Description

Devil's Lake is a state park in Wisconsin that contains some of the best rock climbing in the Midwest. Located in a picturesque setting, these quartzite rock cliffs of upwards of a hundred feet in height attract climbers from all over the country. Over 1600 routes are listed in the Swartling & Mayer guidebook. There is no shortage of climbable rock in the park.

Famous climbers such as Joe and Paul Stettner, John Gill, Jim Erickson, and Eric Zschieschie have left their mark here. The legendary Pete Cleveland may have introduced 5.12 back in the 1960s. Son of Great Chimney, led onsight, may have been the hardest route in the country at the time of Cleveland's first ascent in 1968.

Devil's Lake offers mellow toproping, well protected leads, and some harder "headpoint" style leads. Bouldering is extensive, if a bit spread out. Those who intend to toprope here should remember to bring plenty of sling materials as some of the anchors wind up being a good ways back from the cliff edges. Some climbs are "occupied" for extended stretches during the day, but climbers are often willing to share the rock here with a friendly request.

The quartzite rock is beautiful, but it can be slick. Smearing is much less utilized than edging. Climbing here is traditional. There are no bolted routes at the Lake, so sport climbers may be dissatisfied here. Devil's Lake may have more quality moderate climbs (5.5-5.8) than anywhere in the country. There are also many well protected 5.9-5.11a leads. More difficult climbs are usually attempted on toprope and are led if and when they are wired. The harder climbs tend to be technical and the sequences tend to be cryptic. Maybe it's the smooth nature of the rock, but more than one climber has referred to Devil's Lake ratings as stiff.

There is a beautiful lake here with fishing, non-motorized boating, and even diving for the multi-day visitor for non-climbing days.

Dave Groth on "The Good The Bad and the Jacked"

Dave Groth on The Good, the Bad, and the Jacked. 1985. Photo: Dave Langhoff.

Andy Hansen on Lost Face Overhangs:

Great route. Photo: Peter Beck.

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A great film about the history of the DLFA by Darin Limvere, available for download on Vimeo: 

https://vimeo.com/ondemand/24156/65395216

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Bouldering

Devil's Lake has great bouldering. From the long established problems at Tombstone Rocks, to the neo-classics at the Reserve, there are many worthwhile areas. See Devil's Lake bouldering for more info on the wealth of problems that the Lake offers.

Organization

There are multiple cliffs in the area. These include the East Bluff, the West Bluff, the South Bluff, and the Sandstone Bluff. The greatest number of routes will be found on the East Bluff and West Bluff areas.

The East Rampart, a quarter-mile long cliff band, is the most popular climbing area and contains the highest concentration of climbs at the park. The area contains some of the finest climbs and longer climbs in this area. It tends to also be the most crowded.

Location/Directions

Devil's Lake State Park is located NNW of Madison and just S of Baraboo. From the North, you can access it off I-90/I-94 to US 12 and head east following the signs. From the South, you can access it from I-90 to US 12/US 18 which skirts Madison on its southern edge, following this to US 12. From the East, you can access it from I-94 to I-90 S to US 12. From US 12, follow the signs into the park.

A vehicle admission fee is required in the park. You can get a day pass at the self-serve kiosks in most parking lots.

Guidebooks

The most comprehensive guidebook for Devil's Lake is by Sven Olof Swartling and can be purchased at several Baraboo area shops and campgrounds. It's also sold at the REI in Brookfield, WI and on Madison's west side. Boulders Climbing Gym in Madison now carries the guidebook as well.

Mike Farris also wrote a guide to Wisconsin and Minnesota which briefly covers DL and gives a few other quality climbing areas (mostly in North/Northwestern WI). That's a Falcon guidebook.

