Wisconsin’s New Glarus Woods State Park — Spotted Cow Pairs Well With These Easy Trails

I’m kind of embarrassed about how long it took me to write this blog entry. In one month, it will be one year since this trip. Oops! To be fair, this trip was right after the bachelor/bachelorette parties and two weekends before the wedding. We had a lot going on!

Before we got to the hiking and camping portion of our New Glarus excursion, we had to check out a few of the local businesses. New Glarus, Wisconsin is the cutest little town! It calls itself “America’s Little Switzerland” and leans heavily into this brand with the design of the buildings, restaurants, shops, and festivals resembling what you might find in a small Swiss town. We happened to be in the downtown area during music fest. which was a lot of fun.

We started with a wine tasting, checked out the music, bought some meats for the campfire, and went to the brewery.

Check out where we went. All of these businesses are worth your patronage.
Hawk’s Mill WineryRuef’s Meat MarketNew Glarus Brewery

Okay, back to the nature part of this story, New Glarus Woods State Park. We camped and hiked at this park, staying there for two days.

Helpful Links:

Park website
Park map
Trail description

Let’s talk trails. This 435 acre park has about 8 miles of trails, including a paved trail spur that connects the park to the Sugar River State Trail (a 24 mile long regional trail). Our campsite was one of the cart-in sites which happened to be located on this trail spur. Naturally, we started our hike there.

This trail spur starts at a parking lot and continues towards New Glarus and the Sugar River Trail. It begins in the wooded park.

It quickly emerges from the woods and continues on through open land. It runs next to the highway which means it also runs across the highway from…

Wait for it…

The New Glarus Brewery!

If you are a fan of this brewery and would rather walk there than drive, consider camping in the park. You can access the brewery from this trail spur but be advised, you do need to cross a country road with no crosswalks or pedestrian markings.

Bison Nature Trail

Length: .8 miles loop
Difficulty: Easy
Description: An easy interpretive trail through an open meadow featuring a swinging bench and a life-size bison replica.

We accessed this trail from the north side of the park from the spur trail.

To follow the trail look for the mowed path. Keep your eyes open for snakes, insects, and rodents along the way.

On the trail is a life size replica of a bison.

Michael has tamed this wild beast. (Not pictured: Michael getting bucked from the bison’s back and landing in the puddle.)

Speaking of that puddle, sections of the trail were muddy and waterlogged. I was happy to be wearing my waterproof hiking boots.

Vista Trail

Length: .4 miles
Difficulty: Easy
Description:
This short trail connects the Bison Trail and the Havenridge Trail as it climbs through a forest restoration.

From the Bison Trail we connected to the longer Havenridge Trail through the Vista Trail. I wasn’t going to give this trail it’s own section as it’s so short, until I remembered this oddity.

On the edge of the park where prairie meets forest and state park meets private land is a strange sight in a hunting stand.

He or she holds a sign that reads “Last Wisconsin Poacher.”

I searched the internet and could not find any further information about this. If anyone knows anything about this, please, for my sanity I would love to know the backstory.

Upon entering the woods, the trail heads uphill where it meets the Havenridge Trail.

Havenridge Trail and Walnut Trail

Length: 4.2 miles and .5 miles
Difficulty: Easy to moderately easy
Description: The 4.2 mile Havenridge Trail travels through woodlands, prairie, and meadows. The .5 mile Walnut Trail cuts through the Havenridge Trail.

I combined these two trails into one because honestly I couldn’t really differentiate between them looking back at the pictures. I’m not throwing any shade on these somewhat tree covered trails, these trails are still good, solid nature trails. They travel through a variety of settings while offering a few hills to change things up.

Fern photo, of course.

The trail crosses one of the park access roads give you a cute photo opp.

As some point the trail opens up along a ridge running near a road. Across the road you can see a quarry. It’s a neat view you don’t see all the time.

Just some cute flowers

Along the trails we kept seeing trees without bark. These trees often had piles of bark at their base, like the bark had just peeled off. I’ve never seen this before and we kept seeing it over and over. Is this caused by a tree disease? Is there an invasive pest hurting the trees? I’m far from a botanist so if anyone else knows, I would love to be enlightened.

This trail eventually ends in the gathering area of the park near the entrance. This super cute owl stands watch over the playground.

While this park is close to home (for me) and close to day excursions outside the park, the park probably shouldn’t be a destination for hiking. While the trails are fine, they aren’t the most interesting when comparing them to other state parks. If you are in the area or staying at the park already, you should absolutely check out these trails. While I don’t think I would camp at the park again just for the trails, I will probably be back as these would be the perfect length for a day trip from Madison.

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