Autumn in Wisconsin can’t be beat. The crisp air, the sunshine and the maple leaves turning bright red make it the perfect time to get out and enjoy all that our state has to offer. Our latest adventure took us about an hour northwest of Madison to Natural Bridge State Park. The park is located south of Baraboo and is not far from Devil’s Lake State Park and The World of Dr. Evermor. To get there, turn west onto the winding 2-lanes of highway C from US 12 and drive 10 miles through hills and valleys until you reach the park, which is bisected by the road.
The main attraction at the park is its namesake: A naturally created stone bridge. Water and wind eroded the rock the to create a archway 25 feet high and 35 feet long. It is the largest such formation in the state. You can also see a rock shelter used by people 11,000 years ago. The bridge can be reached with 15 minutes of hiking from the park entrance, but the park has more to offer. Hiking trails near the bridge wind up and down the hills and offer views of the valleys. North of the highway, the trails have signs describing plant-derived remedies that Native Americans in the area made from local flora. Juniper for the urinary tract, black cherry for diarrhea and which hazel for skin irritation are on the trail to name a few. (Ryan likes it when different aspects of pharmacy show up while having adventures.)
When you complete the portion of the trail north of the highway, head south for the road less traveled. By the looks of the overgrown trail, it is a lot less traveled. From the road, start walking up the hill through the field of clover. When you reach the edge of the trees, look for the trail. Take our word for it, it’s there. When you find the trail, follow it up hill through the woods. It is not a very long hike, but the isolation and dense growth (and active insects) give it the feeling of an exploratory expedition instead of an afternoon stroll.
Wisconsin State Parks admission sticker is required. For the southern loop, long pants, sleeves and Deep Woods Off are required, too.
Come for the bridge, stay for the hikes.