Tuesday, August 27, 2013

West Torch Trail loops offer great forest day hike in Chequamegon N.F.

Towering pines on West Torch Trail.

Fairly flat trail offers
primitive hiking experience

Hikers can get escape into a thick, serene woods on the West Torch Trail south of Clam Lake in the Chequamegon National Forest.

Wild Torch is a stacked loop trail system with loop lengths of 0.8, 1.7, 3.7, and 5 miles. The longer two loops offer some hilly terrain, but combining the 0.8 and 1.7 loops makes for an easy 2.2-mile hike (the loops share a stretch of trail).

Trees and wildflowers
To reach the trailhead, from Clam Lake take County Road GG south for 2.5 miles. The parking lot is located on the road’s left/east side.

From the lot, go left/northeast to do the trail clockwise. This is opposite of the way cross country skiers would do the trail in winter. The terrain is mainly flat with a few gentle rolls.

About 0.15 miles in, you’ll reach a trail junction; keep going straight (Going left takes you on the longest of the four looping trails.). Trees nicely shade the entire walking path, which are narrower than jeep trails but wider than most backcountry trails. Species lining the trail are common to the Chequamegon and include pines, mixed hardwoods, aspens, oak, paper birch, and sugar maple.

Upon reaching the next trail junction, about 0.15 miles later, continue straight/northeast. From there, the trail curves south and then east. Watch the ground for a number of different wildflowers that blossom through the year. Common blooms in the region include the downy yellow violet, the large-flowered bellwort, the large-flowered trillium, and the wood anemone.

Woodland animals
Continue right/south at the next trail junction (If going straight, you’ll end up on the third longest of the loops.). Red squirrels particularly like this section of the forest, but don’t be surprised if you spot other woodland animals, including white-tailed deer, chipmunks and rabbits. A variety of small birds also fill the air with song through the day.

At the next trail junction, go right/west. You’ll pass one more junction, at which you go straight/left back to the parking lot.

The trail is primitive so during summer and early fall you'll want to wear jeans and a long-sleeved shirt. As you're close to a wetlands, be sure to don and carry bug spray as well.

A final note that while hiking the trail is free, a recreation pass is required for parking anywhere in the Chequamegon.

Read more about family friendly day hiking trails in my Headin' to the Cabin guidebooks.