(This post is a late post from summer 2016. The Ridgeview Trail has since reopened.)
Lately I’ve been noticing theme to my hiking – parks that are a short drive from Madison. I suppose that speaks to the fast pace of summer and the limited weekends available to commit to a full weekend trip. If only Wisconsin stayed warmer for a few more months!
25 miles west of Madison, Blue Mound State Park was the park of choice for a Monday hike when we decided to play hooky from work. In our air conditioned apartment, a hike sounded great. Hiking on one of the hottest and most humid days of the summer, not so great.
We arrived at the parking lot by the east observation tower early, about 8:30am. Impressive for a Monday morning, I know, but the air was already hot and thick with humidity. We decided to climb the observation tower before heading out on the trails.
The tower did not disappoint. 40 feet up, the views of the surrounding hillside are amazing. This view would have been ever better on a different day as the humidity of the morning lessened visibility. According to the plaque at the top, on especially clear days, the state capitol is visible in the distance.
After this, we were excited and ready for the trails. Using my Wisconsin State Parks and Forest app, which I highly recommend for the maps feature, we discovered that the Ridgeview Trail sounded the most promising for more stunning views. We planned out a route to get to the trail head, which involved taking a connecting trail from the parking lot to the campground, walking through the campground to a connecting road, and then finding the trailhead. Bing, boom, plan, we were off! Well, friends, always do your research about a park and the current conditions before you go. Upon arriving at the trailhead, we found it was closed due to a recent rain storm washing out parts of the trail. Oh well, no biggie, right? Typically, yes, but after walking up and down several hills to get to this point and finding ourselves already covered in sweat, it was a little soul crushing. But we made a plan B and pressed on!
Flint Rock Nature Trail
We consulted the app again and made a plan to head back through the campground to a connecting trail, which brought us to the Flint Rock Nature Trail.
Length: 1.3 miles
Features: path of grass and dirt, mostly tree covered, historical marker – plane crash site
This trail winds along the north side of the mound. While I did not see any, possibly because I was not sure what to look for, the Wisconsin DNR website advises travelers to watch for flint rock boulders along the trail. This trail was pleasant and relatively easy with only a few hills. (Although any trail would become more difficult on a humid day.)
Local history also plays a role on this trail. On November 25, 1944, an army cargo plane crashed into Blue Mound during a winter storm. Four men lost their lives in the crash. Read more about the crash here. An additional marker can be found in the east observation tower parking lot to inform those who do not hike to the actual plane crash site. (Disclaimer: my memory is not serving me well right now and I couldn’t find exactly which part of the trail it was on, it is either along the Flint Rock Trail or on the Indian Marker Tree Trail in the portion where the two trails meet.)
Indian Marker Tree Trail
Named for a bent oak tree that points the way to water, this trail is central to the park and connects to the campground, observation tower, and other trails.
Length: 0.5 mile
Features: path of grass and dirt, mostly tree covered, an essential connecting trail
By this time of the morning, we were very hot and sweating quite a bit. Thankfully we always hike with a water backpack!
The last bit of the hike we connected to the Willow Spring Trail to see the spring house. While this trail is 2 miles in total length, we only hiked the portion that connected the Indian Marker Tree Trail to the spring house to the parking lot. The last bit of this trail, which climbs back up the mound to the parking lot, was a test of stamina.
This park has so many more miles of trails left to explore. The ridge trail alone is enough to bring me back to the park. I’m thinking there will be a part two to Blue Mound for me. Likely with camping.