|Thick evergreen groves line a segment of the Forest Lodge Nature Trail.|
Route heads through several ecosystems
Among the best hikes to learn about the Wisconsin Northwoods is the Forest Lodge Nature Trail, east of Cable in southern Bayfield County. Located in the Chequamegon National Forest, the 1.5-mile loop is maintained in cooperation with the Cable Natural History Museum.
Any dry summer day is excellent for hiking the trail, and fall colors are spectacular with trees usually remaining golden until the third week in October.
To reach the trail, take County Road M for about 8.6 miles east of Cable. Turn left/north on Garmish Road. The trailhead is a mile later on the road’s right/south side.
From the parking lot, head straight south into an old field. If you turn left, you’ll end up on the neighboring Conservancy Trail.
Spruce, bog, white pine
While fairly flat, the trail does narrow from four- to two-feet wide upon reaching the woods. The forested section of the trail sports some rough tread as well.
The trail rambles through a number of ecosystems, offering a mini-walk through the region’s natural history.
Among the ecosystems is a lowland bog, surrounded by spruce and slender-stemmed cotton grass. Here you’ll also find the carnivorous bog-dwelling pitcher plant.
Another ecosystem – now rare for northern Wisconsin – is of old-growth white pines. During the 1880s when pioneers settled the area, the white pine dominated; after being logged off, hardwoods replaced them.
A good portion of the trail is a newer upland hardwood forest. Chipmunks are abundant there.
One element of the landscape hasn’t changed, though: glacial erratics. These are boulders and rocks brought here during the last ice age that are different in color and composition than those “native” to the area.
Hikers also will walk through a grove of hemlocks, which looks like a scene out of a fairy tale, and an experimental prairie.
An excellent way to identify and learn more about these sights is the interpretive booklet available at the Cable Natural History Museum, located in Cable at 13470 County Road M (check ahead for hours).
If time and energy permits, consider adding the two-mile Conservancy Trail to your hike. That trail is more varied in terrain with some hill climbing.
Read more about day hiking Bayfield County, Wisconsin, in my Day Hiking Trails of Bayfield County guidebook.