Devils Lake State Park 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.
Hiking the park trails in autumn.
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 picnic areas.
Pets must be on a leash 8 feet or shorter at all times.
The park has five miles of off-road bike trails—the Upland Trail Loop and the connector between Steinke Basin and the north shore picnic area. 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.
Picnicking and shelters
There are three major picnic areas, two on the north shore and one at the south shore of Devil's Lake. Each picnic area has tables, water and grills. Two enclosed shelters and three open air shelters are available for rental. Shelters at Devil's Lake State Park.
Boating, canoeing and kayaking
Kayaking at Devil's Lake.
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.
The nature center has a limited supply of fishing tackle to borrow.
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. For more information, please see:
Limited Access for Spring Turkey Hunting: Each turkey hunter must first obtain a Turkey Permit and property map (identifying those areas closed to hunting within the park properties), prior to spring turkey hunting. Hunters must apply for a turkey permit by application. Applications cost $3 and are available at any license sales agent or through the on-line service center. For questions, call: 1-877-WI-LICENSE (1-877-945-4236). The application deadline for the spring hunt is December 10. Successful applicants will be notified via mail. After the lottery drawing occurs, remaining turkey permits will be sold over-the-counter on a first-come, first-served basis.
Cross-country skiing at Devil's Lake.
Photo by Gabriel Hesed
When there's enough snow, seven miles of cross-country ski trails are open, with two different loops ranging from beginner to moderate for classic-style skiers. The ski trails start in the Steinke Basin meadow, then wind their way through oak, ash, hickory, and maple forests. Some years, trails are skiable all winter from December through early March. Other years, there is not enough snow to even groom trails during the winter. Trails are not groomed or tracked on a daily basis. When time allows, park staff try to groom the ski trails after any major snowfall and before all weekends.
Cross-country ski trails are designated for the use of skiers only. Hikers, pets, and snowshoers are not allowed on the cross-country ski trails when the trails are snow covered. Walking on the ski trails destroys the groomed surface needed for recreational skiing. A trail pass is not required for cross-country skiing at Devil's Lake, but a vehicle admission sticker is required on all parked vehicles. Skis are not provided or rented at the park.
Hikers, snowshoers, or those with dogsleds or pets may explore several miles of trails that are not groomed for skiing. None of the park's hiking trails are maintained or designated for winter hiking, but for those hardy and adventurous people looking for a winter challenge, hiking is allowed on trails that are not groomed for cross-country skiing. Those choosing to walk the trails must use their own judgment about the safety of trail conditions. Trails may be snow and ice covered, muddy and slippery during the winter. Snowshoes are available for check-out at the nature center when the center is open.
The lake freezes over for about three months each winter. The park does not monitor or measure the thickness of the ice on the lake's surface. Ice thickness and safety can vary from day to day, and from location to location. Use your best judgment about the safety of the ice. Northern pike are more commonly caught in the winter, and brown trout are plentiful if you can find where they are spending their time.
Families often bring sleds, toboggans, or inner-tubes to enjoy the sledding hill that starts at the parking lot near the Nature Center, which is closed in winter, and ends in the Quartzite campground. Skis, snowshoes, sleds, and toboggans are not provided or rented at the park.