Sunday, October 16, 2016

A Fall Hike On Wildcat Mountain

Every weekend in the fall my husband and I take a drive and go somewhere to hike to enjoy the fall colors.  Last weekend we drove north to Dunn County to hike in Hoffman Hills State Recreation Area.  You can see that post HERE if you missed.  This past weekend we drove two hours south to Wildcat Mountain State Mountain.

This is a park we had never heard of before.  Every year we buy a vehicle pass for $25.00 to enter all Wisconsin State Parks for one year.  We try and see as many parks as we can to get our money's worth.  There are so many parks in Wisconsin that we have never been to.  It's fun getting out and exploring them all.

This one attracted us because of the name.  Even though it's highly possible to have wildcats in Wisconsin, they are not exactly common.  And although we have a lot of pretty bluffs in certain parts of the state,  I'd hardly call them mountains.  So we thought we'd check this park out as it sounded pretty interesting.

The first thing we noticed that was different about this park was the descent up.  You have to drive directly up to the top of the "mountain" just to get to the park office.  There's a beautiful lookout at the top and also a hiking trail leading to more look outs.

The hiking trails are very rustic.  And as you can tell by some of the pictures, very narrow.  Most of them are just worn paths.  When we were there sometimes it was hard to see where the trail even was because the leaves had fallen and covered the worn path.

The first trail we went on was called "Old Settler's Trail".  It is a 2.5 mile long loop and went through very dense woods and a 390 foot elevation difference.

This was a pretty long trail, even though 2.5 miles doesn't sound that long.  I remember when we got to a "You Are Here" sign and saw how little we have gone and all the distance yet to travel I laughed and said "That's it?  That's as far as we are?"  It seemed we had already been walking so long.

So many leaves have already fallen, fall is such a short season.  But we still enjoyed the color we saw.

There were several rustic and charming bridges we had to cross.

It was quite chilly when we started out.  It was about 34 degrees when we left with only a high of 54 degrees during the day.  But it was actually quite a pleasant day for a hike, especially since we were walking up hill a lot.  The only part of me I remember being cold was my hands as I didn't have any gloves.

It was so peaceful in these woods.  We hardly ran into any other hikers, although there seemed to be a lot of people camping and kayaking in this park.  The Kickapoo River runs through the park and the area is famous for kayaking because of the scenic lazy water and the fact that the water is not deep so you don't have to worry about drowning if you fall in.

This area is known for it's sandstone so there were many interesting rock formations.  I love seeing all the moss covered rocks.

In addition to the "Old Settlers Trail" we also hiked the "Hemlock Trail".  This trail was much shorter, only 1.3 miles, but it was very challenging as it went straight up!  By the time we came down, my knees were beginning to give out.  It made me feel old.

The Hemlock Trail begins at the base of the Kickapoo River and then ascends up along the sandstone cliffs above the river with an elevation change of 365 feet.  There is an observation point 1,220 feet above sea level at the top of the trail.  And a bench.  Which was very important.  Because you are tired when you reach the top!

This is a view a short distance from where we first parked our car.  It is actually a look-out point from the "Prairie Trail".  But it's such a short trail,  only 925 feet, that I'd hardly call it a trail.  But the view is certainly worth it!

This is an amphitheater in the park.  They were just starting to set up for a wedding when we there.  It is located right at the start of the "Old Settler's Trail".

An amazing sandstone formation on "Old Settler's Trail".

See how narrow the trail was at certain points.  Some areas were even worse because the prickly weeds would encroach upon the trail and snag my shirt as I walked by.  I didn't get any pictures of those spots because I was trying so hard not to get my clothes ripped.

We wondered if they had a bad storm this year because there were a lot of downed trees.  There were several that dropped over the trail like this one, but you could still pass under them safely.

There were so many beautiful ferns growing in these woods.

Look at this large moss covered sandstone formation!  Amazing!

This is a view anyone can enjoy without having to hike a difficult trail.  You just drive right up to a parking lot in the upper picnic area, and it's a short walk on a sidewalk from your car.  So handicapped, elderly, and small children can all enjoy this view!

This is the Kickapoo River at the start of the "Hemlock Trail".  I thought it looked nasty and dirty because of the brown water, but my husband insisted that the water was crystal clear and it only looked brown because of the sandy floor.

This large, beautiful rock formation was right at the start of the "Hemlock Trail".

Here we go, up again.

Once on top of the sandstone formations we were able to look down through the pines and see the kayakers.  My husband wants to go back sometime soon to kayak now.

We met this little guy on the way up to the look-out point.  He was very friendly.

And at the top of this trail, which is called Mt. Pisgah by the way, is yet another scenic overlook.  With a bench, which I collapsed onto, as this was quite a steep and rugged trail.

So now your probably where were going next week?  We actually have to attend a conference in Minneapolis next weekend but were hoping to see some fall colors on the drive there and back.  But the week after that we plan on going to Galena, Illinois and have the kids meet us there.  Our colors in Wisconsin might be gone by then, but they should still have color in Illinois....we hope so anyway.

Have a great day!  Amy

Linking Up with these Fabulous Blogs HERE.


  1. Amazing pictures Amy, glad you got to discover a new state park! Love the narrow paths and steps. Can't believe how many leaves have already fallen there, they just started to turn color here this past week and we're only about 2 hours from the WI border.
    I've been to Galena once before a few years ago, but we only got to spend about 3 hours there. A beautiful little town, just wished there was no parking on their Main Street because of all the nice little shops there. Can't wait for a travel post, I really wanted to go back there this fall but still waiting for hubby to get weekends off (which I hope will be soon!!)

    1. Thanks Elli. Yes, unfortunately the fall foliage doesn't last long in Wisconsin or Minnesota. It just gets cold so fast, and after the first frost, all the leaves start dropping. That's why were headed to Illinois next! I'm looking so forward to seeing Galena. It looks like such a cute town.

  2. What a bargain your park pass is! Looks like a hike in an enchanted forest.

    1. Thanks Leslie, we get a lot of use out of our park passes!

  3. What a beautiful place to visit! Those vistas are quite inspiring. I can imagine having a wedding there would be unforgettable.
    Thanks for joining us on The Maple Hill Hop!

    1. Thank you, it was gorgeous, especially the vistas.


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