Sunday, January 10, 2016

Loop circles lakes formed during last ice age

Map courtesy of Friends of Hickory Ridge
Day hikers can enjoy a pleasant walk around several placid lakes and ponds on the South Loop at the Hickory Ridge Recreational Area in western Wisconsin.

Though primarily cross-country skiing trails, the series of stacked loops can be hiked during the other seasons. The South Loop, a 3.1-miles round trip lollipop, is a good choice as it’s a little flatter than the other two routes on site.

To reach the trailhead, from Bloomer, head west on Wis. Hwy. 64. Go left/north onto County Road AA then right/east onto 226th Avenue, which as veering south naturally becomes 225th Avenue (aka Bob Lake Road). The parking lot is on the north side of the road just east of Big Buck Lake.

The trail heads north from the lot, curving around a wet meadow known locally as the “Great Swamp.” It then passes the eastern side of Horseshoe Lake, which is on the trail’s west side. At 19 acres in size with a maximum depth of 28 feet, panfish are common and northern pike present in its waters.

Next, the trail slips between a pond and another wet meadow. The lake-pond terrain is part of the same geographical system that makes up the Chippewa Moraine State Recreation Area to the north. The region consists of irregularly shaped lakes and ponds created by glaciers at the end of the last ice age.

Upon reaching a trail junction, the loop portion of the route begins. Go left/west.

Horseshoe, Burnt Wagon lakes
This takes you between Horseshoe (on the left/south) and Burnt Wagon (on the right/north) lakes. A ski shelter sits next to the trail on the Burnt Wagon Lake side.

Almost the entire trail is through a northern hardwood forest. In Wisconsin, such a forest typically consists of sugar maple, beech, basswood, white ash, and yellow birch. The trail makes for a colorful walk in autumn when the leaves change.

The loop next curves north along Burnt Wagon Lake’s western shore. A 19-acre lake, Burnt Wagon has a depth of 17 feet.

On the lake’s north side, the trail forks; going left/north takes you onto the North Loop. Continue straight/east, leaving the lake behind and passing a wet meadow on the left/north.

Silver Lake
At the next junction, go right/southeast; the other way takes you onto another leg of the North Loop.

As the trail heads south, it passes a pond and then Silver Lake, both on the left/east. Though small at 2 acres, Silver Lake has a maximum depth of 16 feet, so supports panfish, largemouth bass and northern pike.

The next trail junction is the stem you came in on. Continue straight/south back to the parking lot.

A nonprofit, Friends of Hickory Ridge, maintains the trails. No fee is required to hike the trails, but a donation box is at the parking lot. Dogs are not allowed on the trails.

Learn more about nearby day hiking trails in my Day Hiking Trails of the Chippewa Valley guidebook.