem oddly out of place in the middle of Wisconsin, a state that is known as "America's Dairyland" bringing to mind images of flat farmlands in every direction. A rock formation on top of the East Bluff that is known as Devil's Doorway, is somewhat reminiscent of Utah's Delicate Arch. The hard quartzite cliffs provide the best rock climbing opportunities in the midwest. Interested climbers should obtain a copy of the book: "Climber's Guide to Devil's Lake" by Sven Olof Swartling. This book will introduce the reader to more than 1600 routes (or click HERE
for a link to a related site).
20 miles of trails crisscross Devil's Lake State Park. The hikes vary from easy strolls on flat terrain in the forests, meadows or along the shoreline, to fairly strenuous hikes up relatively steep trails that lead to the top of the east and the west bluffs. Swartling's book gives a very brief description of these hikes. The trail that takes the hiker through the most "alpine-like" environment is the Balanced Rock Trail (see Routes). This trail provides the shortest way to the top of the east bluff where one can have great views of the lake and have easy access to Devil's Doorway. The south bluff does not have any trails and will appeal to the more adveturous hiker or those who seek solitude.
Canoeing, picnicing, moutain biking, swimming and cross country skiing are also popular. Click Here
for more info.
Expect big crowds over the summer weekends.
Evidence suggests that Native Americans lived near Devil's Lake right after the melting of the Ice Age Glaciers more than 10000 years ago. Signs of mound building activity dating back 600-1200 years can be found right on the shores of the lake which was known by various names that loosely translate as "Holy Lake", "Mystery Lake", "Bad Spirit Lake"...European settlers appeared in the 1830s. Much of the land around the lake was unsuitable for agriculture so it remained unsettled. The recreational potential of the lake, however, did not go unnoticed. The coming of railroad in 1873 brought thousands of tourists to the area. Stone quarrying and the rapid growth of resorts caused many concerned citizens to seek the establishment of a state park. In 1911, their efforts paid off when Devil's Lake was established as Wisconsin's third state park. Much of the trails and the infrastructure of the park date back to the 1930s when a group of 200 Civilian Conservation Corp workers brought significant improvements to the park.
Devil's Lake State Park is prominently displayed on all maps of Wisconsin.
From Madison, drive Route 12 to Sauk City where you cross the Wisconsin River. Immediately after the river, turn right on Route 78 and follow it till you reach Route 113. Turn left (north) on 113. After a mile or two you will find the South Lake Drive on the left which will lead you to the south shore of the lake. Distance from Madison is roughly 40 miles.
Daily or yearly park entrance fees required. Click HERE
for current rates or call (608) 356-8301.
Camping is available in the park but spots are hard to find. Call (608) 356-8301 or see the link under Red Tape.
Lodging available in the nearby town of Baraboo.
Route descriptions, information and photos of popular climbs at Devil's Lake.
- Climbing Central
Description of routes, map, photos and other inforamtion about climbing at Devil's Lake.
- Chicago Mountaineering Club
The CMC sponsors Outings at Devil's Lake every other weekend duing the summer. The outings are open to non-members as well. CMC members enjoy unlimited access to a very nice private campground at Devil's Lake.
- Devil's Lake State Park
This may take a while to load, but it's an excellent park map.