Danielle St. Louis
Wildcat Mountain State Park
Updated: Jun 3, 2022
Our visit to Wildcat Mountain was originally scheduled for a weekend in March, but we decided to postpone the trip due to weather. Our decision to do so was vindicated when we discovered the challenging nature of the Old Settler's Trail, even in the warm dry weather. Attempting this trail in the rain would have been dangerous.
We stopped in the park office for a map and to use the bathroom, and touched base with the park ranger. He informed us that there may be some obstacles along the trail, as they hadn't gotten out to do trail maintenance yet this spring. So we made a mental note and headed to the Upper Picnic area because it provides access to both the Old Settler's Trail and the Overlook Point. We got to hiking right away and were quickly shedding layers. The trail was fairly challenging and, despite the clouds, the temperature quickly made it into the 70's.
As the ranger suspected, there were a lot of trees down across the trail. Some we could walk under fairly easily, and others we had to pick our way through more carefully. The obstacle courses added to the technical difficulty of the trail, which had both gradual uphill and downhill sections and other not-so-gradual uphill and downhill sections.
After taking in the view at the Taylor Hallow Overlook, we descended a really steep and narrow "staircase" that was made even more precarious by the abundant and slippery leaf litter. At this point, I even removed Lucky's backpack, so he could more easily navigate the narrow and unevenly spaced "stairs." While trying to descend the staircase, a mother and daughter caught up to us. So Lucky and I tried to scramble up the embankment towards the rock outcropping because the trail was definitely not wide enough for passing. Once we got to a fairly level spot, Lucky plopped down for a rest. I think the unseasonable temperature and the difficulty of the trail were tuckering him out faster than usual. So we made sure to stop often for water, and I only made him carry his backpack through the less technical sections of the trail.
By the time we made it back to the Upper Picnic area, we were ready to take a break and grab some lunch. Afterwards, we decided we couldn't leave Wildcat Mountain State Park without checking out Observation Point and the Ice Cave. Much like our visit to Roche-A-Cri State Park, we had to imagine what the views from Observation Point would look like in peak season. At this time in Wisconsin, the trees were still barren and the Kickapoo River Valley (and the river itself) was brown. The scene looked something like a Wisconsin version of the Serengeti, and we half expected to see herds of antelope roaming through the trees below. Of course, there are no antelope, but it was just one of the instances during our visit to Wildcat Mountain when we felt like we could be someplace other than Wisconsin.
Our final stop was the Ice Cave Trail to see what remained of the Ice Cave. To our surprise, there was still some ice left, though it was no longer very attractive. Even without any ice, we'd still recommend an amble down the Ice Cave Trail because it follows the banks of the Billings Creek, offering some whimsy to contrast the rough and tumble experience of Old Settler's Trail.
Want more information about hiking with your dog in Wildcat Mountain State Park? Order your copy of A Dog Lover's Guide to Hiking Wisconsin's State Parks now!
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