Return to Devil’s Lake State Park in Wisconsin

The Best Trips Don’t Have to be the Exotic Locations.

For many RVers, places “close and familiar” have an appeal that keeps drawing them back.

That’s the way it’s been for the Tim Polley family of Illinois, and Devil’s Lake State Park, located near Baraboo, Wis.

As a child, Tim fondly recalls camping at the sprawling 9,117-acre Wisconsin state park. Now, he continues the tradition by taking his own children to this Midwestern gem every year. The wooded area is rich in gravity-defying geology, spectacular 500-foot cliffs, and miles of hiking and mountain bike trails. In the center is a beautifully clear lake for fishing and playing on sandy beaches. Hundreds of campsites are available. It’s perfect for a family with two active boys.

Devil's Lake State Park“I’ve camped at Devil’s Lake in Wisconsin since I was a kid it’s always been a favorite spot for my family. And we always used an RV. Initially, we borrowed a friend’s pop up to see if we liked it. Then my folks bought a 15-foot travel trailer. We eventually moved up to a 24-foot trailer with a bathroom, all the comforts of home.”

“Lynne is my high school sweetheart — married over 20 years — and we started tent camping on our own vacations. Oddly enough, our first tent camping experience before children was just a nightmare.”

“Of course, I took her to Devil’s Lake. It used to be that you could camp on the south side. Since then, they’ve largely closed public camping on the south side and you camp on the north side. But when I took her there, I swear you needed a machete to get in and out of the campground! It was like real wilderness camping.”

“Then it started to rain. It rained and rained and rained. By the third day of our vacation, we went into Wisconsin Dells to find a hot tub and motel. Fortunately, she gave Devil’s Lake another try.”

“When we had children, we tent camped all over. Then three or four years ago we decided to get a little more comfortable. I’m 40 and my back isn’t the best. So we bought a pop up trailer. We love it. We’ve hauled it all over the place. Used it locally, taken it to the Colorado Rockies, will take it back to Gettysburg and up around Niagara Falls this year. We just try to get out whenever we can.”

“Our sons — Sean and Benjamin love it too. Sean likes to fish. For our lifestyle, it’s been a really good thing. The best thing about having a little pop up trailer is that if you’re not the best ‘backer upper’ you can just get out and push it to where you want.”

“When we travel, we really try to research our trips. We use the Internet to look for campgrounds, destinations and amenities. And we try to go places the boys haven’t been before. Sometimes, the small out-of-the-way places are just as fun as big attractions for us.”

“But as far as some of our best travel memories, I would have to say they bring us back to Devil’s Lake. It’s a place that just keeps us coming back — sometimes with friends, sometimes just us.”

“One reason is it’s a good hiding place. It’s rural enough to be out of the way, but close enough to get to things. Fishing, boating, swimming, biking, hiking — the kids have things to do right there, without having to spend $100 to haul them over to (nearby) Wisconsin Dells. Plus, it’s well patrolled. The park rangers are pretty diligent.”

“Reservations are definitely recommended. We usually go up there the last week of July, first week of August. That’s just the way our jobs work. Between my wife and myself we work five jobs. We need breaks from all our jobs, so we really enjoy the time together.”

“What’s surprising to me is the amount of families who don’t take vacations. I was raised on vacations. It’s really important as a family unit just to get away. The good thing about camping is it gets kids away from video games and TVs. We take bikes with us and bike wherever we go, including Devil’s Lake.”

“Of course, vacations have different ways they can go. There will always be mishaps.”

“Last year we were going to Wisconsin, on our way to Devil’s Lake, and Lynne was really proud of this bike rack she’d bought for the top of our camper. Along the way, I could see it was coming loose, so I had to keep stopping to adjust it.”

“There we were, going down the Interstate at 60 mph and all of the sudden I see my bike whizzing down the highway, cars dodging and weaving. Fortunately, there were no accidents. But by the time we reached Wisconsin, I basically had to leave my fairly new bicycle in the first dumpster I could find.”

“But all told, even that didn’t spoil our plans. With Devil’s Lake, it’s hard to ruin a good trip.”

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