Where are all the great campsites at Devil’s Lake State Park? It’s not like we haven’t heard that one before! In fact, back in the day when I worked at the visitor center, I answered that question probably 50 times a day this time of year!
It’s hard to avoid sounding like an old geezer sometimes, but back when I worked at the park in the early 1990s, it was nothing like what you guys are seeing today. On a busy weekend we’d have 8…10…? or more people working camper registration on Friday night and during all the crazy transfer & non-reservable site madness the following morning. Then, we were serving around 1 million visitors per year, not 3 million like today.
Another difference when I was there was that the Visitor Information Staff, “VIS” were expected to know the park. I mean, KNOW our park. This started with a 2 day training session, included an expectation that we explored the park during available quiet time, and we even did ride-alongs with the rangers so that we understood how what we did affected their jobs and the other way around as well. Comradery & teamwork were taken as given. Fast paced and crazy, creates some wicked, fun times for sure!! That said, most of us could actually answer your questions because we’d be out there. We could find our own way around the park. We also knew the great, and the sucky (Can I say “sucky?”) campsites.
Here’s The Overview…
Quartzite campground is closest to the North Shore Day Use Area & the beach (But not by much.). The campground used to be a golf course, in fact the Nature Center was the clubhouse! So it’s not surprise that this campground is mostly open. It’s great for RVs and people who like a lot of sun. The campground is surrounded by roads in and out of the park & a train track. The most wooded tent sites, are either near a road or the train. These are nice tent sites, just closer to the noise makers. The campground’s road is also a quick shortcut to the beach coming from the east, so there is more traffic in Quartzite as well. Quartzite campground has been modernized recently, is the most manicured and is open all year.
If you are a tent camper and want to get away from it all, you want to camp in the park’s Upper Ice Age Loop. Now let me say this right now, This is a busy park, all campsites are within ear and eye shot of another campsite. Still, the Upper Ice Age Loop is covered in a heavily wooded mix of maple & oak trees and your best chance for a little seclusion.
I am also a big fan of camping in pine. I love the smell and the level carpet of pine needles. If this is you too, then you’ll love the western, outer loop of the Lower Ice Age campground sites 319 to about 337 [Click For Map]
Now, the Northern Lights campground is often the last to be recommended because it’s somewhere in the middle with a good mix of tent sites and RV sites. You’re a little closer to the beach than the Ice Age campground, but really… it’s walk. When it comes to campsites, if you’ve got the world’s largest RV, you’ll want sites near 163e. Most of the outer rim of the campground is wooded and offers nice tent sites, you’ll just again have to cope with the traffic noises. There is also a nice and fairly new shower building, although it’s a bit small for the number of people who want to use it!
The group camp is a single loop on the opposite side of the lake and definitely a drive from either beach. You are close to the CCC trail which takes you right up the east bluff and to popular rock climbing locations. Oh, and the group camp has the amazing heron rookery.. so that’s cool. 😉
So there you go, a very down-n-dirty overview of Devil’s Lake State Park Campgrounds. Of course, our website offers maps, individual photos of most sites & drive through videos as well, so check that stuff out.
Oh yeah, and my personal favorite campsite? Well, it’s a small tent site in the Lower Ice Age number 361. There is a drinking fountain & pit toilet across the road, there is no one on your right or behind you, you’re next to what used to be the Johnson Moraine trail and can hike right over to Steinke Basin. My favorite thing about site 361 is that there is a small ephemeral stream at the back of the site. So in a wet year, after rain, or early in the spring you’ll often have the sound of trickling water to chill to.
If you’re new to camping at Devil’s Lake State Park… I hope this helps! And feel free to message me through Facebook as well if you have a question. That’s what we’re here for! And if you can’t get in because the park is full.. you’ll find all of our great local campgrounds right here.
Lastly, if you’re already an expert, please feel free to offer your campsite recommendations and why below in the comments!