roh-SHAY-ah-KREE STAYT PAHRK. That’s my best guess at how to pronounce Roche-a-Cri State Park. I’ve never heard anyone, who is certain of its pronunciation, speak it aloud. If you know better, have at it.
Roche-a-Cri is a “big ol’ rock”, as one of my friends has phrased it. If you intend to visit Roche-a-Cri, it will either be to gaze at the petroglyphs or to climb the stairway to the top of the rock.
Spoiler alert: It won’t be for the petroglyphs.
Welcome to Roche-a-Cri?
Sadly, there is no large welcome sign specific to Roche-a-Cri. You could argue that there isn’t really a good place for one where you turn off the highway to enter the park, but your argument wouldn’t hold much water.
The best you get is the generic Wisconsin State Parks sign (above) near the office building (below) and a wordy informational sign later.
By the way, in winter, the main (Highway 13) entrance is closed. Instead, you have to go around to the south side of the park and enter via Czech Avenue. (I have no idea why there is this restriction.)
Near the office is this playground which probably doesn’t get much love because it’s not near the camping area.
Petroglyphs Are Ancient Graffiti
We first stopped by the petroglyph wall, partly because I wanted to get them out of the way before topping the rock and partly because the one-way road took us there first.
If you think it’s a little hard to see the glyphs in the photo above, that’s because it’s a little hard to see many of them in person too. There are informational plaques near the wall that try to give you clues about what to look for. There are two problems with this. One is the age of the ancient glyphs. Time has weathered many of them to virtual unreadability. The other problem is the modern glyphs; i.e., graffiti.
Over the years, many people have decided to add their own glyphs to the wall. One of the plaques suggests that someone probably stood on his horse to carve his name into the rock, due to the extreme height of the carving. (He must have had a very reliable horse.)
Some latter-day carvers took a lot of time to leave their marks. Consider how fancy and how deep some of these letters are.
To the Top of the Rock and Beyond
We obviously didn’t walk beyond the top of the rock, but we could see far beyond it. But let’s start at the bottom.
There’s a sign near the bottom of the stairway that claims you’ll climb 303 steps to get to the top.
Actually, this depends on how you count. I know because I counted. Do you count those steps along the path that approaches the staircases? At the top, there’s one step down before you get to the observation deck…do you count that one? By my count, there are only 301.
This is one of the longer flights of stairs.
Here is the final (level) approach to the observation area.
There are several panorama signs on the deck that point out what you may be able to see in the distant landscape.
The view from the top is quite good, but is becoming obscured by the growing trees all around.
You can see at least 20 miles on a clear day like this. Note the two mounds in the distance – Minnie and Ship rocks.
This is the view to the south (I think).
Is the Climb Worth the Effort?
I’m glad we (successfully) made the climb to the Top of the Rock. If we – seasoned citizens that we are – can do it, you likely can too. There are benches along the stairway, but I think we only used one of them, though we did pause on a step from time to time.
If you decide to attempt the climb, I would suggest you wait for a mild day. I wouldn’t want to try this in 90-degree heat. I also don’t see a need to make this trek more than once. The view is good but not what I’d call spectacular.
Friendship / Adams, Wisconsin (5 miles)
Nearest Emergency Facility
Friendship, Wisconsin (4 miles)
6:00 AM to 11:00 PM, year-round
Vehicle admission sticker is required