Summer Adventures: Return Visit

The photo shows a trail in the center of the image surrounded by lush green trees and bushes. The trail narrows into the middle of the image. In the distance there are tree covered hills and a clear blue sky.

#20 hike of my 52 Hike Challenge

Trail/Park: Steinke Basin Loop and Johnson Moraine Trails, Devil’s Lake State Park, Baraboo, WI

This hike took place on the traditional territory of the Sauk and MeskwakiMyaamia, 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: 0.5 pounds

The photo shows the Devils Lake State Park Steinke Basin sign in the foreground. In the background is a car parked on a gravel lot. In the distance a forest is lush and green.

Just a few weeks after my first visit to Devil’s Lake State Park I had the opportunity to spend more time on the park’s varied trails. Known for it’s bluff trails which draw climbers, hikers and trail runners, the park offers something for everyone – including a section of the Ice Age Trail (IAT). My plan for the afternoon was to tackle the East Bluff trail from the trailhead located near the main parking and picnic area at the lake.

When I arrived at the main park entrance it was blocked by barriers and signs indicating the parking lot was full. Signs redirected visitors to the secondary southern entrance. Knowing the park is a popular weekend location, I decided to try the southern entrance and from there determine my next steps. Driving the detour route I was about to pass by the Steinke Basin parking lot. Instead I chose to turn in as it was relatively empty. I parked noticing the sign for the Ice Age Trail. Consulting my maps, I decided to start my hike here. The trail looked to be one which would allow me to still get to the East Bluff Trail and get in a few miles on the IAT!

It was only when I got out of my car to grab my gear that I noticed the finish line for a trail run happening at the park. This explained the closure at the main lot and redirection. I was hopeful having arrived in the early afternoon I’d was seeing the final runners coming across the finish, leaving the trails empty.

The trail headed straight south from the parking lot into the woods, slowly rising ahead of me. Marked with flags for the trail runners to follow, it was easy to follow until it wasn’t. I turned at an intersection blocked in one direction by orange fencing, assuming it was a closed trail. Soon I discovered I was heading back toward the parking lot. Checking my AllTrails app, I headed back for the fencing. The trail I needed to hike was on the other side of the fence, which had been placed to guide the trail runners.

Once headed in the right direction I enjoyed the quiet. The Ice Age Trail’s yellow blazes told me I had made the correct choice in trail. Following the blazes I came in view of several small bluffs even though the East Bluff Trail was still ahead. The day’s heat had my pace slowed descending toward Devil’s Lake. Checking the time as I neared the lake, I realized I wouldn’t realistically complete the East Bluff trail with the time left and before I needed to be on my way to my evening campsite.

Picking up my pace again, I followed the IAT toward the Northern Lights campground and struggled to find the trail which would take me around the Ice Age Campground back toward my starting point. I took a break from the heat at the park’s concession building, asking for directions from the staff. Little did I realize those blazes were placed creatively, including on the speed sign posts. Once I’d gotten my bearings again, I followed the trail, up the steep road to the Ice Age Campground.

I stopped to fill my water bottle at the campground and recheck my route. The trail circles the campground road and then returns to dirt trail through the woods. A subtle and steady decent in the trail eventually took me back toward Steinke Basin. As I approached the trail intersection toward the parking lot, I could hear the music of the trail run finish growing louder on my approach. I didn’t expect that I’d be hiking straight to the finish line and cheering crowd. I laughed as a few of those waiting for runners cheered me as I walked by.

Back at my car, I changed shoes and climbed inside grateful for the air conditioning and the opportunity to take another hike at this park. There is still much more to explore and I can’t wait for the next opportunity.

Next Post Preview: Born out of necessity, an unexpected surprise camping and hiking experience comes my way.

GEAR: Marmot Kompressor Pack, Vasque Ultra Dry Waterproof Hiking Boot, REI Co-op XeroDry GTX Jacket, REI Co-op XeroDry GTX Pants, SheFly® Go There™ Pant, SPOT GEN3 Satellite GPS Messenger, Dueter Dirtbag, Kula Cloth, Leki Women’s Micro Vario Cor-Tec TA trekking poles.

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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