Sunday, August 25, 2013

Kid-friendly trails start at Ice Age Center

The Ice Age Interpretive Center is a great place to begin
(or end!) a day hike at Wisconsin Interstate State Park.
Two day hiking trails can be taken from Wisconsin Interstate State Park’s Ice Age Interpretive Center, offering impressive sites.

After heading through the entrance gates, park at the interpretive center, which is on the left. One trail heads away from the center while the other begins at the building.

The westernmost steps of the Ice Age National Scenic Trail end with the park’s 0.5-mile Horizon Rock Trail, which runs from the Ice Age Visitor Center to 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 that instantly will cool you on humid days.

Horizon Rock Trail can be extended by taking a couple of different trails:
g Talus Slope Trail-Meadow Valley Trail – A steep switchback, the Talus Slope Trail links the Horizon Rock Trail to the 0.3-mile Meadow Valley Trail. Meadow Valley crosses through ferns, mosses and various wildflowers on what is now an extinct riverbed carved by glacial meltwaters during the last ice age. The trail ends at the beach party parking lot.
g Pothole Trail – When floodwaters from melting glaciers swept through at the end of the last ice age, swirling water literally drilled holes into the basalt rock underlying this region. The 0.4-mile loop takes you past a number of these interesting geological features.

The Skyline Trail runs for 1.6 miles (3.2 miles round trip) southwest from the center to the Pines Group Camp. It first passes the Skyline Nature Trail and then the Ravine Trail. From there, the trail ascends rock-covered ravines to the valley’s forested rim. Wooden benches are along the way.

The Skyline Trail can be extended by taking a couple of spur trails:
g Skyline Nature Trail –The 0.75-mile trail loops though several plant communities. Interpretive signs describe how the plant communities differ as the landscape changes. The Ice Age National Scenic Trail runs east from the loop behind the visitor center toward the park entrance.
g Ravine Trail – The 0.5 mile trail climbs 260 feet from the valley rim to a shelter, the amphitheater, and a picnic area at the beach parking lot.

The Skyline Trail also can be extended at its southern terminus by taking two connecting trails:
g Eagle Peak Trail – The trail takes you to the park’s highest point, Eagle Peak. Though short at 0.8 miles, it climbs 120 feet in elevation, including up stone stairs. The trailhead begins at the Pines Group Camp. A short side trail passes a traprock quarry built by the CCC during the 1930s on its way to South Campground.
g Silverbrook Trail – To get away from the park crowds, take this 1.2-mile (2.4 miles round trip) trail to the remote, forested southern end. The trail in part follows the original road that connected the village of Osceola to the south with St. Croix Falls to the north. It passes an abandoned copper mine, the Silverbrook Mansion grounds, then reaches the trail’s highlight: 18-foot Silverbrook Falls. There’s an observation point and bench at the falls.

Read more about day hiking Interstate State Park in my Hittin’ the Trail: Day Hiking Wisconsin and Minnesota Interstate State Parks guidebook.