Day 3 was our last day in Wisconsin. We had planned to hit a few new state parks and ended up going to another state natural area as well. Since it was Monday, there was no one around, just the way we like it! Once again, we’d be in the Driftless Area, so lots of bluffs were in store!
Mill Bluff Nature Trail | Mill Bluff State Park
Camp Douglas, WI | 06/03/19 | 1.34 miles | 276′ gain
Our first stop was Mill Bluff State Park, right off the interstate! There were 2 loops in the park that I wanted to check out and the first one we came to was the Mill Bluff Nature Trail. The parking lot had a self serve pay station (cash only) and even at 9am there was no one in the park.
The Mill Bluff Nature Trail heads up Mill Bluff, named for a sawmill that operated nearby. A short trail led us to a steep rock staircase. Soon enough, we reached the top and headed over to the overlook area. A few interpretive signs talked about the geology of the area and named the surrounding bluffs.
We were shocked at the views and spent a good amount of time just enjoying the sights and solitude. The top of the bluff is long and narrow, and has a trail all along it. We walked over to the other side as well but the trees blocked any additional views. A helicopter flew over.
The helicopter landed on the interstate. Wait what? We found a spot where we could see through the trees and we saw a rollover accident. They’d completely shut down the interstate and Flight for Life had arrived to transport the driver to the hospital. We watched for a few minutes but couldn’t see much. Later that evening, we watched the news but they didn’t report on it. I hope the person was okay!
After watching the accident recovery from our unique vantage point, we headed down the stairs and continued around the base of Mill Bluff on the nature trail. This trail was very wide and gradual, and meandered through a lush forest.
Camel’s Bluff Trail | Mill Bluff State Park
Camp Douglas, WI | 06/03/19 | 1.34 miles | 129′ gain
Our next stop in Mill Bluff State Park was another loop trail. We drove up the road a few miles to the Camel Bluff parking area. Again, we were the only ones there. The entire trail was very wide and gradual. We enjoyed the easy terrain and quickly made our way around the loop.
Along a short side trail, we found a number of beautiful lady’s slipper orchids.
The side trail continued up to the base of the smaller hump of Camel Bluff. The rock face was covered in graffiti and looked to be used by climbers often. A rock outcrop nearby looked climbable to us, so we clambered up and had gorgeous views of the forest. Mill Bluff appears in the leftmost picture below.
Getting up wasn’t too bad, but getting down was another story. I needed a little bit of coaching but made it down safely. (Of course the boys had no trouble!) I’d put the move at a Class 3/4.
The rest of the loop was pretty uneventful and relaxing. We realized at this point that we’d forgotten bug spray, so we made a point to buy some before hitting the next state park.
Roche-A-Cri Mound & Petroglyphs | Roche-A-Cri State Park
Friendship, WI | 06/03/19 | 0.50 miles | 194′ gain
After a Subway lunch and quick stop to buy some bug spray, we headed to our second state park of the day, Roche-A-Cri. (row-shuh-cree) There were a number of trails within Roche-A-Cri State Park, but we were mostly interested in the petroglyphs and the bluff.
Our first stop was to see the petroglyphs. Numerous signs explained the different carvings and where to spot them on the wall. The oldest petroglyphs are believed to be thousands of years old, carved by Native Americans. The most common symbol looks like a bird foot and can be seen below in the top left picture. There are also names of settlers carved into the wall, the earliest of which is dated 1845. Some names you can see below are A.V.DEAN.NY.1861. and G.B.BENJAMIN.
After a good amount of time investigating the petroglyph wall, we made our way to the main trailhead for the bluff, AKA Roche-A-Cri Mound.
The bluff looked pretty underwhelming but the 303 stairs to get to the top sure wore me out. (I don’t like stairs.)
It was definitely nice that the stairs were man made however, instead of just rock steps, which are much more uneven. We plowed our way upwards as fast as we could and eventually hit the overlook. Views were good when we could see them, but a number of trees were overgrown and blocked most of the views. A few signs at the top pointed out distant landmarks but we couldn’t see most of them because of the trees.
We were going to see how we felt after climbing Roche-A-Cri Mound and ultimately decided not to do any more trails within Roche-A-Cri State Park. We knew of a nearby State Natural Area that sounded a little cooler so we decided to head there instead.
Quincy Bluff Loop | Quincy Bluff and Wetlands State Natural Area
Adams, WI | 06/03/19 | 2.98 miles | 313′ gain
I’ll admit that I didn’t do a TON of research on the Quincy Bluff and Wetlands State Natural Area. The state’s website had a “map” which only showed parking areas (no trails) and barely even had the roads labeled, so how the heck was anyone supposed to figure this place out? I ended up typing Quincy Bluff into Google Maps and it brought us to a trailhead, so I’ll call that a win. I hoped that there’d be a more specific trail map on site, but it was the same useless map from the website. It’d also been knocked over, I assume in someone’s fit of rage at how terrible the map is.
We could see a trail starting from the parking area, which was mostly just a mowed strip of grass. We had no idea where it went or how far, but we decided to check it out. Kyle stayed in the car and took a nap.
The wildflowers, particularly lupine, were out in full force. I enjoyed the seas of purple along the trail!
The trail ended up being a nice loop around Quincy Bluff. A few spots even had a little elevation gain so it wasn’t completely flat (just mostly). The mowed section of trail ended as abruptly as it started, and then the trail became more of an overgrown 2-track. I worried about ticks since we were walking through tall vegetation and stopped every few minutes to check my legs for the nasty things.
Since we didn’t know where we were going, we didn’t know what we would find. All of a sudden I see something through the trees. It’s an old excavator! Best guess is it’s from the 1940s. I couldn’t find any information on why it was left behind, but it had a dredging attachment still hooked on so we knew they’d been using it to dredge the wetland area right next to its final parking spot. We had fun climbing into the driver’s seat and pretending to work the levers.
Kyle operates equipment for a living so he was a little bummed to have missed out but if you snooze, you lose!
The rest of the trail was more of the same; overgrown, grassy trail surrounded by beautiful forest. We made it back to the car after about 3 miles, and we felt it was a successful discovery!
This marks our last day in Wisconsin. We were ready to get home to our pups and our own bed, but we’re looking forward to the next trip! I wonder what we’ll do next time?