Thursday, January 14, 2016

Variety of sights await Lake Wissota hikers

Trailhead for Prairie Wildflower Trail at Lake Wissota
State Park in western Wisconsin.
A picturesque lake, ancient effigy mounds, and a former beaver pond await day hikers at Lake Wissota State Park in western Wisconsin.

Ten major trails, many of which can be done in combination with another, can be found at the park northeast of Chippewa Falls. Campgrounds and picnic grounds are at the park.

To reach the state park and trailhead, from Chippewa Falls head north on Wis. Hwy. 178. Turn right/east onto County Road S. Immediately after the Chippewa River bridge, go right/east on County Road O. The park entrance is about 2 miles on the right.

Among the major trails at the park, from northwest to southeast, are:
Old Abe State Trail link –The paved railroad grade trail runs for 20 miles and connects the state park to Brunet Island State Park in Cornell or heads south across the Chippewa River into Chippewa Falls.
Lake Trail – Day hikers can walk alongside ancient effigy mounds on a bluff overlooking scenic Lake Wissota. The trail runs 1.4 miles (2.8-miles round trip) with connectors running to other walking paths.
Plantation Trail – A square route with the access trail runs about 1.4 miles through a red pines plantation. Hikers can reach the trail via the northwest corner of the Red Pine Trail.
Red Pine Trail – The Nevada-shaped trail runs past a meadows and through a red pine forest for 1.5 miles (stem is 0.5 miles one-way, loop is 0.5 miles). Start from the lot off the main park road just beyond the campground.
Prairie Wildflower Nature Trail – The self-guided 0.5-miles trail in the middle of the park offers an up-close view of tall grasses and a variety of other plants. In July, many flowers bloom, making for a beautiful walk.
Eagle Prairie Trail – Shared by hikers and off-road bicyclists, the 0.5-mile (one-way) trail connects the Red Pine and Fox trails, and must be accessed via one of them.
Fox Trail – The roughly square-shaped trail runs about 0.5-miles and is shared by hikers and off-road bicyclists. It can be reached either via Red Pine-Eagle Prairie tails or by heading up a segment of the Jack Pine Trail.
Jack Pine Trail – The 0.75-mile loop is largely wooded. Reach it via the parking lot off the park entry road, just before the group campground.
Staghorn Trail – Located in the park’s southern section, the 2-mile loop intersects several other park trails. Access it via the parking lot off the park entry road, just before the group campground.
Beaver Meadow Nature Trail – An overlook of an abandoned beaver pond awaits day hikers on what many park visitors consider to be among Lake Wissota’s most scenic trails. Both summer and autumn mark great times to hike the 1.2-mile round trip trail, with each season offering its own play on the area’s natural beauty.

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