Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Hike between cliffs of billion-year-old rock and Lake Superior

Brownstone Trail in autumn. Photo courtesy of travelwisconsin.com

Brownstone Trail
runs along
Bayfield shoreline

Day hikers can enjoy the Lake Superior shoreline along the Brownstone Trail in Bayfield, Wis.

The partially urban hike makes for a scenic 5.2-miles round trip walk and offers the popular tourist village significant public access to the lakeshore.

Park in historic downtown Bayfield or in the lot next to trailhead, which is on South Third Street south of Manypenny Avenue. From the lot, the trail angles southwest.

An abandoned Chicago and North Western Railway bed converted into a hiking trail, the line used to run from north of Bayfield to Washburn. Thanks to its train days, its surface is dirt and gravel and fairly even.

Sailboats and ferry
The trail first passes a marina. In addition to sailboats, sometime during the hike you’re likely see the ferry leaving Bayfield or coming in from LaPointe en route between mainland and Madeline Island.

If short on time or energy, you can turn around at Lakeshore Drive (which later becomes Chequamegon Road) for a 1.5-mile round trip.

But the most scenic part of the hike is ahead as the trail continues onward curving between the water and Lakeshore Drive. You’ll soon encounter the brownstone cliffs of the Lake Superior shoreline.

The sandstones settled there about a billion years ago when northeastward-flowing braided streams deposited sediment. In some sections of the Bayfield Peninsula, the typically red sandstone is up 4300 feet thick. It’s entirely devoid of fossils.

Building materials
In 1869, companies quarried the Bayfield area and some of the surrounding Apostle Islands for the brownstone. From there it was shipped to several Midwestern cities, including Chicago, Detroit, Milwaukee, Cincinnati and Kansas City for building construction. You also can see it locally; Washburn’s Main Street museum, which at one time was a bank, and Ashland’s Wheeler Hall at Northland College both use brownstone quarried in the region.

Thanks to the cliffs, the trail becomes quieter. This section of the hike also offers great views of sailboats on the lake and of Madeline Island in the distance.

The trail ends at Pikes Bay Marina and Port Superior. Beautiful sailing yachts often can be spotted nearby on Salmo Bay. After reaching the marina, retrace your steps back to downtown Bayfield.

Final notes: The trail is popular with bicyclists, so step aside when two-wheelers pass. Also, stay on the trail except in designated areas, as it crosses privately-owned property.

Read more about day hiking Bayfield County, Wisconsin, in my Day Hiking Trails of Bayfield County guidebook.