A new DL route guidebook by MP's own Jay Knower is now available for sale locally (Wildside in Baraboo, Boulders in Madison). Order here: wolverinepublishing.com/sto…

A bouldering guidebook by Peter Bonamici and others for Minnesota and Wisconsin available here: escapeclimbing.com/extra/mn… (and also at AdRock, Boulders, and Wildside in Barbaoo)

A bouldering guidebook by Ian Cotter-Brown to Devil's Lake is available here: (also at Boulders, Wild Side, and the park admin building) kdanielspublishing.com/cart…

Accomodations

There is nearby accomodations available in Baraboo, just to the North. Camping is available in or near the state park, but it can be quite popular.

2,138 Total Climbs

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Classic Climbing Routes at Devil's Lake

Mountain Project's determination of the classic, most popular, highest rated climbing routes in this area.
V2 5+
 73
Big Bud Arete
Boulder
5.4 4a 12 IV 10 VD 3c
 175
Queen's Throne
Trad, TR
5.4 4a 12 IV 10 VD 3c
 126
East Comfort Route
Trad
5.6 4c 14 V 12 S 4b
 276
Brinton's Crack
Trad
5.6 4c 14 V 12 S 4b
 80
Lost Face
Trad, TR
5.7 5a 15 V+ 13 MVS 4b
 176
Peter's Project
Trad, TR
5.8 5b 16 VI- 15 HVS 4c
 97
Watermarks
Trad, TR
5.8+ 5b 16 VI- 15 HVS 4c
 97
Roger's Roof
Trad, TR
5.9 5c 17 VI 17 HVS 5a
 189
Upper Diagonal
Trad, TR
5.10a 6a 18 VI+ 18 E1 5a
 125
Congratulations
Trad, TR
5.10a 6a 18 VI+ 18 E1 5a
 119
Sometime Crack
Trad, TR
5.10a 6a 18 VI+ 18 E1 5a R
 82
Mammalary Magic
Trad, TR
5.10b 6a+ 19 VII- 19 E2 5b PG13
 81
Dancing Madly Backwards
Trad, TR
5.10b 6a+ 19 VII- 19 E2 5b
 111
Cheatah
Trad, TR
5.11a 6c 22 VII+ 22 E3 5c
 86
Thoroughfare
Trad, TR
Route Name Location Star Rating Difficulty Date
Big Bud Arete Devil's Lake Bo… > … > E Bluff North > N Shore
 73
V2 5+ Boulder
Queen's Throne W Bluff 03 - Cl… > Cleo Amphitheater
 175
5.4 4a 12 IV 10 VD 3c Trad, TR
East Comfort Route W Bluff 03 - Cl… > Cleopatra's Needle
 126
5.4 4a 12 IV 10 VD 3c Trad
Brinton's Crack E Bluff 04 - E… > 07: Brinton's Buttress
 276
5.6 4c 14 V 12 S 4b Trad
Lost Face W Bluff 05 - W… > 01: Prospect Po… > 05: Lost Face Area
 80
5.6 4c 14 V 12 S 4b Trad, TR
Peter's Project E Bluff 04 - E… > 09: Many Pines Buttress
 176
5.7 5a 15 V+ 13 MVS 4b Trad, TR
Watermarks E Bluff 06 - Ba… > 0 - Balanced Rock Wall
 97
5.8 5b 16 VI- 15 HVS 4c Trad, TR
Roger's Roof E Bluff 07 - Ra… > 7.3 - Horse Rampart
 97
5.8+ 5b 16 VI- 15 HVS 4c Trad, TR
Upper Diagonal E Bluff 04 - E… > 05: Pedestal Buttress
 189
5.9 5c 17 VI 17 HVS 5a Trad, TR
Congratulations E Bluff 04 - E… > 05: Pedestal Buttress
 125
5.10a 6a 18 VI+ 18 E1 5a Trad, TR
Sometime Crack E Bluff 04 - E… > 05: Pedestal Buttress
 119
5.10a 6a 18 VI+ 18 E1 5a Trad, TR
Mammalary Magic E Bluff 01 - Sa… > 1. Old Sandstone
 82
5.10a 6a 18 VI+ 18 E1 5a R Trad, TR
Dancing Madly Backwards E Bluff 01 - Sa… > 1. Old Sandstone
 81
5.10b 6a+ 19 VII- 19 E2 5b PG13 Trad, TR
Cheatah E Bluff 04 - E… > 11: Bill's Buttress
 111
5.10b 6a+ 19 VII- 19 E2 5b Trad, TR
Thoroughfare E Bluff 04 - E… > 08: Two Pines Buttress
 86
5.11a 6c 22 VII+ 22 E3 5c Trad, TR
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Photos

