"The only place to Rock Climb "near "Chicago" Devils Lake State Park by firechick

Devils Lake State Park Travel Guide: 15 reviews and 27 photos

Crowded Climbing

Devil's Lake State Park in Wisconsin is one of the only places to rock climb outdoors in a 3-state area, so gets VERY crowded in summer.

There is NO bolting allowed in this area. Climbing is done on lead (gear only) or (mostly) on top rope. The climbs are basically all one pitch short cliff climbs. There are a couple of longer climbs on the harder to access West Bluff.

East Bluff Climbing

The East Bluff is where the 'best' and highest concentration of rock climbs lie. Therefore, it is also the most grossly over-crowded area you can imagine.

You need to get up at least at 6am to be one of the first parties out there, or you will not get a climb in at all.

So many people here go in large groups and 'hog' routes by top-roping 3-5 routes at a time, and keeping them roped up all day for their parties.

If you see this and no one is around to ask but obviously are not climbing the route, check out their rigging and climb on their route if it is safe, and they are not on it. If it is not safe, disassemble it and rope it up yourselves. Many people are getting sick and tired of 'route hogs' in this area.

Also if you see people walking or hiking with dogs who leave their dog *** lying on the trail, please remind them to pick it up in a loud (embarass them into doing it) but pleasant voice. I almost lost my lunch smelling the 'results' of a passing large-breed dog all day long on a hot summer's day.

This area USED to be so nice (about 5 years or more ago, before climbing became trendy) but is now almost unbearable in high season.

Definitely recommend going to this spot early in the year or late in the year (after first frost) or when it 'looks like rain' and the 'fair weather' climbers go away. When it's not crowded, the climbing here is amazing.

West Bluff

This is the only place to go when it gets too crowded on the East side of the lake. The climbs here are more spread-out and harder to find than on the East Bluff. There are lots of woods and hidden drop-offs (beware) and you can feel 'lost' wandering around the first couple of times you come here. But if you are a regular to the area, make this location your friend as it will be your only escape for quality climbing in the high-season. The guide book maps are notoriously bad (hard to follow) but if you try enough times, you will eventually decipher them. This is a good thing, as it keeps the area less crowded! Also this area is cooler (more wooded).

Try your first gear climb on Cleopatra's Needle (contains the only bolt in the whole park at the top) and feel it wobble when you get to the top (wide enough for 3 butts to sit on for a bit).

Got up here during an impending lightning storm one year - that was amazing to watch it roll in over the lake from the needle, but we beat it down before the lightening hit the lake area.

Pros and Cons
  • Pros:Great quality quartzite rock, unlike rock you will find in other midwestern areas
  • Cons:Overcrowded, waiting for climbs, annoying tourists
  • In a nutshell:Crowded Climbs, but Quality Rock
  • Last visit to Devils Lake State Park: May 2001
  • Intro Written Nov 11, 2002
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Reviews (8)

Comments (3)

  • rdney99's Profile Photo
    Aug 9, 2007 at 8:37 AM

    Good tips.. yes, WI Dells is a pretty area, but an overcrowded tourist trap. Waterparks at the hotels are now expensive and crowded in the winter too- Tony

  • stonefree's Profile Photo
    Jan 8, 2004 at 7:51 PM

    Great guide to the climbs there...

  • herzog63's Profile Photo
    Apr 3, 2003 at 3:15 PM

    Sounds like it used to be a great place to go. Now maybe a late november visit might be best? Great Tips about safety and younger children!


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