Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Great Ice Age Trail routes in St. Croix Falls

Horizon Rock Trail
Some 10,000 years ago, much of Wisconsin lay beneath a towering glacier. The glacier crushed and flattened the landscape, and remnants of it formed many of the lakes seen across the county and northern Wisconsin by depressing the land and melting. The Ice Age National Scenic Trail runs nearly 1200 miles across the state – with its western end at St. Croix Falls – largely tracing the extent of the glacier during the most recent ice age.

From its western edge at Wisconsin Interstate State Park, the trail runs through St. Croix Falls north along the St. Croix National Scenic Riverway. It then heads east along 100th Avenue, paralleling and crossing State Hwy. 35 near the small village of Centuria. Several of these Ice Age Trail segments near St. Croix Falls make for great day hikes:
Interstate State Park section – The westernmost steps of the Ice Age National Scenic Trail end with the park’s 0.5-mile Horizon Rock Trail, which runs northwest between the Ice Age Visitor Center and the Pothole Trail. From the center, you’ll pass a historic stone shelter, known as Historic Rock, offering a panoramic view of the river gorge below. From there, the trail descends the forested bluff to a creek bed where you’ll instantly cool off on humid days.
 Esker Trail – This short trail runs atop a tall ridge of sediment left by the meltwater of the retreating glacier. The ridge offers fantastic views of the St. Croix River with visibility of up to eight miles on clear days.
 Mindy Creek Ice Age Trail Segment – Starting with a blufftop view of the St. Croix River Valley, the trail runs through a ravine boasting boulders and interesting rock formations left here during the last age. Access the trail from Day Road, about 0.8 miles from the Louisiana Street junction; park at Zillmer Park off of Day Road.
 Riegel Park Ice Age Trail Segment – The trail runs through the village’s 76-acre Riegel Park Preserve. A trap rock meadow of moss and lichen with scattered trees covers the preserve.
 Indianhead Flowage Trail – Walk atop billion-year-old volcanic rock surrounded by the deep blue of the St. Croix River and the lush green of the Northwoods forest on this 1.5-mile trail.

Read more about day hiking the scenic riverway in my guidebook Hittin’ the Trail: Day Hiking the St. Croix National Scenic Riverway.