My oldest daughter entered a summer reading program at our local library and one of her prizes from that was a day pass to one of several state parks here in Wisconsin. Since it was the closest one to us (or at least one I knew how to get to), we ended up visiting Devil’s Lake State Park just outside of Baraboo, WI this past weekend.
It was an OK experience and I wouldn’t mind visiting that park again. But, to be perfectly honest, it wasn’t as fun as we thought it would be.
I will start out by saying Devil’s Lake is an absolutely beautiful park. There is breathtaking scenery, some history and quite a bit to do; especially if you like swimming and hiking.
However, while it was a beautiful area, my wife and I were also disappointed to learn it really isn’t a place you want to take young children.
Our youngest daughter just turned a year old a little over a month ago. She’s at an age where she can walk, but can’t walk long distances. And, because she likes to eat, she is a bit too heavy to be carried everywhere. Because of this, we, like many parents, have a stroller for her too.
We didn’t know this at the time (both because there wasn’t much mentioned on the park’s web site and none of our friends warned us in advance) but the park is not stroller friendly.
We found this out the hard way over the weekend. Our oldest really wanted to go hiking and, since we parked on the north side of the lake, we ended up taking the Tumbled Rocks Trail. I picked that particular trail both because it was the shortest (I was concerned our oldest daughter couldn’t handle a longer trail) and because it was the only one that didn’t have a description that included things like “steep inclines” or “stairs.”
What the description left out was the fact the trail was very narrow. Most of the time, there was only enough room for one person to walk through at a time (and there were people walking in both directions on it). And, there were several areas where it either was too narrow for our stroller or it was caved in or there were tree roots pushing up the trail. As a result, we ended up having to carry both our daughter and the stroller; something that wasn’t as easy as it sounded.
Oh, I should mention that I was so busy paying attention to the trail itself; I honestly didn’t notice much of the scenery.
Don’t me wrong about this. I understand the park wanted to avoid disturbing the natural scenery by keeping the trail as non-intrusive as possible. But, at very least, it would have been nice to have some sort of warning. And, if there are more stroller friendly trails, it would have been nice to have some information about them (we avoided experimenting with other trails simply because we didn’t know what we were getting into).
The lack of stroller accessibility was not limited to the hiking trail we were on. We had to park on the far side of a railroad track and found the only way we could get the stroller across it was by walking out of our way down to the main roadway and crossing there. It was either that or carrying the stroller and our daughter up and down stairs or across the raised parts of the track. Also, there are very few paved areas of the park (other than the hiking trails) and, most of the time; we either had to push the stroller across uneven grassy terrain or in areas where we had to watch for cars.
Another thing we couldn’t help but notice about the park was the fact not all of the bathrooms have changing tables in them. Our youngest is still in diapers and, at one point; we actually ended up changing her in our car rather than hunting for a rest room that had a spot to change her.
Oh, and I should mention something else I wish we had some warning about; none of the rest rooms have garbage cans. So, even if you find one that has a changing table, you should also make sure you have a little baggie or something to put the diaper in because you’re going to have to walk it to one of the parking lots to throw it away (there aren’t even garbage cans in the picnic areas).
A couple years from now, I probably will try to take the family back to Devil’s Lake because, as I said before, it is a beautiful area with a lot to do. And, if you are in the area, I would recommend doing the same. But, if you have young children that are unable to walk long distances by themselves, you probably will want to avoid it for now.