Rock Climbing in Devil’s Lake State Park, WI

There’s good hiking year round throughout the Midwest. Within a few hours drive from Madison, WI, Chicago, and Minneapolis, devils lake rock climbing offers great climbing opportunities for new climbers as well as skilled climbers challenges.

AT A GLANCE

  • The rock is hard, glassy, and jagged
  • Devil’s Lake State Park is in south central Wisconsin about 3 miles south of Baraboo. From the south or east on Interstate Highway 90/94, take State Highway 33 west about 15 miles to Baraboo.
  • 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).
  • Elevation: 1467 ft / 447 m
  • Mountain/Rock
  • Lat/Lon: 43.41860°N / 89.731°W

Why We Like This Hike

  • Devil’s Lake State Park offers an excellent rock climbing opportunities for new climbers
  • Both the north and south shores have food courts and modern restroom facilities.
  • The East Bluff containts some of the highest concentrations of climbs within the park, making it a popular destination.
  • Devil’s Lake State Park’s West Bluff offers excellent climbing opportunities, with disparate rock walls and less concentrated climbing offering loneliness and peaceful climbing opportunities.
  • Balanced Rock Trail (0.4 miles (0.64 km), 45 min.) – Difficult
  • Devil’s Doorway Trail (0.1 miles (0.16 km), 15 min.) – Easy
  • East Bluff Trail (1.7 miles (2.7 km), 1½ hrs.) – Medium
  • East Bluff Woods Trail & Loop (3.4 miles (5.5 km), 2½ hrs.) – Easy/Medium
  • The stunning 500-foot high quartzite bluffs that surround Devil’s Lake are like nothing else to be found anywhere else in the Midwest and have been attracting climbers from across the country for decades.

Considerations

  • Choose your climbs carefully, the ratings here are known to be “stiff” and closer to old-school ratings, a 5.7 may “feel” like a 5.10 for someone not used to navigating the frictionless rock.
  • Remember to always adhere to leave-no-trace ethics and pack your garbage, be respectful of others who want to climb your way, and be friendly to other hikers and visitors, this place can be crowded on weekends.
  • You can access the climbs by Balanced Rock wall using the main visitor trail from the South shore parking lot.
  • Plan to arrive early! Many clients get lost or confused en route on their first visit.
  • Cell service inside/near Devil’s Lake State Park is weak to non-existent. Don’t count on it.
  • If you enter “Devils Lake State Park” into a GPS device, it often misleads you.
  • Sleep and eat well the night before, so your energy is high during climbing.
  • If you climb in a gym, take a day off before our trip so your muscles are well-rested and strong.

Parking and Bathrooms

  • Pay for parking at the main Fee/Entry Station when you first enter the North Shore area. If there is no attendant on duty, pay via the yellow post near the station.
  • All vehicles at Devils Lake must have a valid admission sticker.
  • Please register your vehicle as soon as you arrive to avoid a ticket.
  • If you already have a WI State OR a National Parks annual pass, simply display it on your vehicle dashboard.
  • Public restrooms in a small building just across the road from the Northeast Parking Lots.
  • If it is locked for some reason, try the Rock Elm Shelther closer to the main beach area.

What to Bring

Comfortable, athletic clothes work best for climbing. These can be tight-fitting, stretchy garments like tights or Under Armor, or loose, nonrestrictive clothing like sweats or t-shirts.

Please avoid jeans, which tend to be restrictive and uncomfortable for climbing. If you wear shorts, make sure they are at least mid-thigh length (min. 5” inseam) so the harness won’t chafe your legs. In addition to comfortable clothing, you can bring:

  • A minimum of 1 liter of water per person; 2 liters/person is essential during hot summer days
  • More food and snacks than you think you’ll eat
  • Sunglasses and sunscreen
  • Sturdy and supportive close-toed shoes (not sandals or slip-ons)
  • One backpack per person to carry personal and group climbing gear

Routes

The geology of the Baraboo Hills surrounding Devil’s Lake makes it one of the Midwest’s leading rock climbing regions with differing difficulty climbing. The Baraboo Hills are mainly granite and quartzite, which is sufficiently strong to climb. Most outcroppings in the region are made up of sandstone or calcareous, particularly in the Drift-less Area, which are too brittle to climb securely.

Required Equipment:

  • Climbing Rope
  • Harness
  • Belay Device
  • Helmet
  • Anchor Cord or Webbing
  • Locking Biners (2 – 5)
  • Passive Protection such as Nuts and Hexes
  • Active Protection (Camming Devices)

Recommended Reading / Guide

Rock Climbing Anchors – A Comprehensive Guide by Craig Luebben

Traditional Lead Climbing – Taking the Sharp End of the Rope by Heidi Pesterfield

Devil’s Lake: A Climbing Guide by Jay Knower

Food, Lodging, and Drink

Food

Pohlk’s Pub, Portage, WI

Late night bar near Portage, providing some of the area’s most delicious and fresh burgers. Open late and host distinctive local bands from rock and indie.

Ferry X-Ing, Merrimac, WI

The bar by the Ferry, if you’re heading south from Devil’s Lake, it’s always fun to take the ferry across the Wisconsin River in Merrimac. After a day out at the lake, the food and atmosphere are a great reward.

Varsity Club, Merrimac, WI

The Varsity Club is Merrimac’s family restaurant with ample room for a large group and an outdoor patio area.

Baraboo Bluff Winery, Baraboo, WI

Winery area providing distinctive varieties of wine with several on-site grapes cultivated and aged. The newly constructed wine tasting room provides stunning views of the mountains of Baraboo. Great for couples.

Driftless Glenn Distillery and Restaurant, Baraboo, WI

Local distillery that produces distinctive vodka, rum, moonshine and whisky. Full-service restaurant and bar in Baraboo city center providing fine dining and cocktails. Because whiskey and bacon, try Manhattan with local bacon.

Lodging

Nearby Opportunities

Pettenwell Bluff – Necedah, WI

Hillbilly Hollow, WI

Granddad’s Bluff – La Crosse, WI

Sugar Loaf – Winona, MN

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