Founded in 1911, Devil's Lake is the third oldest state park in Wisconsin, the largest, and the most visited. Devil's Lake offers magnificent views from 500-foot quartzite bluffs overlooking a 360-acre lake. Enjoy lakeshore picnic areas, sandy swimming beaches, 29 miles of hiking trails, or ease into the backcountry solitude. Devil's Lake is a beautiful year-round park with an intriguing natural history along the 1,000-mile Ice Age National Scenic Trail.
Activities and recreation
There are 29 miles of trails in the park, ranging from easy strolls along a paved pathway along the lakeshore, to a rocky hiking ascent up the south face of the East Bluff. With several different trail segments, visitors can choose a hike of varying length that includes vistas, woods, meadows, glacial moraines, talus slopes and ridgetop backwoods.
The park has 1.5 miles of trail that are accessible for people with disabilities. These include Tumbled Rocks Trail (the roughly paved northern half may be accessible to strollers and wheelchairs with adventurous attendants), Grottoes Trail (fairly smooth and level with a fine gravel surface), a sidewalk and wooden boardwalk along the south shore of the lake and the paved pathways in both the north and south shore day use areas.
Pets must be on a leash 8 feet or shorter at all times.
The park has four miles of off-road bike trails—the Upland Trail Loop. Trails open to bikers are so posted. A state trail pass is not required to use the mountain bike trails. Bicyclists must use caution and give hikers the right-of-way. There are no official paved road-bike trails in the park, although many people enjoy riding several miles on all the paved campground roads. Many of the roads in the park and surrounding areas are not biker friendly, since roads are often narrow, hilly and winding, with guardrails and narrow shoulders. A 2-mile paved bicycle trail extends from the park's north shore entrance to the city of Baraboo.
Many people rock climb and boulder at Devil's Lake but the park is not maintained for rock climbing; do it at your own risk. No permits are issued; particular areas or routes are not reservable. The park neither prohibits nor promotes rock climbing in the park. Climbers may encounter loose rocks. Every year there are some accidents and injuries, rarely involving trained and experienced climbers. Most accidents involve inexperienced people unfamiliar with standard safety precautions and those who have been using alcohol. Rock climbing instruction groups come to the park, but the park does not maintain information about these private businesses.
Devil's Lake State Park has three regular campgrounds with a total of 423 sites that each accommodate a family or one to six individuals. Only sites 1-10 are first-come, first-served. There are also nine group campsites that can accommodate a total of 240 campers.
Devil's Lake campgrounds
Each campsite has a picnic table, gravel or paved area for parking, room for at least one family tent and a metal fire ring. Campsites are not within sight of the lake. Quartzite campground is open year-round. The Northern Lights and Ice Age campgrounds typically close in October and re-open about April.
Quartzite campground (sites 1-100) is mostly open and grassy, with medium/large trees scattered throughout the grounds. Many campsites have a nearby tree for some limited shade or are on the perimeter near (but not in) the surrounding woods. There are both electric (75 sites) and non-electric campsites. Many of the largest recreational vehicles end up in Quartzite campground because the sites are more open and spacious. The campground has a dump/fill station. There is a playground near site. One campsite available for people with disabilities.
Access is from the entrance road near the Nature Center or directly from County Road DL. The campground is about 0.33 miles from the lakeshore, separated by a wooded hill, the park entrance road and the main day use picnic area. This campground was established in 1969. It had previously been a 9-hole golf course.
Northern Lights campground
Northern Lights campground (sites 104-246) has a variety of campsites and vegetation, with both electric (71 sites) and non electric sites and open/grassy sites and wooded sites. This is the only campground where you will find wooded electric campsites. The campground has a dump/fill station. The campground is about 0.50 miles from the lakeshore. There is a playground near site 140. Two sites are available for people with disabilities.
This campground is the oldest campground at Devil's Lake State Park, opened in 1939. Three of the four shower/restroom buildings were built by the Civilian Conservation Corps in the 1930s.
Ice Age campground
Ice Age campground has only non-electric campsites. It has two sections, both north of County Road DL. Lower Ice Age (sites 301-390) is partly wooded and partly open and grassy. There is a concession-operated campground store in the lower campground. Upper Ice Age (sites 401-535) is completely wooded. There are three sites available for people with disabilities. The Ice Age campground is about one mile from the lake.
Most campers in this campground use tents or pop-up campers, although recreational vehicles also are allowed. There are two running water rest room and shower buildings and seven pit toilet buildings in Ice Age campground.
Nine group campsites can accommodate a total of 240 campers. Three of the sites, accommodating 20 campers each, are rustic and have not been cleared of trees or shrubs.
Picnicking and shelters
There are major day use picnic areas on both the north and south shores of Devil's Lake. Each area has tables, drinking water (in season) and grills. Two enclosed shelters and other open air shelters are available for rental.
Boating, canoeing and kayaking
Two no-fee boat landings are available at the park; on the north shore near the Chateau and along Park Road between the north and south shores.
Only electric motors are allowed. Boats and canoes may be rented at the park's concession areas. A specially adapted kayak is available for use by people with disabilities. Life preservers are required for each occupant in all boats, including rubber rafts.
There are two beaches, one at each end of the lake, totaling 3,300 feet in length. Each beach has a bath house. Lifeguards are not provided.
Swimmer's itch is reported here almost every year. Signs will be posted near the swimming areas when the organisms that cause it are present. If you swim in Devil's Lake in early summer, rub briskly with a towel right after leaving the water. Showering may also help.
SCUBA diving is popular. Diving flags are required. Never dive alone.
Many anglers come to the park for fishing either from the lake shore or by boat (electric motors only). The lake is home to brown trout, walleye and northern pike, bass and panfish. A fishing license is required for anyone age 16 or over and a trout stamp is required for trout fishing.
Anglers of any age may check out basic fishing equipment free of charge at the park office. This equipment was donated by the Tackle Loaner Program. Call the park office to find out what equipment is available.
Hunting and trapping
Hunting and trapping are allowed in the open areas of the park during the Wisconsin state parks hunting and trapping time frame. Trapping is not permitted in closed areas as noted on the park hunting map or within 100 yards of any designated use area, including trails. Certain trap types are restricted on state park properties.
Trails are not maintained for winter use but are not closed. Trails may be snow and ice covered, muddy and slippery during winter. When there is snow, the Steinke Basin Loop trail is periodically packed for easier travel - it is open to all non-motorized users, including skiers, hikers and snowshoers.
The lake freezes over for about three months each winter. Park staff does not monitor or measure the thickness of the ice on the lake's surface. Ice thickness can vary from day to day and from location to location.
In addition to skiing, snowshoeing and ice fishing, visitors also enjoy dog sledding, building igloos, geocaching and orienteering courses. The Nature Center is open on some Saturdays in winter.
Skiers may travel anywhere in the park, though there are no groomed or tracked cross-country ski trails exclusively for skiers. The park does not rent or loan skis.
Snowshoeing is allowed anywhere in the park, though most of the bluff trails are hilly or have steps, and not ideal for snowshoeing. The Nature Center has snowshoes available for free loan on a first-come, first-served basis. Call first to confirm availability and open hours.
Ice fishing is popular at Devil’s Lake. In winter, savvy anglers catch brown trout, northern pike and other fish.