Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Enjoy lake, woods in Wisc. northwoods

Town of Hayward Recreational Forest in autumn
Among the Northwoods’ newest hiking trails can be found at the Town of Hayward Recreational Forest in Sawyer County, Wisconsin. The 160-acre facility opened in spring 2011 and is quickly becoming a popular cross country skiing and snowshoeing destination. In spring, summer and fall, it’s also a great place for day hiking.

Combining the rec forest’s Blue and Orange trails into a 1.6-mile walk takes you through a woods past a wetland and then a scenic lake where wildlife is abundant.

Dry periods are the best time to visit the forest, as deer ticks can be a problem in the wet grass that makes up the trail surface; when the grass is mowed, though, this isn’t a issue. In addition, the forest is closed to hiking during Wisconsin’s annual gun deer hunting season, which runs the Saturday before to the Sunday after Thanksgiving.

To reach the rec forest, from U.S. Hwy. 63 at Hayward’s south end, take Vermont Street north. The road curves west, becoming Johnson Street and upon leaving the Hayward city limits turns into County Hill Road. Drive for about two miles. Past N. Gomey Road, the entrance to the park will be on your left, just beyond the gravel pit. The entry road takes you to the parking lot.

Wooded land
From there, hikers have choice of two trails, which in turn lead to several loops. Take the one on the lot’s south side and to the right; it’s nicknamed the Blue Trail because of its color on the rec forest map.

The Blue Trail’s first segment runs straight and leads to a loop. When you come to the T-intersection, you’ve reached that circle.

At that junction, go right. Another straight section runs for a third of a mile. You’ll pass through an oak, aspen and pine forest. The terrain is rolling to hilly.

When coming to the next trail junction, go right onto the Orange Trail, a short 0.49-mile loop. You’ll pass a wetlands and then curve away from it.

On the next sharp curve, you’ll reach the Konieczny Lake shore. It’s named for the property owner from who the land for the rec forest was purchased in 2007.

At the next trail junction, you’ll rejoin the Blue Trail. Go right. The path continues briefly alongside the lake, and then trail and shoreline veer away from another.

More amenities coming
You’ll pass three more junctions as you round back toward your starting point. These are connecting trails that run through the forest’s southeast corner.

At the fourth junction, you’ve reached the segment of the Blue Trail that you came in on before reaching the very first loop. Take this segment by going right and head back to parking lot.

While the forest is underdeveloped compared to the typical state or county park – there are no bathrooms or water – this does makes for a stronger back-to-nature experience. Plans are underway to improve amenities; in fact, a warming house was recently added.

One other benefit: Pets are allowed at the rec forest.

Read more about day hiking Sawyer County, Wisconsin, in my Day Hiking Trails of Sawyer County guidebook.