“A difficult loop with terrain challenges and views that reward the effort.”
— Chris Rozoff
Birding · Cave · Fall Colors · Lake · Swimming · Views · Wildlife
The viewpoints and the steep terrain make for quality over quantity in terms of distance.
Need to Know
Make sure you have a WI State Park sticker or pay a day use fee to use this parking lot/state park trails.
There are also portions of this loop where the park trails overlap with the much longer Ice Age Trail: Devil's Lake Segment
. Signs denote the park name, and the yellow blazes highlight the portions that are the Ice Age Trail. Each trail is well marked, so it is difficult to get lost.
Be careful in the winter. The trail can become dangerous in icy conditions.
From the Devil's Lake South Parking Lot, the route starts out on pavement and is deceptively flat and easy. The trail then travels along the lake on a well-worn path, before visitors will need to follow alongside the state park road for a short while.
However, before long, you are headed up the West Bluff Trail (which overlaps part of the Ice Age Trail. This trail is signed with the park name, but also the yellow blazes of the Ice Age Trail). The trail is a bit peculiar. While it's singletrack, it's paved, but it is just as good as any solid dirt path. This West Bluff climb begins as a steep and seemingly relentless one. But by the time you're almost out of breath, you're looking over Devil's Lake with a rewarding view. The trail then continues along the West Bluff with more views, before a relatively steep descent into the northern side of the park.
Once again, you'll end up near a parking lot with plenty of state park buildings/bathrooms/picnic/beach areas. Continue east toward the East Bluff Trail
, which is overlapped by the Ice Age Trail: Devil's Lake Segment
as well. This East Bluff Trail
starts out on a relatively wide gravel path, but the East Bluff Trail
eventually veers hard to the right in a fork in the trail. Once again, this section offers some fun running, as the climb is long and sometimes steep. And again, you get great lake views, along with some cool rock formations, once you get to the top. Continue forward and eventually veer left once you get to the south region of Devil's Lake.
Take the Ice Age Trail east along the East Bluff (with the dry basin to your right). You are looking for the CCC Trail
to descend. Once you find CCC, head south. This trail is the most technical part of the route, where some scrambling is required. The boulder field here resembles a lot of the boulder fields you see out in the Rocky Mountains.
Once you get to the bottom, continue west along the Grottos Trail
, across some railroad tracks and back to your starting point. From there, if you want more mileage, do the loop in reverse or follow it again in the same direction. Whether it's one loop or more, you'll definitely get your money's worth and get those calves and hamstrings burning!