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Free Camping at Devil's Lake?


Original Post
heavy climber · · Chicago, IL · Joined Apr 2017 · Points: 8

Hello,

I'll be spending the majority of next week in the park and have come to realize that my pockets aren't padded enough to afford nightly camping fees. I'll be shelling out the cash for the park pass, naturally, but am hoping to avoid paying for campsites.

Anyone willing to share tips for stealth camping or know of areas where camping is gratis?

Thanks,

a minor climber

Andrew Krajnik · · Plainfield, IL · Joined Jul 2016 · Points: 277

No free camping that I'm aware of, though there may be cheaper camping options in other private campgrounds.

Doug Hemken · · Madison, WI · Joined Oct 2004 · Points: 5,597

A few people do the "van life" thing ... but not inside the Park!

Brian Carver · · Boulder, Co · Joined Jul 2015 · Points: 30

Green Valley is $10 a person a night. If you can't afford that they may let you do some chores as barter.

heavy climber · · Chicago, IL · Joined Apr 2017 · Points: 8

Thanks folks. How off limits is primitive stealth camping in the woods with discretion? Anyone have experience or stories?

Andrew Krajnik · · Plainfield, IL · Joined Jul 2016 · Points: 277

Never seen it, never heard of it. So either it's not happening, or they're good enough that no one knows it's happening.

Personally, I'd avoid it. I'm not going to advocate skirting park rules. The park is a spectacular resource, and the DNR rangers do their best to keep it that way for all of the various user groups that enjoy it. The least we can do is respect the minimal guidelines they've established. Either hit Green Valley at $10 a night or car-sleep outside the park.

Doug Hemken · · Madison, WI · Joined Oct 2004 · Points: 5,597

I'm not sure online is the best place to look for advice on this ....

I've heard stories, both good and bad, including one climber who came to a tragic end while stealth camping!

I'm sympathetic to the no-money situation:  in my teens we camped on National Forest for free.  Not in Wisconsin, though.  DL is so heavily used, that I'd hate to see a lot of people trying it here.

Good luck, hope you work something out.

heavy climber · · Chicago, IL · Joined Apr 2017 · Points: 8

Thanks for the wise counsel. It sounds like overnight parking isn't allowed in the park - except of course at campsites?

angieL · · Madison, WI · Joined Jul 2009 · Points: 5

Since no one has mentioned it yet, there is a Wal-Mart in town that allows overnight parking/"camping" in their lot. Pretty close to the park, just in Baraboo. Otherwise, if you check out Green Valley, they at least used to allow for bartering. You may still be able to barter services/labor for camping there. While their policy may have changed, it could be worth a shot if you're really strapped for the cash. 

Dave3D · · Unknown Hometown · Joined May 2016 · Points: 0

Green valley is definitely an experience. I camped there last summer. They were very friendly, be prepared to introduce yourself and make time to talk. 

Andrew Southworth · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Apr 2014 · Points: 45
angieL wrote:

Since no one has mentioned it yet, there is a Wal-Mart in town that allows overnight parking/"camping" in their lot. Pretty close to the park, just in Baraboo.

OP your probably gone from DL by now, but if others see the Walmart advise I just wanted to mention that I passed through Baraboo this summer looking for a place to park overnight and was told by that Walmart that though some Walmarts do allow this they do not. Angie may have had a different employee or a successful experience, but I wanted to throw my experience out there for anyone considering it.

Steve Sangdahl · · eldo sprngs,co · Joined Mar 2002 · Points: 735

Downtown roof tops, Baraboo. After the bars close. Cheers.

heavy climber · · Chicago, IL · Joined Apr 2017 · Points: 8
Steve Sangdahl wrote:

Downtown roof tops, Baraboo. After the bars close. Cheers.

Sage advice, Mr. Sangdahl. I'll have to give this a go next time.

During my five-day stay I tried a number of different options which I'll describe in brief for posterity's sake.

  • Socialite Style: The first night I was in I stayed with some climbers I'd met on Mountain Project at their site.
  • Car Camping: The next night I parked in the Ice Age campground extra car lot and slept there without issue.
  • Bogard Style: The third night I simply tented up in a vacant group camping site off south shore road.
  • Standard Camping: The last two nights I stayed with friends at Green Valley - the proprietors were, as advertised, extremely hospitable and personable. I'd advise staying here if you're alone or in a group of less than three people.

All in all, I'll likely stay at Green Valley in the future when I'm alone and operate on a case-by-case basis else wise. If you can split the cost 3 or 4 ways, then the park's campgrounds (when available) are not a bad look - plus you get showers if you're into the whole hygiene thing.

Below is some footage I captured at the Lake. Inspired by Eric Zschiesche.


Wisconsin Climbers Association · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Mar 2017 · Points: 0

Some friendly advice from your local climbing organization, please don't break the rules when camping at our state parks. and some life advice, don't brag about breaking the rules on the internet, makes you look bad, and as a climber, makes climbers look bad. if you can't afford to camp in our state parks then don't camp there. mountain project is not a secret known only to climbers, the park is aware of MP and does occasionally check it out. 

Ben Scheele · · Burnsville, MN · Joined Sep 2009 · Points: 5

I'm glad you had a good trip and got in some good climbing.  Since you're Chicago based, I'd recommend you look into joining the Chicago Mountaineering Club.  You actually passed by our campground on the way to the Burma Road Boulders I saw you climbing on in your video.  It's a great little campground that is kind of my home away from home.  In a year of climbing there, my cost per night of camping averages out to somewhere around $1.50, with the annual $25 membership fee and $25 campground fee.  It's definitely the best way to visit the park, as you'll have plenty of people to climb with and also potentially carpool with.  We have public outings at DL every couple of weeks through the climbing season where you can come and join us, and the camping fee is only $10 per person for a weekend (and you won't have to buy firewood).  You can apply for membership after attending three public outings; our next one is on Labor Day weekend.  I hope to see you there.

heavy climber · · Chicago, IL · Joined Apr 2017 · Points: 8

Sorry for the delay! Just now reading these responses today.

Wisconsin Climbers Association wrote:

Some friendly advice from your local climbing organization, please don't break the rules when camping at our state parks. and some life advice, don't brag about breaking the rules on the internet, makes you look bad, and as a climber, makes climbers look bad. if you can't afford to camp in our state parks then don't camp there. mountain project is not a secret known only to climbers, the park is aware of MP and does occasionally check it out. 

Thank you kindly for this counsel. This time was a tremendously awkward fiscal stage for me and I made decisions which undermine and diminish the legitimacy of climbers beyond myself. I apologize outright with regard to the understanding that I wished to boast. I've no illusions of MP being a clandestine communing of climbers alone and am happy to take the information down if necessary.

Ben Scheele wrote:

I'm glad you had a good trip and got in some good climbing.  Since you're Chicago based, I'd recommend you look into joining the Chicago Mountaineering Club.  You actually passed by our campground on the way to the Burma Road Boulders I saw you climbing on in your video.  It's a great little campground that is kind of my home away from home.  In a year of climbing there, my cost per night of camping averages out to somewhere around $1.50, with the annual $25 membership fee and $25 campground fee.  It's definitely the best way to visit the park, as you'll have plenty of people to climb with and also potentially carpool with.  We have public outings at DL every couple of weeks through the climbing season where you can come and join us, and the camping fee is only $10 per person for a weekend (and you won't have to buy firewood).  You can apply for membership after attending three public outings; our next one is on Labor Day weekend.  I hope to see you there.

Cheers. I have been wishing to make it out to a CMC weekend desperately before season's end. Pray the stars align in my favor before long.

Guideline #1: Don't be a jerk.

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