Wisconsin : Devil’s Lake & A Stable Stay

The image is filled with large purple rocks covered with light green moss, green vegetation and orangey brown pine needles.

#18hike of my 2022 52 Hike Challenge

Trail/Park: Tumbled Rock Trail, Devil’s Lake State Park, Baraboo, WI

Camping: Hipcamp at Breakaway Stables, Mount Horeb, Wisconsin

This hike and camping took place on the traditional territory of the Kiikaapoi (Kickapoo), Peoria, Sauk and Meskwaki, Myaamia, Hoocąk (Ho-Chunk), and Očhéthi Šakówiŋ. I respect the histories, languages and cultures of these peoples, whose presence continues to enrich our vibrant and changing communities. Join me in learning more about the tribes and these lands, by following the links provided.

Trash Collected: 1.5 pounds

I was recently able to take a road trip to see family east of Minnesota which afforded me the opportunity to take two days to make the trip. Not ever missing an opportunity to spend time outside, I searched along my route for camping and hiking options. While the hiking options were plentiful, the campsite were non-existent because of my last minute travel plans. Telling a colleague about my dilemma, they mentioned using Hipcamp to find places to camp when traveling in their camper. I decided to give it a try. The app was already on my phone so I started searching along my route. Eventually I decided to stop at Devil’s Lake State Park in Wisconsin and then stay relatively nearby at what looked to be a lovely campsite near a horse stable. I made my reservation and began packing for my adventure.

The day of my trip the weather was set to progress from clear skies to an increasing potential for rain. I planned for a worst case of no hiking and sleeping in my car. Thinking in this way leaves me feeling prepared no matter what happens. The drive into Wisconsin was a mix of patches of rain and then clear skies. Turning south off of Highway 94, I made my way under the cloudy skies to the park. Having climber friends, I knew this park is a favorite for its rock formations near the Wisconsin Dells. What I didn’t expect was the beautiful drive into the park which reminded me of driving into the Sylvan Lake Campground in Custer State Park, SD. The deep forest gave glimpses of the towering rocks as the North Shore entry road descends into the park.

Once I’d parked lakeside, I chose the Tumbled Rock trail as it was getting late in the afternoon and I knew I’d still need to drive a distance to my campsite outside the park. The Tumbled Rock trail hugs the western side of Devil’s Lake below the towering bluff above. Marked as a “paved trail” it is indeed paved, but narrows in places to about a foot wide in places. The pavement making it seem at first like an accessible trail before it is decidedly not. Almost immediately the trail winds through the tumbled rocks from the bluff and provides a few access points to the lakeshore for anyone interested in scrambling.

I was glad I’d grabbed my rain gear for this short two mile out-and-back hike because it wasn’t long before I needed it. I’d watched the southern side of the lake grow slowly dark gray before the rain started. It was a light rain to start as I wove my way along the exposed areas of the trail. Then, just as I reached the more wooded section on the southern end of the trail, the rain started in earnest.

Others passed me heading back to the beach as I pushed ahead and the rain came down heavier. Coming to the intersection where I’d turn back I contemplated getting out my rain pants. I opted not to knowing the trip back would take me about 20 minutes. I followed a mom and daughter side stepping puddles as we went at first. The further along we got, the more I regretted not putting on my rain pants. The water was shedding off my pack and jacket soaking my shorts. I’d opted to hike in my sandals and as I watched the young woman start puddle hopping, I joined her instead of trying to avoid the growing puddles. Rounding the end of the lake we noticed the moisture had created small clouds touching the bluffs on the east side of the lake. A special treat that not all would see as they ducked into spaces out of the rain.

By the time I reached the beach area, the rain had passed and I decided to pick up trash left behind as picnickers abandoned their tables. I’d picked up a cup on my way along the trail and fished out a bag of dog poop that had been tossed among the rocks. A plastic bag I’d found helped me collect up the rinds of a watermelon left piled on a picnic table. Into the dumpster it all went as I headed to my car.

The rain cleared as I headed south toward my campsite. Located south of Devil’s Lake State Park, the route to my Hipcamp site took me on a wonderful drive over the undulating landscape. Winding roads are one of my favorite things to experience as I travel. This part of Wisconsin did not disappoint. About 30 minutes after leaving the park, I located the gravel road which would take me to my campsite. At the end of the road I pulled in and was greeted by my host. Sara and her dogs lead me down the sloping grass to a sweet spot near the stables. A small garden separated the space. On one side was a relatively flat spot to park, set up my tent and relax. A little distance off was a small table. On the opposite side of the garden a sweet looking outhouse. Sara told me to set up wherever I’d like and to introduce myself to the horses just beyond the fences.

I got to setting up camp as Sara retreated to her house on the hill above the site. With the rain, the space near the table was a bit muddy so I decided to set up my tent near the garden and closer to the outhouse. I heated up water for dinner. While I waited for my meal to be ready, I wandered the fence, greeting the horses here and there by offering my hand for a deep sniff. Back at the campsite, I sat in the back of my car to eat with deep gratitude for the solitude. The spot offered beautiful views. Later I was surprised by the sweet outhouse space which smelled deeply of cedar. The composting toilet using cedar in layers after each use. It was clean and even had a light for nighttime trips!

The day turned into evening with view of the sunset through the trees on the west side of the site. I climbed into my tent, surprised by the chill in the air. I’d planned for temperatures nearing 100 degrees in the coming days so wasn’t quite prepared for the cool evening. I layered with the only long sleeve top I’d brought and hunkered down under my down quilt. I fell asleep easily, feeling satisfied with my day despite the rain.

The next morning I woke to the sound of a cardinal trying with moderate success to perch on the rearview mirror of my car. I’d slept well and felt incredibly rested. With more road trip driving ahead, I reluctantly got going. A favorite roadtrip luxury is finding a local coffee shop and bakery if I can. Once again heading south, I found the Blue Collar Coffee Co. in Beloit, Wisconsin. The shop is located near Beloit College and has a funky vibe, a solid cup of coffee and a selection of pastries that made the detour with the effort.

Next Post Preview: It’s time to talk hiking pants. Come back for an upcoming review of a start up brand offering a unique feature which I hope will change clothing for good.

GEAR: Marmot Kompressor Pack, REI Co-op XeroDry GTX Jacket, REI Co-op XeroDry GTX Pants,SPOT GEN3 Satellite GPS Messenger, Kula Cloth, Leki Women’s Micro Vario Cor-Tec TA trekking poles, Nemo Dragonfly Ultralight Backpacking Tent, Paria Thermodown 30 down quilt, REI Flash 3-Season Sleeping Pad, Thermarest Z Lite™ Sleeping Pad, Thermarest Z Seat™,
MSR Pocket Rocket Stove, GSI Pinnacle Dualist Cookset, MSR® IsoPro™ Fuel.

Want to know more about my gear selections? Head on over to Gear & Gadgets or check out my posts titled “Gear in Review”.


Photo of a group of hikers on a sunny day in a field heading towards a wooded area. The photographer has taken the photo from behind the group.

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2 thoughts on “Wisconsin : Devil’s Lake & A Stable Stay

  1. Thank you for picking up garbage! So disappointed in people for leaving it behind, so it makes your actions so appreciated.

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