Spectacular scenery, a full range of recreational activities, and a full-time naturalist make this a very popular park. The nearly-10,000-acre state park is 2 miles south of Baraboo and about 40 miles northwest of Madison.
Largely paved trail with steep stairs at places. Clean and no obstacles. A series of purple quartzite cliffs offer excellent views toward part of Baraboo to the north, East bluff to the east, the moraine to the southeast, and Devils lake down below. On return took the Tumbled rock trail along the lake, nice talus fields.
Ample parking and a restroom at the trail head. The trail follows the creek for the whole length. The trail goes from paved surface to easy dirt road to moderate rock scrambling and creek fording after the "end maintained trail" sign. Waterproof boots and poles will help. Very interesting narrow deep gorge. Huge rock blocks fell from cliffs. The cliff exposes layers of pink quartzite pebbles in between sandstone. The trail ends at a low waterfall. Great golden fall colors.
For the overall lack of elevation gain in Wisconsin, this trail is perhaps the most redeeming. Its modest 450 feet gain is attained within a short distance -- resulting in excitingly steep quartzite steps. In addition, most of the trail is exposed with excellent views of the valley below, including Devils lake to the southwest, the terminal moraine plug to the south that formed the lake, and distant lake Wisconsin to the east. Main attractions along the trail include the balanced rock and the devils doorway, both delicate rock formations, and several potholes. Also look out for ancient ripple marks baked into the quartzite rocks. This is an extremely popular trail, be prepared to share it with literally bus loads of hikers during weekends. There are a lot of children and dogs, too. The quartzite steps can be slippery at places, and the trail tends to camouflage itself in talus fields. Young hikers should be closely supervised because of steep drop offs, but should otherwise have no difficulty completing the trail.
Fantastic State Park. Parking pass cost of $11. Lots of parking options near the trails.
We started at the North end of the East Bluff Trail and then cut off on to the Balanced Rock Trail. East Bluff is a moderate Trail with a few steeper grades. We hiked in early October so it was muddy and slippery in parts. Strongly suggest good hiking boots for this time of year. The Balanced Rock Trail from N to S is steep and rocky. It is also very narrow. It is a Moderate to Advanced Trail the lower you go. It ends on the railroad tracks that can be followed back to the visitor center and parking. The lake and the views are beautiful. I highly recommend this park and the trails. One additional note. This is a very popular trail and busy in the afternoons. Go early if you want a less crowded experience.