Wisconsin

10 Best Hiking Trails at Devil’s Lake State Park, Wisconsin

by Brittany Varano
Updated July 05, 2022

devil's lake wisconsin hiking
Photo: Shutterstock

For a taste of Wisconsin’s most beautiful natural landscapes and best hiking trails, Devil’s Lake State Park is a must.

You won’t find mountains in America’s Dairyland, which unfortunately means that high elevation hikes aren’t really a thing either. But what Wisconsin lacks in height, it makes up for with untouched hardwood forests, miles of lakeshore, and unique rock formations — all three of which are within the bounds of Devil’s Lake State Park.

In fact, Devil’s Lake is so beautiful that it’s Wisconsin’s most popular state park. It’s all thanks to hiking trails that climb 500-foot quartzite bluffs and the colorful leaves that appear in the fall. But hiking isn’t the only worthwhile thing to do here! Visitors can also indulge in the park’s modern campgrounds, numerous picnic areas, and sandy lakeshore.

These incredible hiking trails in Devils Lake State Park are up there as the best in the state and are sure to excite even the most experienced hiker.

1. East Bluff Loop

east bluff trail devil's lake
Photo: Sarah Quintans, Shutterstock

Why you should go: A popular hiking trail that follows the eastside bluffs with panoramic lake views.

  • Difficulty: Moderate
  • Distance: 2.6 miles
  • Elevation gain: 518 feet

The East Bluff Loop is the most popular hike at Devil’s Lake for good reason. The trail is not particularly difficult except for one stretch of steep incline. However, the climb to the top of the bluff is less than a quarter-mile.

But once you’ve reached the top and wiped your brow, you’ll be treated to incredible views of the surrounding landscape. This trail follows the east side bluff that borders the lake and overlaps with other popular hikes in the park. Keep your eyes peeled for Elephant Cave and Elephant Rock as you complete the loop.

Related read: 10 Best Lake Camping Destinations in Wisconsin

2. West Bluff Trail

west bluff trail devil's lake
Photo: Shutterstock

Why you should go: A trail that traverses the top of the western bluffs to the highest point in the park.

  • Difficulty: Moderate
  • Distance: 2.9 miles
  • Elevation gain: 419 feet

For a different vantage point of the lake, check out the West Bluff Trail. You can start the loop on either the north or south side of the lake, which offers two different experiences. On the north end, you have stone steps to tackle, whereas on the south end you’ll have a steep climb to contend with.

The West Bluff Trail is characterized by many sloping ups and downs, which may prove challenging for some. But what makes this trail special, aside from the fantastic view, is the opportunity to catch sight of the park’s unique Cleopatra’s Needle and Prospect Point rock formations.

Related read: 10 Romantic Getaways in Wisconsin for the Ultimate Retreat

3. Devil’s Lake Loop via West Bluff

Devil’s Lake Loop
Photo: David Prahl, Shutterstock

Why you should go: A long loop that takes hikers around the shores of Devil’s Lake.

  • Difficulty: Moderate
  • Distance: 4.75 miles
  • Elevation gain: 1,007 feet

The Devil’s Lake via West Bluff Trail shows off the lake in all of its glory. It’s got giant boulders, steep bluffs, and lake views—what more could you want?  As this route takes hikers up and over both sides of the cliffs, there are multiple steep climbs along the way. But hikers who complete the entire loop are treated to 360-degree views of the area.

The trail starts near a strip of beach where you can take a dip before or after you embark on your hike. As the longest loop in the park, it does coincide with a few other hiking trails. This route also takes you past noteworthy landmarks like the Balanced Rock.

Related read: 10 Best Hiking Trails in the Wisconsin Dells

4. Devil’s Doorway Trail

devil's doorway wisconsin
Photo: Sarah Quintans, Shutterstock

Why you should go: An exciting trial that leads to another famous rock formation in the park.

  • Difficulty: Challenging
  • Distance: .5 miles
  • Elevation gain: 482 feet

Ominously named, the Devil’s Doorway Trail is a short loop that follows the East Bluff down to a tumble of rocks that has formed a small arch. From the East Bluff, the hike down to the doorway is less than a quarter-mile. The view of Devil’s Doorway is perfectly framed by trees with a clear view of the calm waters of the lake behind it.

This trail takes many people about an hour to complete and traverses narrow rock ledges, so caution should be taken. Many hikers recommend following the CCC trail markers on the way down because the Devil’s Doorway Trail isn’t well signposted.

Related read: 11 Unique Places to Stay in Wisconsin for an Unforgettable Getaway

5. Balanced Rock Trail

balanced rock devil's lake
Photo: Jeremy Janus, Shutterstock

Why you should go: A famous trail that leads to the most iconic view at Devil’s Lake.

  • Difficulty: Challenging
  • Distance: .4 miles
  • Elevation gain: 419 feet

The Balanced Rock Trail is a steep and challenging climb to the top of the East Bluff. The trail itself is actually quite short and is technically an out and back. However, most hikers continue on the East Bluff Trail, which is a relatively flat walk across the bluff top.

