Picture it. It was a Monday morning in January in Wisconsin. The high temperature for the day was in the single digits and it was going to be dark by 5pm. (I’m also picturing this in black and white, even though I’m sure there was some color.) Everything felt bleak, as it often does in winter. Then I remembered, as I sat there in my super thick and probably unflattering sweater, summer is coming.
So I logged on to find a campsite. Not just any campsite, but one of the most impressive, most awe-inspiring campsites around, a Wyalusing ridge site. (This should say something about the pure awesomeness of these sites. Reservations for Wisconsin campsites can be made 11 months in advance. When I logged on in January, all of the ridge sites were booked for every single summer weekend. I ended up getting a site for Sunday – Tuesday as a birthday camping trip celebration. Even writing this now, in August, many of the sites are already booked for 11 months out in 2019.)
I promise I’ll share more about the campsite in a future post. For now, let’s hike!
Old Immigrant Trail
Length: 2.6 miles liner
Difficulty: Easy – this trail is mostly level but it is very narrow in some sections with steep drop-offs on one side. There were also a few points that required some wide stepping over rocks and fallen trees.
Beginning from the eastern side of the ridge campground, this trail’s first stop is the Knob Picnic Shelter. Surrounded by woods, this shelter could be straight out of a fairy tale.
Continuing on, the trail follows along the ridge above the Wisconsin River. I was surprised to learn this trail was just north of the campground. We were in that campground all night and I never knew a trail was down there. This made more sense after hiking the trail. The campground is higher up while the trail passes by lower on the ridge. From the trail, you would never know the campground was there as it is high above the trees.
A flat trail secluded in the woods with the ridge sloping to the right. In some places this is a dramatic drop-off.
At one point we started seeing signs for the Bluff Trail. Seeing the location of the Bluff Trail on our map, this didn’t make much sense. According to the map, the Bluff Trail and the Old Immigrant Trails meet on the other side of the lookout points, which we hadn’t yet passed. I later learned that the park has been rebuilding and rerouting trails ever since a flood in 2007. (Find out more here.) It seems like the trail system of today is very different from the one 10 years ago.
Length: Unknown – the actual length of the trail is much different than the one listed on the map
Difficulty: Moderate – some of this trail is like the last one, but with added stairs and elevation
Bridges become the trail in several spots where the trail seems to have fallen off the ridge.
Here the Bluff Trail is approaching Treasure Cave from the east. According to the map, the original Old Immigrant Trail travels to the cave from the west. We’re off the map!
These stairs come from the parking lot/picnic area and lead to the cave for easy access. At the top of the stairs, on the left, you can see the trail that leads to one of the lookout points.
Treasure! This way! In a cave!
The trail to the cave passes through the opening and down the stairs.
(Mary Jane and Nikki coming down the stairs on the other side of the rock opening.)
Down these stairs hikers will find a ladder up. Up to the cave!
They are pretty steep and going down was more of a challenge than the climb up (IMO.)
Treasure Cave! What’s the treasure? Bats?
(Jon agrees, going down can be scary!)
Now, the best part of this trail and one of the biggest overall draws of the park. From the top of the first set of stairs, there are a few lookout points offering different vantage points of the rivers below. The views are incredible. Check them all out.
(Michael, possibly preaching some good word to his followers from a phone.)
I could look at this all day. Incredible.
The railroad bridge below is crossing the Wisconsin River. Beyond that, you can see the Mississippi and into Iowa. (I’m bad at geography. I kept saying this was Minnesota.) If you’re a super nerd for transportation (like someone in our party who shall remain nameless *cough* Michael,) then this park is for you. Trains and boats galore!
This overlook was a great place to stop, rest, and take in the views. Bathrooms and water can be found off the parking lot. There’s also a shop selling slushies, ice cream, and other snacks for all your hiking recharging needs.
From here we hiked down the ridge to the boat landing, but I’ll save the rest of the adventure for next time.