The View From the Ground, Hiking the Base, Roche-A-Cri State Park Part II

Recap: Roche-A-Cri State Park is located in central Wisconsin, just outside of the towns of Adams and Friendship. The park is named for the 300 foot towering rock formation in the center of the park, Roche-A-Cri Mound. Hikers can hike to the top of the rock, or explore the Native American petroglyphs on the base. The park also contains several miles of hiking trail through forest and prairie, offering hikers the chance to view the abundant wildlife found in the park, including several different birds of prey.

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Now for part II of the Roche-A-Cri hike.

Link to the park map here.

Before we hiked the Top of the Rock Trail, we had to get there. Knowing it would be a tough climb, we debated tackling that portion, the vertical portion, first. Leaving from the campground, there wasn’t an ideal way to accomplish that without having to backtrack or by skipping portions of other trails. Instead, we decided to take on the climb in the middle of our planned route. Leaving the campground on the short connecting trail, we met up with the Acorn Trail and headed north.

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I was immediately impressed by how well marked the trails were and how well they corresponded to the trail map. Unlike my last hiking experience, there was never a question of what trail you were on. It was usually pretty simple to even tell approximately where on the trail you were by using the map.

The Acorn Trail turns to the west and meets up with the Chickadee Rock  Nature Trail and the Chickadee Rock. The Chickadee Rock Nature Trail begins at a parking lot and ends at the rock. Its a short, .3 mile long, handicap accessible trail, making it a popular choice for visitors wanting to see the Chickadee Rock without committing to a longer hike.

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After a short stop at Chickadee Rock, we continued north on the Acorn Trail. For the duration of the trail, the path was wide, well maintained, and relatively flat. The trail took us through a variety of forests and grass openings.

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Here the trail was lined by tall trees.

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Short trees and long, fluffy grass.

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A nice, wide, pleasant trail.

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Here the trees were so thick the forest looked like a mangrove.

After completing the northern portion of the Acorn Trail, the trail met up with the Mound Trail, which as the name suggests, brings hikers to the mound. From the Mound Trail, we traveled east to a parking lot, picnic area, and the beginning of the Top of the Rock Trail, a gorgeous and challenging trail.

After climbing to the top of the mound, we exited the rock trail significantly sweatier and suffering from Jell-O like legs. Needing a little break, we opted to take a short cut by walking on the road to see the park’s historical marker.

RAC Historical Marker

Immediately across from the historical marker was a parking lot and the start of the Eagle Ridge Trail. We took this west to the Acorn Trail, and the Acorn Trail back west to the petroglyphs.

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Ferns on the Eagle Ridge Trail. Taking pictures of ferns has become somewhat of a tradition. I was sad to see that large patches of the ferns throughout the park had brown, dry leaves.

Similar to the Chickadee Rock, the petroglyphs and view of the mound are easily accessible by the road and a parking lot. Walking up to the platform to view the petroglyphs offers a stunning view of the rock.

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On the platform, signs show drawings of the petroglyphs and explain their possible meaning.

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The drawings themselves are faint and somewhat difficult to see on the rock. In addition to the petroglyphs, the rock is covered in carvings of names and dates from more modern-day humans leaving their mark on the natural world. The earliest carving on the rock dates back to 1845. Today, of course, the rock is protected and you absolutely should not add your name to the wall.

RAC Petroglyph

From the petroglyphs, the Acorn Trail heads north to the campground, offering a different view of the mound.

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After hiking for a short while, the mound disappears into the forest and fades completely from view. This was one of the things that struck me about the park. When I first arrived in the campground, I had no idea there was a huge rock mound only a short distance from the campsite. Hiking through the forest for several miles before seeing the mound led to a feeling of discovery and accomplishment that would not have been possible if I had arrived at the mound by car.

Overall, Roche-A-Cri is a great park for hikers. With over 6 miles of trails and several scenic points, there is more than enough beauty and diversity to keep visitors engaged while exploring nature.

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