Hikers, Dogs & Ski Trails Don’t Mix

Hikers, Dogs & Ski Trails Don’t Mix

Does it tick you off when you find people walking their dog on Devil’s Lake’s groomed ski trails? That’s the discussion going on right now on the Fans of Devil’s Lake State Park Facebook page when a regular park user posted pictures of people doing just that! Of course, it’s not really a dog problem. The pups don’t know that there is a rule. It’s really a people problem.

The clash between skiers and dog walkers on Steinke Basin was inevitable. There has been a clash between skiers and hikers for years. Once Steinke Basin became an unofficial and often off-leash dog park, then pets (and pet leavings…) entered into the mix. As I said before, it’s not the pups fault, it just makes it more complex.

There are rules. Maybe 10-20 years ago people followed (or enforced) them. A lot has changed in 20 years! Thing is with each new generation, with each first time visitor and an annual growth in overall park users, it becomes more important than ever that we communicate and educate. Visibility and consistency by park authorities to maintain groomed trails and inform park users on site will be required to keep hikers (and their pets…) off of the ski trails. Years of bad habits will take time to correct. We won’t minimize the problem until ALL trail users realize someone is paying attention. This doesn’t mean fines necessarily, it just means contact, communication and education.

So for what’s it’s worth.. DON’T hike on groomed ski trails and DON’T let your dog off-leash on any hiking trails.

– I’m sure that just solved the problem!! 🙂


Disclaimer: And of course, my crazy opinions are my own and often caused by too many hours of isolation in the deep dark woods. My posts certainly don’t represent the opinions of the Wisconsin DNR or any other group, organization or book club.


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  1. Joseph Salemi

    Great points Derrick,
    An off leash dog is always dangerous because the on-leash dogs are extra threatened as they can’t do the usual doggie thing they do when they meet a new dog where they nose up, maybe bark or growl and then back off to circle back with a better understanding.
    The on leash dog feels trapped and can’t speak in the usual doggie way. The off leash dog feels whatever and all of a sudden two good dogs are fighting.
    The leashed owner is now in danger of getting caught up in a twisted leash and tripping and falling into the mix.
    Keep your dogs on leash. PLEASE.

  2. Author

    Yeah, we could go on all day about off-leash dogs which have become a real problem on Steinke Basin and the Uplands Loop.. Not sure how you fix that without rangers walking the trails consistently.

  3. Heidi

    For goodness sake. Now even the outdoors can’t be shared? It’s a flipping’ ski trail. If this is your biggest problem of the day kneel and kiss the damn trail. Or maybe find something that benefits someone other than yourselves with all that spare time on your hands?

  4. Author


    I’ll assume you’ve had a bad day. But here’s what you need to think about..

    There are 29 miles of trails. Only about 2.5 are groomed and off limits to hikers. So, “sharing”?

    Next, a park ranger (Ultimately paid by us) has to spend a chunk of their day grooming the trail..using specialized equipment and fuel(Purchased again, by all of us). That should be a good enough reason to follow the posted rules. I’m sure you don’t mean to disrespect park rangers?

    Skiers (Many of whom are friends, neighbors and tourists that help pay our bills.) know that walking on the trail ruins the tracks (The thing the ranger spent time creating.) and accelerates the degredation of the trail conditions which of course not only makes skiing suck, but can damage their equipment.

    Lastly, there is that bit about park rules. Most of us in a civil society understand rules are created for a reason. Simply being a good neighbor and respectful person would make you want to follow the park’s rules knowing that you may not always understand them, but they were put in place for a reason. In this case, not to make your life difficult but so that we can all share the parks trails for a variety of activities such as cross country skiing.

    Hikers get the other 26.5 miles.

    1. Joseph Salemi

      I’d like to take a moment to thank DLSP for grooming ski trails-a difficult and time consuming winter task, even if only 2.5 miles of the entire park are groomed for us.
      One solution to the destructive behavior of non skiers would be to close Stienke Basin to non skiers which seems like overkill considering that it is so simple to stay out of the tracks if you are not on skis. It is only civil.
      Another way may be to have a sign that explains why it is important to not damage the ski tracks so people will at least be a little considerate of the issue.

      When you see ski tracks, that means that more people will be coming to use those tracks. Tracks make skiing a lot easier but foot prints made by people and other animals will freeze and ruin the ski tracks set by the hard work of cooperative skiers working together.
      The more skiers the better as long as all users protect the set tracks.
      Without these tracks, the skis get hung up constantly so you can’t get that nice kick glide and skiing becomes impossible ruining your whole trip.

      There is nothing worse than ski tracks that have been trampled for no good reason.

      If you are not on skis it is proper to just walk next to but well off the tracks. But even better, consider going somewhere else to you can enjoy trails more suitable to your needs.

      It’s a lot of work to set tracks and keep them in good working shape. Please do your part to help us out.
      Thank You for your efforts.

  5. Chris

    Is the road from Stienke Basin going up to the top of the bluff considered a groomed ski trail? I went up that road last weekend with my snowshoes and on-leash dog. There were ski tracks going all the way to the top. I stayed off to the side of the ski tracks, but the dog didn’t quite understand that.

    1. Author


      This year the ranger did NOT groom the rescue road which leads up to the top of the bluff, specifically so that snowshoers had a route up. You’ll see that people are still skiing on it, but it’s not groomed like the steinke basin loop. Some parks label these “multi-use” trails and you’ll see boot tracks, dogs, skis and snowshoes… It’s all good. 🙂

    2. M

      When I stopped in the office on Thursday to double check the ski trails, Rich (in the office) told me this area (the rescue road) was also reserved for skiers…although when we got there it did look like an “everyone” trail and it was not groomed. We decided to snowshoe across the street (KM) and only ski on SB groomed areas. He also provided a map with all the “winter trails” since I hadn’t been on the snow trails for some time and wanted to make sure I was on the appropriate trail. A note to above comments..the trails are meant to be shared, but it is a respect for people doing all kinds of silent sports…we want to respect the hard work put into maintaining the trails….even if we don’t use them for our own specific purpose. Enjoy winter, we only have a few more months left !! 🙂 (smile)

      1. Author

        Yeah it’s fair to say that what is “reality” and what is “official” are not exactly matching at all times. Of course this leads to confusion and conflict at times.. I could comment more on that.. but I’ll get blowback,,, 🙂

  6. Joseph Salemi

    So the sign reads to stay off ski trails. Does that mean that walkers are not allowed on the trail at all even if walking off to the side or does the sign mean that walkers must not use the trail at all?
    There may some confusion as to what constitutes “ski trail”. Is it the entire trail or just the tracks themselves? Perhaps the signage needs clarification with language specific to the set track itself. This would help to separate the idea of “track” vs “trail”.

    1. Author


      I’ve been told that you can’t even walk along the side of the trail.. something I’ve done before myself. Frankly the signage out there now stinks. It’s hard to see and unclear to folks who don’t know the “edicate” of winter trail use. 10 years ago.. no one used those trails other that skiers for the most part.. the signs just haven’t kept up with the times. 🙂

  7. Katie

    Food for thought: I hike all the time with my dogs, I have never been out to devil’s lake but am planning a trip and read this. I too hate off leash dog walkers and people that don’t pick up after their dog (s). Mostly because that could be detrimental to my hiking lifestyle and it’s nasty. That being said, I never knew there was an issue with hikers and cross country skiing. I didn’t even know you shouldn’t walk where you see a ski trail. I’m sure many hikers are in the same boat, I’m sure it’s not a malicious attempt on skiers.

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