A view of Balanced Rock at Devil's Lake State Park
A view of Balanced Rock at Devil’s Lake State Park

Indian Summer Ice Age

Summer is high season at Devil’s Lake State Park near Baraboo, Wisconsin, but the long days of early fall are just as lovely. Chief among its scenic wonders: the Ice Age Trail, which climbs into the 1.6 million-year-old Baraboo Hills for stunning views. The 100-year-old park is celebrating its more recent history this year with a centennial-marking exhibit at the nearby Sauk County Historical Society and a photo contest open to all amateur shutterbugs.

Of the 1,200 miles of Ice Age Trail winding through Wisconsin, only 575 are open for hiking and maintained by a network of volunteer chapters. In Devil’s Lake, the Uplands Trail Loop (3.8 miles) circles toward the park’s eastern end and eventually intersects with the 4.5-mile Sauk Point Trail. Toward the end of the Sauk Point Trail, you’ll find a scenic side trip in the spur that starts on County Road DL and ends at Parfrey’s Glen (and be prepared for a few creek crossings). Maps are available at the park’s North Shore Visitor Center or online at devilslakewisconsin.com/activities/hiking. Here, a few photography-worthy spots in the ancient landscape:

  • For panoramic views, try the medium-effort, 1.4-mile West Bluff Trail, where stone steps and a steep climb lead to a bluff top that affords an eagle’s-eye view at Prospect Point. The spectacular Devil’s Doorway and Balanced Rock lookouts, both off East Bluff Trail, are also worth checking out.
  • Devil’s Lake is filled with fish, especially brown trout, walleye, and pike. You can drop a line off the sidewalk on the south side of the lake. A Wisconsin fishing license is required. For more info, go to dnr.state.wi.us.
  • For faster-paced view-finding, bicycle the 8-mile Uplands Loop, a connector trail through prairies and woods. Park at Steinke Basin.

GO Devil’s Lake State Park, S5975 Park Rd., Baraboo, Wisconsin; 608-356-8301, devilslakewisconsin.com.

Where to stay: You can camp in the park itself, but for more luxe accommodations, try the Rustic Ridge Log Cabins (E13981 Highway DL, Merrimac, Wisconsin; 608-493-2440, rusticridgecabins.com), where you’ll upscale accommodations with the logs-and-antlers décor of a lodge; nightly rates are $219–$279. The Inn at Wawanissee Point (E13609 Tower Rd., Baraboo; 608-355-9899, innatwawanisseepoint.com) has four opulently appointed rooms on 42 secluded acres 800 feet above the Wisconsin River Valley (adjacent to Devil’s Lake State Park); rates are $219–$279 a night, breakfast included.

Where to eat: Hillcrest on Lake Wisconsin (E12603 Kilpatrick Point Dr., Merrimac; 608-643-5159, hillcrestrestaurant.com) offers a fish fry every Friday and brunch every Sunday. The Little Village Cafe (146 4th Ave., Baraboo; 608-356-2800, littlevillagecafe.com) serves fish and pasta in a restored 1940s diner.