Monday, August 4, 2014

Trail heads to cascades over red granite rocks at Wisconsin park

Red Granite Falls. Photo courtesy of Markheffron2 / Wikipedia.

Great autumn hike
awaits Copper
Falls S.P. visitors

A river rapids over billion-year-old red-tinged rock awaits day hikers on the Red Granite Falls Trail in Wisconsin’s Copper Falls State Park.

The set of two loops, loosely shaped in a figure 8, runs 2.5-miles round trip to Red Granite Falls in the park’s southern corner. It’s also listed as the Red Trail on the park’s winter maps.

To reach the state park, from the village of Mellen take Wis. Hwy. 169 north. Enter the park by turning left onto Copper Falls Road, and park in the Loon Lake Beach lot. Head south to the beach and pick up the trailhead heading west.

A popular destination at the park, Loon Lake offers a sand beach, swimming area, and canoe launch. Fishermen often can be spotted vying for largemouth bass, northern pike and panfish there.

From the beach, the trail curves away from Loon Lake. It crosses a road and then intersects with a connecting trail going right/north. Shortly beyond that intersection, the trail enters its first loop; at that point, go right/west.

Because of the park’s diversity in trees, a great time to hike the trail is autumn. You’ll find the brilliant yellows of ironwood, paper birch and aspen, the blazing orange of sugar maple, and the scarlet of red oak mixed with the evergreen of hemlock and white pine. White cedars line the riverway.

Half-way through the loop, the trail reaches a connector linking the two loops. Head right/southwest onto the connector.

Wildlife aplenty
With all of the tree cover, you’re likely to spot and certainly see the signs of a variety of animals, including white-tailed deer, porcupines, fishers, raccoons, black bears, wood frogs, and red squirrels. Up to 200 bird species migrate through the park during spring and fall; northern ravens, great pileated woodpecker, chickadees, ruffed grouse, eagles, and loons are common. Each June and July, banded purple and tiger swallowtail butterflies descend upon the woodlands.

When the connector reaches the second loop, go right/west. You’re a little more than half-way on the loop to the Bad River once you pass beneath the power line. As the trail curves south, you’ll find yourself on the river’s shores.

More of a rapids than a falls, at Red Granite the Bad River tumbles over boulders alongside the trail. Though slippery, older children with adults can safely walk onto some of the rocks in the rapids.

Red Granite Falls owes its existence to lava flows from a billion years ago. For the past 200 million years, the Bad River has ran, except during glaciation, over the hardened lava or the sediment above it.

Winter use
In addition to the great geological scenery, the Bad River is an excellent place to fish for rainbow, brown and brook trout.

When the trail curves east away from the river, you’re on the route way back. To ensure you hike the parts of the loops not done on the way in, always go right at the trail intersections.

During winter, the trail is rolled with a snowmobile for snowshoeing and cold weather hiking. Cross country skiing also is allowed.

One final note: If you have a four-legged friend in your family: Dogs are welcomed on the trail, even during winter.

Find out about trail guidebooks available in the Hittin’ the Trail series.