Through the Devil’s Doorway: Hiking the Bluff Trails of Wisconsin’s Devil’s Lake State Park

Known as one of the Midwest’s premier rock climbing parks, Devil’s Lake State Park is also a hiker’s dream. This 9,000 acre park includes a 360 acre natural lake, banked on two sides with 500 foot tall bluffs, and over 20 miles of hiking trails ranging from easy to difficult.

Located just outside of the town of Baraboo, Wisconsin (only about 40 minutes northwest of the Capital city of Madison), the park is within the Baraboo Hills, a national natural landmark. These hills are over 1.6 billion years old, and were once part of the Baraboo Mountain Range which was probably taller than today’s Rocky Mountains.

This area was at the southern end of the most recent glacial activity, and the bluffs were not scoured by the movement of the ice. The lake was formed when the glacial till was deposited at both ends of the hills, closing off the area between.

The main rock here is Quartzite, a very hard rock that was once sandstone beneath a great sea. Over time, the sandstone was subject to pressure, turning it into this unusual rock found only in a few places in the country. Due to the silica content of the rock, it does not hold much soil, so the rock outcroppings are generally visible with very few trees and plants on them.

There are plenty of trails to hike at the park, but most interesting to the majority of visitors are the East Bluff and West Bluff Trails. These trails are approximately 1.5 miles each, and circle Devil’s Lake from high above the 500 foot tall bluffs.

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