BARABOO, Wisc. -- It’s recreational paradise – just a three-hour drive from Chicago. Wisconsin’s breathtaking Devil’s Lake State Park in the Baraboo hills (not far from the Wisconsin Dells). One of the first things you’ll notice are the rocks.
There’s ancient Quartzite rock at Devil’s Lake, with its distinctive pink and purple hue.
“This is some of the oldest rock in the United States and the world,” says Steve Schmelzer, Devil Lake’s park superintendent. “They estimate it’s anywhere from 550-million to a billion years old.”
And that ancient rock and thick forest vegetation makes for perfect hiking. Among the many trails traversing the parks’ 10,000 acres is the trek to Balanced Rock, a natural curiosity, perched precariously on the edge of a bluff - 500 feet above the lake!
But it’s a 45-minute hike - rated “difficult” - if you attack the steep south face. Other, less arduous trails let you step down from up above for easier access. Talk to Devil’s Lake staffers for alternate trails if you don’t want to work too hard.
“I’m never more at home then when I’m here in this place,” says James Schroeder, who married his lovely bride up in the hills. Not surprisingly, he (and his new wife) live for rock climbing here - said to be the best in the Midwest.
Professional climbing guide, Nick Wilkes, takes others to safely experience the East Bluff - oftentimes couples, groups or families. Moms and Dads are always eager to separate kids from their electronics. And Devil’s Lake is the perfect antidote to data overload.
Sarah Fox loves getting her son away from everything. “You can’t beat the view we have out here,” she says. “And just getting out in nature and getting some quiet time, away from screens, away from distractions, that’s great.”
Certified instruction gives kids confidence to reach the top, where high above the trees, you look down on the raptors - flying the wind currents of the Baraboo Hills.
Young Lily Dryer is enjoying the experience. “it’s actually just a lot of fun to climb and talk to your family and stuff.”
Professional instructors with the Devil’s Lake Climbing Guides provide shoes …. equipment … and a full day of climbing.
“For two people, it’d be $165 each,” Nick Wilkes explains. He runs Devil’s Lake Climbing Guides out of nearby Madison. “For a larger group, it’s less expensive per person. So for a family of six, it’s 90 dollars per person.”
There’s much more than just rock climbing, though. Devil’s Lake offers great kayaking, canoeing and paddle boating. And you can rent by the hour, depending on the type of water craft you want - it’ll cost $14 to $18 per hour. Paddles and life preservers included.
On the North Shore beach, when you get hungry, cool out in the Chateau with some Devil’s Lake cheese curds, fresh smoothies and surprisingly good eats for a state park.
“We serve all fresh-sliced meats for our wraps and sandwiches,” says Kevin Flock, in charge of concessions at Devil’s lake. “We cook all Angus beef hamburgers, all-beef hotdogs.”
And wiith over 400 campsites starting at $17 a night for out-of-state residents , Devil’s Lake is a memorable place to stay.
“I’ve been coming here since I was a kid,” says Scott Hursthouse, who grew up in the Chicago area. “And it just always meant a lot to me to come here.”
And it’ll mean a lot to you, when you encounter the wildness of this Wisconsin wonder.