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East Bluff Combo Loop Trail

Devil's Lake State Park, Wisconsin

Devilís Lake, a 360-acre, sapphire blue body of water surrounded by 500 foot high cliffs, ranks as Wisconsinís premiere natural vacation destination - over a million people a year set foot on the 29 miles of hiking trails, and/or enjoy the refreshing atmosphere of the lake.

Devilís Lake State Park, part of the Ice Age National Scientific Reserve, has a myriad of trails that highlight geological evidence of glaciation - to maximize the opportunity to see as many features as possible, we created a 3.2 mile lollipop loop, encompassing 4 of the parkís trails (Balanced Rock, Grottos, Potholes, and East Bluff).

Our hike began along the Balanced Rock Trail, accessed from the parking lot along the southeast shore of the lake - follow the wide path into the woods, cross the active railroad tracks, and hike 0.1 mile to a signed intersection. Take a right along the Grottos Trail.

The Grottos Trail is a treat for hikers venturing out on a hot summer day - the 0.3 mile trail skirts the base of the talus field along the south end of the East Bluff. Patches of cold air along the rocky talus field drop into areas appropriately known as cold air sinks, or grottos, where you can enjoy a respite from the heat by popping into these naturally air conditioned pockets.

Continue hiking along the Grottos Trail, then after enjoying the cool grottos and boulders perfect for climbing- kids will love them - watch for the intersection with the Potholes Trail.

Take a left at the intersection and begin climbing the 0.3 mile Potholes Trail towards the top of the 500 foot East Bluff - the path ascends steeply via a series of stone steps, rewarding the hiker with a birdís eye view of the lake and southern areas of the park and finally, a fun climb through a spectacular split, or fissure, in the rock face. Last but not least, watch for the round depressions found along the top of the trail - these formations, known as potholes, were formed by rocks embedded in an ancient glacier.

After reaching the crest of the bluff, pick up the East Bluff Trail, heading east (left) along the footpath back towards the shore of Devilís Lake - beautiful views of the lake, far below, await.

As you hike along the East Bluff Trail, keep an eye out for the Devilís Doorway Trail - a spur trail leading to one of the most iconic views in the park.

Devilís Doorway, a massive rock formation with the lake as itís backdrop, is a sight to behold - the rock itself, among the oldest exposed rock in North America, takes on different hues as the light changes. The gray to pink Baraboo quartzite and red rhyolite, showcasing the pink glow of the rising sun perfectly - if you can time your hike to be there at sunrise you will be in for a treat.

Continuing on the Devilís Doorway spur, you soon meet back up with the East Bluff Trail - heading back on the East Bluff Trail, keep hiking in an easterly direction until you arrive at a three trail intersection.

The triple intersection is the meeting point for the East Bluff Trail, the East Bluff Woods Trail, and the Balanced Rock Trail - our route took us north on the East Bluff Trail about 0.9 miles (1.8 roundtrip) for views of Elephant Cave and a spectacular open view of a Devilís Lake.

After taking in the views of the lake, we returned the way we came, heading back along the East Bluff Trail to pick up the Balanced Rock Trail back to the parking area - you could easily skip this portion and simply return to the car along the Balanced Rock Trail, but the extra mileage proved worth it as the views were beautiful.

Returning along the Balanced Rock Trail, 0.4 mile, is a tedious undertaking - the trail descends steeply through a boulder field, making it a knee-jarring experience and rough for little legs, if you happen to have kids with you, just take it slow. Despite the difficult descent, the views from the boulder field are beautiful, and donít forget to actually look for Balanced Rock - like we did lol.


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