The Wisconsin Ice Age Trail is a 1,200 mile hiking trail stretching from the Minnesota border, all the way to Lake Michigan. Think of it as Wisconsin’s version of the Appalachian Trail! Over 12,000 years ago glacial ice cut through Wisconsin shaping the landscape, the trail passes some of the most scenic parts of this terrain. On my recent visit to Janesville, I hiked a very small section of the trail called the Devil’s Staircase Segment!
The Devil’s Staircase Janesville WI
🚶🏻♀️Easy: Mainly flat, some stairs
🗺Length: 0.9 miles one way | 1.8 miles return (officially 1.8 miles one way if including the section through Riverside Park)
🕚Hike duration: 20 minutes one way | 40 minutes return
📍Trail head: Riverside Park, Parkside Dr, Janesville WI
🌳Park facilities: Parking, toilets, baseball diamond, splash park, play area, pavilions
The Devil’s Staircase trail starts in Riverside Park, just up the road from the Lincoln-Tallman House. Officially the Devil’s Staircase segment starts near the entrance of Riverside Park and follows the Rock River around the edge of the park before turning into a dirt path through the woods. Including the perimeter of the park, the total length of the segment in one direction is 1.8 miles. However the woodland section is around half of this length and is where I started the hike.
When you enter the park, follow the road right to the end. You’ll reach the baseball diamond, splash park and large car park…this is where I parked, but if you continue along the road leading behind the baseball diamond you’ll eventually reach a smaller carpark slightly closer to the beginning of the trail through the woods.
This is where I started and finished the trail. It’s roughly a 1.8 mile round trip, doubling back on the same path and took me around 40 minutes to complete with photo stops!
The start of the trail is marked with a brown sign and a staircase leading up into the trees…this is not the Devil’s Staircase, this just puts you onto the trail! From here you’ll follow the path that heads to the right.
Now some words of warning. When I was researching the route, I came across websites saying that poison ivy is along the trail. Being an English person, I can point out a stinging nettle from a mile away, but poison ivy, I don’t have a clue. All the pictures made it just look like a normal boring leaf. So to play it safe, I just avoided all leaves…in a forest! As you can imagine, in some areas this felt like I was in one of those films where someone is trying to rob a bank and they have to avoid breaking a maze of laser beams!
Also, if your name is Kylie and you stand still for too long, you will be eaten alive by mosquitoes. You may want to wear bug spray!
The trail was a very pleasant walk. On a cloudy midweek day in August, I had the trail to myself. The path can be quite narrow in places, with bluffs towering up on one side and then drops down to the Rock River on the other!
One of the highlights for me was seeing an owl! At first I thought it was an eagle as it flew by, but when it sat in a nearby tree and I was able to zoom in on it with my camera I was amazed what I saw! It was looking right at me! I’d never seen an owl like this in the wild before!
Of course, true to the trail’s name, there are several areas where there are stone steps. These were some of my favourite sections of the trail, I liked the way they switched back on themselves! The stones get slippery in rainy weather so please take your time!
The trail goes a bit crazy nearing the end of the Devil’s Staircase segment…you emerge from the bushes and are spat out onto a golf course! Fortunately, you don’t need to cross any fairways so you SHOULDN’T be hit by any flying rogue balls. Just scoot round the putting greens, round a pylon, over the train track and disappear back into the bushes again.
This section of the Ice Age Trail ends when you reach the main road. There’s a little information hut and a small parking area, that marks the start of the Arbor Ridge Trailhead (2.1 miles). I simply turned around and followed the path back the way I came.
Heading back in this direction, for some reason the trail feels more exposed to the drops down to the Rock River! Even though the Devil’s Staircase segment finishes at the entrance Riverside Park, the Ice Age National Trail continues, following the Rock River right back into Downtown Janesville, looping past the Rotary Botanical Gardens on the far side of town, before heading north out of Janesville. The Janesville Section of the Ice Age National Scenic Trail is 10.3 miles.
Other Janesville WI Posts You May Enjoy
Have you hiked any segments of the Wisconsin Ice Age National Trail?