Spring! You guys, it finally feels like spring! With the change to warmer weather comes the first days of the hiking season. (For me anyway, I know some people brave the trails all winter. I don’t pretend to be one of them.)
Last weekend I had a free afternoon and the itch to get outside, a.k.a. the perfect reason to hike. Turns out, since we moved to the far east side of Madison, we are only 9 miles from a state park, Lake Kegonsa State Park. With a short drive to about 3 miles of trails, this seemed like the great way to spend the first warm afternoon.
Upon entering the park, we turned right to head for the trail parking lot near the firewood and concession stand. From this lot we could access both the White Oak Nature Trail and the Prairie Trail.
Length: 1.2 mile loop
About: This wide and mostly flat trail loops gently through a white oak woods while providing educational information along the way.
(Pets are not allowed on this trail, although we definitely met a dog along the way.)
This trail begins and ends it’s journey through an 80-acre white oak woods at the same point.
This trail has an accompanying guide booklet. There were no books available during our visit but I imagine once the park has more visitors for the season there will be. I found the booklet online after the hike. (You can find it here.) The trail has 14 stops along the way, signified by a sign like the one above, and talks about a variety of topics related to the trail. If there are books available, I recommend using one during your hike.
On the trail are two different Indian Mounds. Unlike other mounds I’ve seen, these two were allowed to be overtaken by vegetation and it’s hard to see their shape. Southern Wisconsin is the epicenter for effigy mounds with more mounds than any other state. They are pretty cool to visit, especially mounds that have distinct animal shapes. Find out more about them, including where to find them, on Wisconsin Mounds.
On the northwest side of the trail you will see a sign for a pine plantation. Behind this sign is a narrow path that brings you to a collection of pine trees among the oaks, the pine plantation. If you like, you can wander around under the trees.
Length: 1.7 mile loop made of 3 smaller loops
About: This wide, crushed stone path loops around the outside of a prairie making it a great choice for bird lovers
This trail begins and ends in the same area as the White Oak Nature Trail making it easy enough to add the two together for a longer hike. This trail was fine, but I’m sure this path is even better in the summer. Early spring, with a hibernating prairie, there wasn’t much to see. It was still a nice walk with views of the lake in some sections.
(A lovely brown and flat early spring prairie)
Length: About 1.5 miles with some loops and linear portions
About: Combining multiple trail loops into one, these trails are the closest to the lake and the Yahara River with views of the lake.
The paved lake shore trail starts from the beach area near the changing building. With grills, picnic tables, volleyball, horseshoe pits, jungle gyms, and a sandy beach, I can see this being a popular location for families in the summer. The trail follows beyond the beach area, to the pet swim area, and to the boat launch area. All along the trail are grills, picnic tables, and grassy space.
(A nice picnic spot along the lake)
(The paved lake shore path as it follows along next to the lake)
Turning away from the lake in the pet swim area is a wide trail that brings you to the Oak Knoll Trail.
This trail was fine. Short, uneventful, and near the road in sections, but with a few views of a fen. (Which, I admit, I had to look that word up from the trail description. It’s a type of wetland, low and frequently flooded. The more you know!)
Overall I like this park. Although it doesn’t have enough trails to make it an exclusive hiking destination, all the other activities (swimming, horseshoe, volleyball, grills) make it a great place to spend an afternoon enjoying the sunshine.