Wisconsin’s Big Bay State Park — Madeline Island, Lake Superior, Part I

Waking up well rested to the sight of a sunrise over the bay, we enjoyed some breakfast before checking out and continuing on in our adventure. From Ashland, we drove 30 minutes north to Bayfield, where we planned to hop on the ferry to bring us to Madeline Island.

Knowing the ferry made frequent trips and wanting to watch the US Women’s Soccer Team beat Sweden, we weren’t in any hurry to get to the island. Instead, we walked around Bayfield, did some shopping, and had lunch while we watched the game at the Pier Plaza Restaurant. We also ended up explaining the game of soccer to a few people at the bar. A few beers in, they were receptive and pretty into it by the end. This was a great choice and I highly recommend it if you want to eat some delicious fresh local fish.

Bayfield, WI

After lunch, we drove to the ferry dock and caught the ferry just as it was about to leave. The ferry takes you to the town of La Pointe, on Madeline Island. Like Bayfield, La Pointe is a super cute town with restaurants, bars, and shops. We actually came back into town to get breakfast and coffee the next two mornings, despite having a campsite.

Unrelated side note about the ferry, it runs as long as it can in the season until the lake freezes. At this point, when the ice is thick enough, the ice road opens, allowing visitors to drive or sled to the island instead. How cool is that?

After docking, we drove the short 10 minutes to Big Bay State Park, our home for the next 2 days.

Big Bay State Park is a 2,350 acre park on the eastern side of the island with hiking, camping, fishing, and a 1.5 mile beach.

By the time we checked in and setup camp, it was afternoon already. We decided to enjoy the evening and start hiking the next day. These hikes were especially scenic and I took a lot of pictures. For that reason, I’m going to break this up into two posts.

We will start with the Lagoon Ridge Trail and the Boardwalk, both of which can be accessed from a connecting trail from the parking lot near the campground.

Lagoon Ridge Trail

Length: 2.6 miles one-way
Difficulty: Unknown (I’ll explain)
Description: According to the park’s website, “This 2.6-mile trail goes around the west side of the lagoon and wetlands to the Indoor Group Camp. Big Bay State Park is working with the Town of La Pointe to extend a trail from the Lagoon Trail to a town park in La Pointe.”

Our plan was to hike the Lagoon Ridge Trail, see if it connected to the Boardwalk Trail in the Town Park (located outside of the State Park) and then either hike back on the Boardwalk or the same trail.

Unfortunately our plan was short lived as the trail was closed.

Apparently some bears were also living along the trail, although that isn’t why it was closed.

So if anyone knows if the Lagoon Ridge Trail and the Boardwalk Trail can both be accessed in the Town Park, I would love to know.

Side note, while I didn’t camp there, I’ve heard only great things about the Town Park. Apparently the camping is nice and the water is warmer for swimming than other areas because it’s protected by land.

On to plan B, hiking the Boardwalk Trail both ways.

Boardwalk Trail

Length: 1 mile one-way, although it continues into the town park for another quarter mile or so
Difficulty: As easy as they come, this trail is flat with benches along the way
Description: This trail travels along the shore of Lake Superior with view of the lake on one side and views of the Big Bay Sand Spit and Bog on the other

The boardwalk begins by sloping from the parking lot area to the water.

The 963 acre natural area is owned and protected by the DNR. It contains sensitive vegetation visible from the boardwalk. Numerous signs along the way remind visitors not to step off the boardwalk or they risk killing the plants. Pets are not allowed on the boardwalk.

The boardwalk offers diverse views depending which way you turn your head.

To one side is the bog.

To the other side is the beach and lake.

The boardwalk has several outcroppings of trail that allow travelers to either access the beach or get closer to the bog areas. It seemed like a popular way for people to access the beach along the length of the shore. With lots of open sand, it’s a great place for a beach day.

Some areas curve away from the lake where there is more vegetation on both sides.

Who is that sunning on the boardwalk?

After reaching the town park we turned around and backtracked to the beginning of the boardwalk.

From there we continued on to the park’s two other trails. More on those next time with lots and lots of gorgeous lake photos.

2 Comments on “Wisconsin’s Big Bay State Park — Madeline Island, Lake Superior, Part I

  1. Pingback: Wisconsin's Big Bay State Park — Part II, Lake Superior, Scenic Overlooks and Views Galore – Hiking Hungry

  2. Pingback: Big Bay State Park Camping, Wisconsin's Madeline Island, Site #59, Oh Deer! – Hiking Hungry

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