Views of the Balanced Rock are enjoyed before you reach the top and provide a nice little break from the steep and rocky climb. This is one of the park’s most popular trails, and it can get very crowded in the summer and fall. The park’s iconic Balanced Rock is a large boulder that’s fallen and landed perfectly balanced on a pedestal overlooking the lake.

Related read: 9 Fantastic Weekend Road Trips from Milwaukee, Wisconsin

6. Devil’s Lake Grottos Trail

devil's lake grottos trail
Photo: Brent Mitchell, Flickr

Why you should go: An easy-going hike that leads through the woods to the lake’s south shore.

  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Distance: 1.6 miles
  • Elevation gain: 98 feet

The Devil’s Lake Grottos Trail is a relaxing hiking route that provides access to many other fantastic areas of the park. The actual Grottos Trail is a wide gravel path that’s nestled along the East Bluff. The path is mainly shaded by surrounding woods and starts at the lake and ends at the CCC parking lot.

It also connects with the Potholes Trail, which is worth the detour to see the ancient potholes that were eroded by swirling water. The short CCC trail can also be accessed via Grottos and features steep stone steps that lead to the top of the bluff. If hikers are interested, they can also wander to the famous Balanced Rock.

Related read: 10 Best Hikes in Wisconsin for Hitting the Trail Any Time of Year

7. Tumbled Rock Trail

Tumbled Rock Trail wi
Photo: Eddie J. Rodriquez, Shutterstock

Why you should go: A paved and accessible trail that follows the lakeshore and takes about an hour to complete.

  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Distance: 2.4 miles
  • Elevation gain: 59 feet

The Tumbled Rock Trail is a perfect trail for families or hikers seeking a leisurely stroll. You can marvel at the up-close lake and bluff views during your walk. Because the trail passes so closely to the lake, it’s also possible to dip your feet in or enjoy a quick swim if desired.

And as the name implies, this trail passes large rocks scattered around the lake and up the side of the bluffs. The rocks and boulders are really what make this trial unique, as there are so many of them! This trail is also great for those with dogs who can’t handle the steep climbs, but remember to keep your furry friend on a leash.

Related read: 9 Amazing Weekend Getaways in Wisconsin

8. Uplands Trail

uplands trail
Photo: V’ron, Flickr

Why you should go: A less crowded hiking trail through the fields and woods that surround the lake.

  • Difficulty: Moderate
  • Distance: 3.8 miles
  • Elevation gain: 423 feet

The Uplands Trail is a unique way to experience the landscapes around and away from the actual shores of Devil’s Lake. Totaling nearly four miles, this loop provides a more extended hiking experience than many other trails in the state park boundary.

Sprawling meadows and thickets of hardwoods primarily characterize this trail. However, there are some lookout points where you can catch sight of the Wisconsin River. Mountain biking is permitted on the Uplands Trail, weather depending. The Steinke Basin Loop is nearby for even more hiking fun.

9. Ice Age Trail: Devil’s Lake to Parfrey’s Glen

ice age trail devil's lake wi
Photo: Shutterstock

Why you should go: A long segment of the Ice Age Trail that leads to a towering 100-foot tall canyon with a waterfall.

  • Difficulty: Easy to moderate
  • Distance: 8.4 miles
  • Elevation gain: 1,663 feet

For those seeking a longer hike, it’s possible to take the Ice Age Trail to Parfrey’s Glen from Devil’s Lake. Wisconsin’s national Ice Age Trail is an exciting route that winds around the state for nearly 1,200 miles. It showcases the impressive landscapes formed by glaciers that once crawled across the state. This particular hike follows both the Devil’s Lake and Sauk Point segments of the national trail.

During your hike, you’ll encounter some climbs, stretches of woods, and a county highway crossing. It can be done either as a point-to-point hike or a loop, which totals nearly 17 miles. At the end of your long adventure, you’ll walk through a steep and mossy gorge dubbed Parfrey’s Glen. Large boulders, sandstone cliff walls, and a peaceful stream surround the path of this wide ravine.

Related read: 14 Best Places to Visit in Wisconsin

10. Pewit’s Nest Trail

Pewit’s Nest Trail
Photo: Lindsay Snow, Shutterstock

Why you should go: A short but sweet hike outside of the state park with a famed, steep gorge.

  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Distance: .8 miles
  • Elevation gain: 70 feet

Less than a 10-minute drive from Devil’s Lake is the incredible Pewit’s Nest Trail. This trail doesn’t require much effort or endurance, but it’s well worth the drive. From the parking lot, a well-marked dirt path leads through the woods to the remarkable sandstone formations.

The gorge measures about 40 feet deep and features a passing stream, numerous cascades, and water-filled pools. Visitors only need about 20 minutes to see the ravine, but its close proximity to Devil’s Lake makes it a fantastic detour.

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