Hartman Creek State Park – Hiking in Uncertain Weather

Personally, I think the worst forecast for hiking is an uncertain one. A forecast claiming a 100% chance of rain is better than a 50% one, because at least that way you can plan ahead. (Of course, cancelling a trip because a weatherperson has that much confidence that it will rain, only to find a sunny day, is its own source of frustration.) This trip was on one of those “50% chance of an afternoon shower” days. As you can see from the clouds, the sky was a bully, threatening us all afternoon. Sometimes dark storms would just blow over, sometimes we weren’t so lucky.

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Hartman Creek State Park seems like a haven for bikers. Just look at the park map (linked below) and you’ll see what I mean. The bottom left corner of the map is a snake of bike trails, winding back and forth. The park has 6 miles of paths just for bikers, and 6 miles of path used for biking and hiking together. For hikers, the park offers about 10 miles of trail, some of it shared with bikes. On the western edge of the park, 3 miles of the Ice Age National Trail passes through the park.

A 2 hour drive from Madison, we arrived at the park late morning. We were planning to leave the night before, but because of a consistent rain we delayed departure until the next morning. On the way to the park, we passed through a lot of off and on rain, which was worrisome. Upon arriving to the park, the rain stopped. Taking advantage of the break, we decided to set up camp first. After doing this, we headed out on a hike.

Links:    Park DNR Website       Park Map        Trail Descriptions

From the campground, we decided to hike the Deer Path Trail around Allen Lake. After that loop, we headed east on a biking/hiking trail to meet up with the Dike Trail, around Hartman Lake. This park offers a lot more trail than we explored, and I would have liked to hike longer, but the sky was too threatening and I didn’t want to press my luck. In total, we only hiked about 2.5 miles.

Deer Path Trail

Length: 1 mile loop
Difficulty: Easy-Moderate, a few small hills, but the path itself gets narrow, uneven, and rocky in sections which requires more of a surefooted hiker.

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Connecting to the campground at 2 points, this trail acts as a gateway to the trail system. Just hiking the loop, it brought us all the way around the lake with mostly constant lake views. This trail is almost completely tree covered, which was lucky since it started lightly raining halfway through the hike.

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Overall this hike was pleasant, but not stunning. The views of the lake were plentiful, but not breathtaking. This hike is still worth doing, especially if you plan to link to the larger trail system.

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A fishing pier at the end of the trail on Allen Lake. A popular fishing location, several people were fishing along the lake and off the pier. You can check out basic fishing gear for free at the park office.

From this trail, we connected to the unnamed biking/hiking trail that passes through the middle of the park to the Dike Trail. The Dike Trail passes by the park’s amphitheater between two of the other lakes.

Dike Trail

Length: 1 mile loop
Difficulty: Easy, mostly flat

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This trail begins on a narrow strip of land between Mid and Hartman lakes. This location too was popular for fishing. The trail then turns east and continues along the shore of Hartman Lake. Across the lake you could see the beach with numerous swimmers and paddle boarders on the water.

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The east portion of the trail ends near one of the dams that help create this spring fed lake. The trail then curves away from the lake and brings you back the way you came. The return path runs along a small ridge above the other half of the trail.

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This is a view heading back, or heading west, on the trail. You can see the trail slopes down on the left. The other half of the trail is just down that hill.

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Ferns along the trail. I have so many pictures of ferns on this blog.

Meeting back up with the hiking/biking path, we returned to the campsite. After a quick 10 minutes of rain, the rest of the evening was dry.

Overall this was a successful hike and camp despite the uncertainty of the weather. The trails were well maintained and plentiful, although average in their scenery and difficulty. The campsites were large with several flush toilet options, although not very secluded from each other. From what I’ve seen of the park, the trails alone don’t make this park a hiking destination, but are definitely worth checking out if camping or biking brings you to the park.

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