chris tregge
Beersconsin
chris tregge   Beersconsin  
This is kind of a cool reference about the geology of Devil's Lake

Also some cool aerial pics of the geology towards the bottom of this page. Sep 17, 2008
Kris Gorny    
An interesting quote regarding climbing style at Devils Lake. Here's the exact paragraph (emphases by the authors):

"Remember that all the climbs except a very few have been lead...and that top-roping is not considered the legitimate form of climbing at the Lake. The easy access by trail to the top of the bluffs and short climbs is an excuse for practice, but not for competence"

"Climbers and Hikers Guide to Devils Lake" by David Smith and Roger Zimmerman, Wisconsin Hoofer Mountaineers, 1970. May 21, 2009
Doug Hemken
Madison, WI
Doug Hemken   Madison, WI  
I think it just goes to show you that the people committed to lead climbing at the Lake have always been a small minority (40 years!) ... and thank you so much, Kris, for generating new/renewed enthusiasm for leading around here. May 21, 2009
Kris Gorny    
Doug, Thanks for the last remark although we were inspired by conversations with Dave Groth, ascents of Jason Huston, and videos of Dave Macleod. So the credit goes to these guys. May 21, 2009
Doug Hemken
Madison, WI
Doug Hemken   Madison, WI  
The media (and everyone, really) often has a problem hearing "not a designated-use area" (note the hyphen). The WDNR manages areas that have designated uses, like trails and campgrounds, and also areas that have no designated use. The distinction if VERY important, because under State liability law, the WDNR must maintain areas which have designated uses so that they are safe for those uses. They have to clear brush off the trails; they have to remove dead limbs from the trees hanging over the campsites. All of the cliffs are areas that have no designated use, so the WDNR does not need to make them safe. In DNR-speak, these are "non-designated-use areas," which to the untrained ear sounds like someplace you are not supposed to be. Just like hunting areas (also generally "non-designated-use" areas), you are welcome to go there, but at your own risk. Jun 15, 2009
Burton Lindquist
Madison, WI
Burton Lindquist   Madison, WI  
wiscnews.com/baraboonewsrep…

A few rescues made in the park this busy weekend past. The number of casual users (swimmers/hikers/fishers/picnickers) far out weighed the number of climbers in the park this past weekend from what I saw. Not unusual by any means but helps explain the mis-haps in the boulderfields.... Jul 6, 2010
Check out the March 2011 issue of Climbing Magazine for "Lake Effect" by local Jay Knower! Feb 13, 2011
chris tregge
Beersconsin
chris tregge   Beersconsin  
Hey DL climbers! Darin Limvere has now completed an awesome film about the history of the DLFA. The trailer is linked below. The entire film is available for download for a paltry sum of $7. Get on it!

vimeo.com/ondemand/24156/65… Jun 28, 2012
Burton Lindquist
Madison, WI
Burton Lindquist   Madison, WI  
Great and interesting article\interview featuring JJ Schlick - one of Wisconsin's own living and climbing very actively in Arizona...

www.grassroutesclimbing.com/

Posted by Joel Unema originally. Aug 12, 2013
Are there any good places to camp nearby that aren't $25 a night? That's ridiculously expensive from where I come from (TN).

