Wisconsin’s Wyalusing State Park, Part II, Down to the Mississippi River and Into the Cave

Now starting part II of the Wyalusing State Park Birthday hiking and camping trip.

If you missed part I, catch up on it here. The first part focused on the initial hike, which featured the scenic lookout points over the Wisconsin and Mississippi Rivers.

Links to follow along:  Trail Map and Trail Descriptions

At the end of the previous post, we had just made it to the lookout points and were resting with an incredible view. Remember this? After resting and refilling our water backpacks and bottles, we were off.

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Sentinel Ridge Trail

Length: 1.6 miles linear
Difficulty: The difficulty of this trail depends on the direction of the hiking. Traveling down the ridge, like we were, it’s a moderate difficulty. Hiking up the ridge, it’s more of a challenge.
Description: Challenging in portions, pleasant in other, this trail connects the boat landing to the scenic lookout points above. Along the way hikers can see effigy mounds, views of the river, and a monument to passenger pigeons.

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From the clearing of the overlook points and picnic area, this trail immediately disappears into the woods as you start making your way towards the Mississippi. The trail ends at the boat landing which means hikers are traveling a long way down.

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This trail varies greatly in different sections. It has a lot of elevation change, making hikers climb and descend frequently. Some portions are very wide and gentle while others are narrow and rocky. The section above was a series of steps.

If you’re hiking with your map, you can see the point where the Old Immigrant Trail meets the Sentinel Ridge Trail. In real life, this point is marked with a Trail Closed sign. If you remember from Part I, the park suffered extensive storm damage and huge sections of trails were washed away.

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Down hill.

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The group going up hill.

The trail continues on, up hill and down hill, until you reach a clearing and the Green Cloud Picnic Area. Located in this area is a somewhat unusual but definitely depressing monument, the Passenger Pigeon Monument.

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The monument reads, “Dedicated to the last Wisconsin passenger pigeon shot at Babcock, Sept. 1899. This species became extinct through the avarice and thoughtlessness of man.”

If you don’t know, because I didn’t know, the species went extinct in 1914 from over hunting, driven by a human lust for pigeon meat. The last Wisconsin Passenger Pigeon was shot in 1899 by James Varney (ya jerk.) Thanks to humans, these birds went from a population of over 5 billion to 0. Project Passenger Pigeon was launched to help humans learn from the past to ensure the survival of current species.

Just beyond the pigeon monument, is a looped portion of the trail lined with effigy mounds.

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On the other side of the loop, the trail makes its decent to the river. Remember this trail ends at the boat landing, so it descends pretty quickly.

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Here stairs help with the elevation change.

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Other areas are more rocky and require some minor climbing/jumping down.

Remember, we opted to take this trail downhill. If you are heading the other direction, this section is all uphill for you.

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We made it to the boat landing! After a quick rest and bathroom break, it was on to the next trail.

Walking on the road for a short distance brings hikers to the trail head of the Sugar Maple Trail.

Sugar Maple Trail

Length: 1.5 mile loop
Difficulty: Moderate due to the multiple elevation changes.
Description: This loop trail brings hikers up and down through the forest to the Pictured Rock Cave.

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Having completed the Sentinel Ridge Trail, this trail immediately felt like more of the same. It was narrower, requiring us to walk in a single file line, but it had the familiar feeling of hiking up then down then up then down.

We took the north half of the loop to make our way to the cave.

The sound of falling water let us know we were there. The trail first takes you across the water source of the waterfall. Here, the trail was crumbling into the pool.

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Walking down a series of steps, hikers can explore the natural artwork of the cave.

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Vic took advantage of the cold water on a very hot and humid day.

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Jon and I exploring the cave, and accidentally wearing the same shirt.

From the cave, we completed the last section of the Sugar Maple Trail that brought us to the next picnic area and Turkey Hollow Trail. From the Turkey Hollow Trail we took the Walnut Springs Trail back to the campsite.

I’m skipping over this section of the hike for a few reasons. 1) It was not very interesting, wide grassy trails through either meadow or forest. 2) It was very hot and humid and by this point in the hike I was hangry and done caring enough to take pictures. 3) I really wanted to see the sand caves and I’m bitter I didn’t get to.

Well, the good news for me, I already have my ridge campsite booked for next year.
Sand caves 2019!

This park is amazing. It has incredible views and offers a lot of challenge and variety to hikers. My next post is going to focus on our campsite, which in my opinion is one of the best campsites in the entire Wisconsin State Park system. That’s a bold claim, I know, but I’m confident you’ll agree with me.

One Comment on “Wisconsin’s Wyalusing State Park, Part II, Down to the Mississippi River and Into the Cave

  1. Pingback: Wyalusing State Park, Ridge Campground — Site #127, Camping With a View – Hiking Hungry

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