Potawatomi State Park
Updated: Jun 3
I get the feeling that Potawatomi is the least popular of the Door County State Parks. There’s around 800 #potawatomistatepark posts on Instagram, and around 7,000 #peninsulastatepark posts by comparison, and in all of my state park conversations this summer, no one ever exclaimed “You have to make it out to Potawatomi!” However, after visiting this park, I don’t think that lack of interest or enthusiasm has anything to do with the park itself.
The day we visited, the weather was seasonably cold and wet. Lucky and I got up early and headed over to Potawatomi from our camp at Peninsula State Park, so we could get a hike in before my parents met us for lunch. The forecast was calling for intermittent showers; thankfully the rain subsided for the majority of our first hike. We parked up at the Old Ski Hill Overlook, which provided quite the view of the surrounding area. At max fall foliage, this would be an amazing spot to take in the patchwork quilt of trees blanketing the landscape all the way to the horizon. The nearby Observation Tower offers an even higher birds-eye-view, but Lucky and I passed by without stopping for me to go up. I might have tied Lucky up and gone to check out the view, but I didn’t want to leave Lucky unsupervised because there were a couple of families with children clamoring around the tower.
After passing by the Observation Tower, we started the gradual decent to the shores of Sturgeon Bay along Tower Trail. Though not a technically difficult trail, there were times when the wet leaf litter was hiding slick stone. Lucky never seemed to lose his footing (which only further convinces me that he’s part mountain goat), but I found myself slipping from time to time. Once we reached the shoreline, conifers outnumbered the deciduous trees, resulting in less leaf litter to contend with but more roots and rocks.
We followed the trail along the water, and I was impressed with how many nice spots there were to stop and sit on a rock and enjoy the view. All of the Door County parks have trails that take you along the water, but not all of those trails have convenient rocky areas where one might pull off the trail for a snack or even a picnic lunch. In that regard, Potawatomi rivals the other parks. But Lucky and I had lunch plans with my parents, so we only stopped at these rock lounges for a few pictures before turning inland to begin our ascent back up to the Old Ski Hill Overlook. As we were approaching the end of our first hike of the day, it started to rain. By the time we got back to the car, it was really coming down. When my parents arrived, they parked next to us, and we all jumped into one vehicle to eat lunch while we waited for the rain to let up.
When it stopped raining, we drove down to the southern portion of the park and set out on Hemlock Trail. Hemlock is a bit more technical. At times it scrambles over, up, and down rock outcroppings, but the varying terrain kept me entertained; and the company helped too. I’m always happy to have friends or family accompany me on hikes because Lucky’s not a great conversationalist, and I’m not great at communing with nature. During our hike I brought my parents up to speed on our last couple of state park visits, we weighed the pros and cons of the campsites that were visible from the trail, and we challenged each other to sing songs that contained words like tree and forest (we mostly came up with Christmas carols LOL).
Despite the weather, I thought Potawatomi was a lovely park, and part of its allure is its modesty. Other Door County parks may be more ostentatious, but Potawatomi can offer just as authentic of a Door County experience but without any pretense.
Want more information about hiking with your dog at Potawatomi State Park? Order your copy of A Dog Lover's Guide to Hiking Wisconsin's State Parks now!
Through the University of Wisconsin Press site.
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