On a related note, I'd pay someone who lives in the area $10 (or some hometown Jack Daniels) just to camp in their yard. Jun 28, 2016
John. Contact Wildside store in Baraboo, there's a cheap "climbers" camp ground on Hwy 12 nearby, I can't recall the name. Jun 29, 2016
chris tregge
Beersconsin
chris tregge   Beersconsin  
best rope climbing guidebook:

wolverinepublishing.com/sto… May 18, 2017
David Staron
Lake Oswego, OR
David Staron   Lake Oswego, OR
@JohnEricson Green Valley campground for sure. Probably a mile away from the park. Nov 30, 2017
Is there camping there, I mean can you camp next to some boulders or something or is there like a designated campground? Mar 26, 2018
chris tregge
Beersconsin
chris tregge   Beersconsin  
Reserved camping. devilslakewisconsin.com/res…

Or, camp outside the park at one of several campgrounds in the area. Mar 27, 2018
I will be in the Devils Lake area Aug 12-23, looking for a climbing partner.
Easy/moderate routes: 5.6 - 5.9.
Any interest please e-mail me: tboaks@xmission.com. Jun 1, 2018
free4life Quesnel
Fernie, BC
free4life Quesnel   Fernie, BC
$16 dollar parking fee!!
I was going to climb at Devils Lake until I heard about the parking fee. To bad :( :( Aug 18, 2018
Doug Hemken
Madison, WI
Doug Hemken   Madison, WI  
That's actually part of the idea - reduce demand at the margin, and increase revenue for Parks, which are now required to be self-sufficient.
Comparable to the daily entrance fee for Banff NP, I guess. It is too bad.
Or you could buy an annual pass for $38 (with out-of-state plates). Aug 19, 2018
chris tregge
Beersconsin
chris tregge   Beersconsin  
Doug. Does "reduce demand at the margin" mean weed down the number of park visitors by charging more for a day pass? The "margin" is what? Increase the revenue per car but try to limit the number of cars at some higher price point? Aug 20, 2018
Doug Hemken
Madison, WI
Doug Hemken   Madison, WI  
Chris, yes.
In economics (the DNR actually has economists on staff), you think of market equilibrium as the point where a supply curve and a demand curve meet. The margin (marginal cost, marginal benefit) is a change from some point of interest like the equilibrium point.
The DNR hopes that some increase in the price will reduce the number of people at overcrowded parks like DL and Peninsula (because some people will decide that the benefit of visiting the park is less than the cost), but also that it may increase total revenue (it would take some math and good projections - which no one has - to figure this out). They also hope that those people who decide not to visit a "premium" park will take their park entrance dollars to another park (this is part of the calculation for increasing total revenue). Aug 21, 2018
Doug Hemken
Madison, WI
Doug Hemken   Madison, WI  
Ironically, the reason it is a State Park and not a private resort is because many of the locals thought it should always be accessible to the general public. We are having trouble maintaining this gift in the spirit in which it was given to us. Aug 21, 2018
Tom Radz
Chicago, IL
Tom Radz   Chicago, IL
  • ***DO NOT USE VERTICAL ADVENTURE**** if you are going to climb in Devil's Lake. I booked a trip with Joel Taylor and it was a nightmare experience. They are the only climbing company in the area that has a temperature minimum. He won't take you if the weather is under 52 degrees at meet up time (it was going to be above that an hour later!!), which is conveniently very hard to find on his site. I still hiked in the area that day (on a beautiful Sunday morning!) and talked to several guides from other companies who were out with their own groups and said they have never heard of such policies for both the temperature and refund. They all literally laughed at Joel and claimed I should've booked with them (in hindsight I wish I would've). So, I sat there and watched about 50 other people climbing in that area that morning, having a blast! When he cancelled our trip, he mentioned he couldn't take us in the afternoon group, when it would be over 52 degrees because he had something to do in Chicago. It was clear he had other plans that plans that day. When the other two dates he had available for us didn't work, he said he would only refund half our money, but when I contacted him later for the refund, he said his refund policy changed and he would not refund any of my or my partners money. What a nightmare. Go with any other group than them! ***STAY AWAY FROM VERTICAL ADVENTURE*****
Nov 22, 2018