For our last fall weekend getaway of the year, we explored the southwestern part of our state, Sauk County. Other than visiting Spring Green when I was in college, my husband and I have never really ventured that much into this part of the state. There were several state parks we always wanted to see, so it was nice to finally be able to scratch them off our bucket list.
Natural Bridge State Park
Our first stop was Natural Bridge State Park. This is a itty, bitty little park with one attraction, the natural rock bridge pictured above.
There is one very short trail you can take in and out just to see the bridge, or you can hike the one mile loop. We chose the loop, it was a nice little walk through the woods and we saw several interesting rock formations.
The Natural Bridge is actually very impressive, but because I have been spoiled by Arches National Park, I wasn't awestruck. I did include myself in the photo below so you could get an idea of its size. I always find the trees growing out of the rock so interesting. The bridge is 25 feet high and 35 feet wide.
The one mile loop was easy to follow and well maintained for a park that doesn't get a lot of visitors. We were the only ones there until we were getting ready to leave, and then another car showed up.
There was one nice spot to get a view.
Tower Hill State Park
If you like history, Tower Hill State Park is the place for you. The highlight of this park is its shot tower where they made lead shot in the late 1800s.
There are several old historic buildings and landmarks in this park.
There are two miles of trails in this park, where you can hike the bluffs and see river views, but we really just had time to see the tower, so we took the tower trail through the woods.
The Shot Tower is a short, steep climb up some stone steps.
Inside the tower you can read all about the history of the tower and see you the lead shots were made, plus you can look straight down into the tower!
After spending some time inside the tower, we walked around to the lower part. We wanted to see the tunnel under the tower, but the trail to the tunnel was closed. 😢
The top and lower photos were taken below the tower looking up.
Governor Dodge State Park
Our next park, Governor Dodge State Park we heard so many good things about. It's one of Wisconsin's largest state parks at 5,000 acres and considered a "family favorite". We had high hopes about this park but honestly, we didn't like it. The waterfall and trails were just "meh". We really didn't like how all the trails were intertwined. They seemed very hard to follow and not well marked. And frankly, there just wasn't a whole lot of jaw dropping beauty in this park. I think it's just located in a more populous part of the state full of city folk who don't get outdoors too often and don't have a clue about some of the beautiful parks in the rest of the state.
Like Tower Hill State Park, there is a lot of history in Governor Dodge State Park. In 1948 Iowa County presented one of the farmsteads to the state of Wisconsin, and some buildings of this farm are still there, like this old spring house.
The easy, short, paved trail down to Stephens Falls, the parks biggest highlight, is very beautiful, especially in the fall. Be sure to watch the last video at the end of the post showing me walking this lovely 0.5 mile trail.
You will have to watch the videos if you want to see the waterfall. I did two videos: one up close to the falls and then a full 360 view. It was just trickling when we were there, but I guess in the spring there is a lot more water gushing over the edge.
The next trail we went on was to lead us to the next big highlight of the park: Cave Trail. I really didn't like the hike at all. It was so hard to follow, and we had to hike two different trails, just to get to the Cave Trail Loop to see the Cave. What could have just been a 1.2 mile loop ended up being a 4.3 mile out and back trail because we had to walk so far just to get to the loop.
There are multiple lake views with the surrounding hillside on the Woodland Trail leading to the Cave Trail.
Eventually we made it to the Cave Trail Loop (I was beginning to wonder) and started seeing some interesting rock formations.
The cave is pictured below. You can see my hubby peering inside. You can go inside the cave a little bit, but neither one of us dared. 😱
Blue Mound State Park
We were disappointed we never got to see any great high views in Governor Dodge State Park. We read reviews of other trails in the park that might have offered views but everyone said they were overgrown, weedy, tick-infested, and hard to follow so that discouraged us not to try them. However, we did discover that there was another park nearby that had not one, but TWO towers you could climb to see great views, so we decided to check it out.
It was just a short hike from the parking lot to the tower and we finally got the fabulous fall views we were looking for!
We drove around this little park before leaving and decided we liked it more than Governor Dodge State Park and wanted to come back another time to explore it more. We learned it's the only state park in Wisconsin with a swimming pool and splash pad, so we thought it would be a great place to take the grandkids!
And before you go, be sure to watch these short videos of Governor Dodge State Park.
Have A Great Day! Amy
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