Devil’s Lake State Park celebrated its centennial anniversary in 2011, making it the third oldest state park in Wisconsin. But Devil’s Lake is second to none in terms of popularity, attracting more than one million guests per year—and for good reason. Here, 500-foot-tall quartzite bluffs cast impressive shadows across Devil’s Lake, a 360-acre swimming hole surrounded by hiking trails and family-friendly campgrounds. The park is also an important sanctuary for wildlife. Nearly 100 species of birds call Devil’s Lake home—that’s half the total number of bird species in Wisconsin. Keep your eyes peeled for black bears and deer during your stay, too. What to Do Climb some rocks. For avid rock climbers, Devil’s Lake State Park represents a blissful reprieve from the flat prairies of the Midwest. Although the park itself doesn’t maintain any climbing routes, beginners can sign up for a guided excursion through a third-party outfitter such as Devils Lake Climbing Guides. Read our five tips for the beginner rock climber. Go for a swim. Two swimming beaches, North Shore and South Shore, border Devil’s Lake on opposite sides. Both are equipped with bathhouses and picnic tables. If you don’t feel like fighting the crowds, head to the South Shore. It’s a bit rockier, but you’ll have more space to spread out. You can also fish for brown trout and walleye or hop into a kayak and paddle around the lake. Hit the trail. Lace up your hiking boots to explore the 29 miles of marked hiking trails within the park. The moderately challenging hike to Devil’s Doorway rewards trekkers with panoramic views of the lake from atop East Bluff and a glimpse at the iconic Devil’s Doorway rock formation. Pick up the trailhead in the CCC Parking Lot. Where to Eat Both beaches have a large concessions stand with nachos and soft pretzels, as well as a grocery store where you can stock up on provisions such as firewood and beer. There are two picnic areas on the North Shore and one on the South Shore. Each is equipped with grills, a water spigot, picnic tables, and sheltered pavilions available for rent. Outside the park, the town of Baraboo—just 3 miles away—is home to several notable restaurants, including the quaint and homey Little Village Cafe. Where to Stay If you’re craving a true Devil’s Lake experience, reserve a campsite well ahead of time so you can sleep under the stars in one of the park’s three wooded campgrounds: Northern Lights, Ice Age, or Quartzite. There are hundreds of electric and non-electric sites for RVs and tents, but they fill up quickly on summer weekends. If you prefer to sleep beneath a solid roof, seek out a hotel room in Baraboo. Looking for more ways to spend a summer weekend? Check out Groupon Getaways to plan your next vacation. Photos: Jorie Larsen, Groupon.Read More
Webster Place Athletic Club
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Webster Place Athletic Club
Midwesterners who dream of scaling mountains are largely out of luck. Prairies and plains are the region’s predominant geological features, and neither makes for the best rock climbing. But there’s one glaring exception to all that flatness: Wisconsin’s Devil’s Lake State Park, where rocky outcroppings and quartzite cliffs rise hundreds of feet above the glassy waters of Devil’s Lake. Nobody is more familiar with these rocks than Nick Wilkes, the owner and head guide of Devils Lake Climbing Guides. Wilkes is a Wisconsin native who spent several years leading climbing excursions in Wyoming, New Hampshire, and Utah. A few years ago, the perpetual wanderer returned home to launch his company. “Wisconsin isn’t the climbing capital of anywhere,” said Wilkes, “[but] Devil's Lake has a deep, storied climbing history.” Wilkes regularly leads small groups of novices up the cliffs at Devil’s Lake. We signed up for one of his introductory classes, and within hours we were scaling cliffs with ease. After dusting off a bit, we asked Wilkes to share his top five tips for beginner rock climbers. 1. Climb often. When you’re starting out, there are exactly three keys to rock climbing: practice, practice, and practice. Head to an indoor gym or a crag whenever you can. As long as you’re climbing regularly, Wilkes said, “it's impossible not to get a lot better within the first few weeks and months.” 2. Find climbing shoes that are snug but comfortable. Wilkes said more advanced climbers often prefer painfully tight shoes, but he recommends beginners start with a comfortably snug pair. 3. Take a class or a guided trip to learn more about technique from a seasoned pro. “The experience will … expand your picture of what climbing can be and what direction you might want to take with it,” he said. 4. Don't get hurt. If you do, give yourself time to heal. A mistake many novice climbers make is doing too much too fast—especially when their bodies might not be ready for that kind of intensity. If you get hurt, Wilkes recommends letting your body heal for at least a month or two. When you do get back on the mountain, go easy on yourself and listen to your body if you feel pain. 5. Have fun. Wilkes said there many different directions rock climbing can take. “Try bouldering, sport climbing, trad climbing, ice climbing, mountaineering—whatever opportunities come your way,” he advised. “Some [disciplines] will appeal more to an athlete, and others to a gear geek or a climbing socialite.” Find more ways to get outside with Groupon’s deals for events and activities in Chicago. Photos: Jorie Larsen, Groupon.Read More