Sunday, November 15, 2015

Day hike to ‘Medieval castle’ in Wisconsin

Mound Hill Park Castle
Topo map of Mound Hill Park Castle Trail.
Day hikers can visit what looks like a Medieval castle in west-central Wisconsin.

A very brief walk – at most 0.2 miles-round trip – the Mound Hill Park Castle Trail – sits atop a tall hill surrounded by an expansive woods. The castle, located at Mound Hill Park in Elk Mound, closes when snow and ice cover the road leading to it.

To reach the trail, from downtown Elk Mound, head north on County Road H/North Holly Avenue. Go right/east onto Elk Mound Hill Road, taking the narrow one-and-a-half lane to the top of hill. A looping parking lot is at the road's end.

From the lot, walk south to a staircase that leads up to the tower. Made of gray stone, it looks more like a turret of a long-since destroyed castle. It has three
floors with its windows offering great views of the village below and the surrounding countryside.

The mound certainly is a good place to build a tower. At 1220 feet elevation, Native Americans once used the hilltop to spot elk and buffalo herds on the plains below.

Because the mound is among the highest points on the horizon, in 1926 a contractor who constructed U.S. Hwy. 12 to the south erected a flagpole on the hilltop. Then in 1934, a tree planted atop the mound was dedicated as a memorial to county postal workers who'd passed away, with soil from each of their routes placed around the tree.

The Works Progress Administration and Dunn County in 1937 constructed the 25-foot high observation tower. Its stones come from a quarry in nearby Downsville while other materials were culled from a village livery stable.

In 1987, the county closed the park, citing issues with the steep road leading up the mound. The castle rose like phoenix, though – for the next six years, Elk Mound High School students worked to restore the park as part of a community service project. The site reopened as a village park in 1994 with a new flag pole and lighting were later added.

Learn about trail guidebooks available in the Hittin’ the Trail series.