At Gitchi, we hail from the Midwest and we’re well aware of our reputation in the hiking world as “flatlanders.” In spite of that, we love hiking all over the globe and enjoy the grueling feeling of a nice elevation gain. So in our home state of Wisconsin, we try to marry the beauty of the Midwest with any elevation we can find, and one of the best places to do this is at Devil’s Lake State Park.
Devil’s Lake, with its beautiful rock formations and gorgeous sunsets, easily makes our list of Wisconsin’s top 10 best hiking locales. And we can’t say for sure, but we’re pretty convinced that Devil’s Lake has a certain magic about it because every time we enter the park, we just feel alive.
Devil’s Lake offers countless trail options along the bluffs, around the lake itself, and through its wooded forests. But our very favorite is a 1.5 mile loop comprised of 5 different trail segments.
While this loop is relatively short, you get enough elevation to feel your legs burn and you’re rewarded with gorgeous views of the lake and its adjacent valley. And if you can time it just right to see the sun set at Devil’s Doorway, you may never want to leave.
Start by ascending the East Bluff via the Balanced Rock Trail. The good people who built this trail assembled a bunch of craggy rocks into a smooth and picturesque stairway. It’s a little strenuous and it’s super fun.
Be sure to check out the trail’s namesake – Balanced Rock – at the top. It's slightly smaller than the Balanced Rock of Arches National Park, but it's a top-heavy sight to behold.
After that, head east onto East Bluff Trail to catch a panorama of Devil’s Lake. In the fall, the tree colors make this spot twice as cool.
After a short hike, you’ll meet the Devil’s Doorway loop, which is .1 miles of pure beauty. Here, there are many spots to sit and look out over the lake, take in the elevation you just gained, and have a snack.
In this spot, you'll find Devil’s Lake’s most iconic rock formation, Devil's Doorway, a perfect destination for a sunset. Throw up a hammock and watch the day give way to night. You’ll likely find yourself taking deeper breaths and feeling the aforementioned magic of this park.
Next comes the descent through the Potholes Trail where you’ll hike through a narrow passageway of smooth, red rocks. One of the best parts of this hike is touching the sun-warmed, west-facing rocks as you hike downward. The sun may have set, but its warmth is still palpable.
You’ll land on level ground and hit the Grottos Trail to exit. There’s a cool train track you’ll cross, which is the site of many a beautiful Instagram pic. So maybe snap a shot, upload it to your 'gram feed, and call it a day.