Devil’s Lake | Baraboo Circus City

by Melanie and Jim

What reasons make you decide to go on a brief vacation? Our list was rather long. Friends recommended a place they like that was not far away. Our anniversary was coming, as was a birthday. Health and strength improved. A good friend could meet us for dinner. A nice day was in the offing. We had been too busy. And, the devil and the circus were both involved.

We chose an interesting B & B in the city of Baraboo, Wisconsin called the Ringling House. Yes, the family of Ringling Brothers Circus fame. There were even two elephants in the front yard dressed, it seems, for Halloween.

The house was built in 1901 by Charles Ringling, with a large dining room, parlor, music room, and library. It now has six guest rooms upstairs. Much of the downstairs is original. After breakfast, the owners treated guests to a full history of the Ringling family and a tour of the house. Baraboo was the winter headquarters for the family as they prepared for the next year of touring with the circus.

Our main goal for this brief vacation was to hike the trails in Devil’s Lake State Park, the biggest park in the state. It borders Baraboo. This year we didn’t go on challenging hikes due to health issues. It was time to test our skills and fitness again. We arrived in Baraboo well before check-in time at the B & B and drove the short distance to the north shore of Devil’s Lake. It was a foggy, cloudy, wet day. Map view is here of a nice sunny day via satellite.

That didn’t stop us as we walked an easy trail along the west shore of the lake. All along were huge rocks that had fallen from the cliffs above at the end of the last ice age. Most of the photos don’t show it, but most of the rocks, from quartzite, are beautiful layers of plum colors, with a few pink ones mixed in for good measure.

The next day was sunny and warm. We parked near the trailhead at the base of a high ridge near the south shore of the lake. Two interesting rock features were along that trail. The sign said 0.4 mile and described it as difficult. Elevation change was 500 feet, which consisted of nearly 1,000 stone steps. Very little of the trail was flat. We set our hiking poles and our determination, and started the climb toward Balanced Rock.

A few interesting spots were good stopping points for a rest. The colors of the rocks were amazing in the sunlight and moisture. Wet exposed rock walls had many wasps and hornets on them looking for water and minerals. The panorama near Balanced Rock was beautiful.

The trail got more steep and narrow before it emerged at the top of the ridge. We stopped at a scenic lookout and watched some people having fun taking group pictures and selfies near the edge. A woman asked us if we were getting engaged up here. We laughed and said “No. But our 38th anniversary is coming in a few days.” We handed the camera to someone for this picture of the intrepid explorers.

Tired and hot after the climb on this warm and muggy day.

The Devil’s Doorway was the second rock feature we wanted to see. The end of the Ice Age about 10,000 years ago left this amazing balanced structure at the edge of the cliff. There wasn’t much room on the trail. Wind gusts made us a little nervous and more cautious.

We headed down to the trailhead via a different and slightly shorter trail. It was still a 500 foot descent. Climbing down is more difficult for the knees. We took our time and admired the sights big and small along the way.

Before dinner with our friend that evening, we drove around Baraboo to show her some sights. This quirky sign got our attention and made us laugh.

The next day we drove back home. It was raining hard much of the way. We were glad to have enjoyed the one sunny, dry day. Hiking was a challenge that we met with no ill effects. We enjoyed a good time with a friend, learned about the circus history, enjoyed good food, and explored a new place. Our brief vacation was good.


11 thoughts on “Devil’s Lake | Baraboo Circus City

  1. Eliza Waters

    Sounds like a great little getaway with an interesting B&B and a moderately challenging hike with great views. Those tumbled rocks look like a quarry. Did settlers use them for building? There for the carting away, no need for dynamite!
    My best to you and Melanie.

  2. tierneycreates

    Quite the adventure! Wonderful photos and videos. My favorite image is of the fungi on the tree bark – very cool! Glad no one got hurt on the rocks! Happy Anniversary 🙂

  3. shoreacres

    What a great get-away. I laughed at the sign in the last photo. Convenient, to be able to get spiffed up at the barber shop before going over to the social club. The Ringling house is interesting, too. I visited Hugo, Oklahoma, where a smaller circus wintered, and where there’s a cemetery section dedicated to the performers. The tombstones are creative, to say the least.

    Those rocks are beautiful, and despite Jim having to rush, that’s a really nicely-framed photo. I like the curve of the rock. I’ll bet it felt wonderful to be out hiking, despite the weather.

    1. Melanie McNeil

      It’s not the best photo but it’s an honest one! Yes, it felt great to be out. Most of the adventures we’ve had this year were not as much fun. 🙂 Here’s to more hiking in the future.


We love comments! Tell us what you think.

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s