Yesterday I arrived at Interstate State Park, setup camp, and almost immediately set off searching for waterfalls in the surrounding area. Not quite sure I did it in that order, just a habit when I’m camping at a site for multiple nights my first day is always getting the “lay of the land”. Weather was a fantastic 80°F both days with abundant sunshine – aside from the mosquito pressure conditions are nearly perfect.
(As always, don’t forget to click on photos for a larger view to see more detail!)
Ice Age Interpretive Center
My only activity inside the park on the 5th was to visit the Ice Age Interpretive Center. Aside from checking out the cool mammoth fossil displays and other history of the glaciation in our area, I learned this was Wisconsin’s first State Park ever created back in 1900. They also have a film about the Ice Age and ranger-led naturalist programs in summer months.
My first hike on the morning of the 6th was the Pothole Trail. While only a short 0.4 mile loop it’s packed with interesting features First and most obvious? This is the western terminus of the 1,000-mile-long Ice Age National Scenic Trail that crosses the state.
The trail is named for the “pothole” rock indentations caused by glacial meltwaters.
Views from atop the St. Croix River gorge are spectacular. I was lucky enough to stumble upon a solo rock climber scaling down the cliffs.
At the bottom of the gorge is a huge section of rapids called the Dalles of the St. Croix (also referred to as Taylors Falls). An amazing place to begin the IAT for an eastbound hiker.
Summit Rock Trail
Next trailhead down the park road was Summit Rock. A short hike through the forest & stones leads back to the bluffs overlooking the St. Croix River further downstream.
The foliage here is dense and lush, blocking out almost all sunlight save for a few breaks in the canopy. Mid-morning temperatures here are cool and pleasant.
Views from the top give different perspective on the river gorge. You can also see the St. Crois Falls Hydroelectric Dam in the distance (small with the naked eye, but easier with a zoom lens or binoculars). On the Minnesota side you can also see two steamboats that are used for river tours.
Another view of the Dalles:
Echo Canyon Trail / River Bluff Trail
Summit Rock Trail connects to the Echo Canyon Trail and connects together with several others. I made this into a loop back to the parking area as the overall distance was only a few miles. Echo Canyon weaves back through rock cliffs and heavy forest cover. My pictures don’t really do it justice – this place feels like “up north Wisconsin”.
Echo Canyon connects with the River Bluff Trail, again opening up to great views across the river.
From here you can visit a rock formation known as the Old Man of the Dalles. It really does look like a man’s face!
Lake O’ The Dalles Trail
At the end of my loop, I hopped on the Lake O’ The Dalles Trail. This was the northern half heading back to the parking area. Some parts are paved and well-groomed, and at one spot there is a swimming beach.
Other areas are a bit less maintained. Trail conditions here are still excellent and nearly flat besides a few rocks & roots. Ideal summertime conditions – clear blue sky, perfect blue waters, solid green forest.
For my next stop I took a short drive to the Pines Group Camp area where parking is available for the Silverbrook Trail. The trail itself doesn’t offer much for views other than mostly flat & well-groomed paths through dense brush. Mosquitoes here will eat you alive – bring a head net, long sleeves/pants, and plenty of repellent!
Remnants of an abandoned copper mine and a 25-room mansion are visible on short spur trails. These areas are fenced off due to their historical register designation to prevent damage.
At the end of the trail you can climb down a short incline to view Silverbrook Falls, and 18-foot waterfall. I’ve been told these falls aren’t always running and depend on rain/stream water – thankfully recent rains have it flowing today.
After hiking back out to the car it was around noon. Took a break for lunch and headed outside the park to hunt more waterfalls. Since I was able to hike nearly every trail in the park today, I’m splitting this into two separate posts. Stay tuned for the second half coming soon!
Very short but rewarding hike. Views here are definitely worth a visit!
Again a very short hike with slightly more elevation change. As with the Pothole Trail, great views across the St. Croix River.
Echo Canyon Trail / River Bluff Trail / Lake O’ The Dalles loop
Added this loop to the Summit Rock Trail going counter-clockwise along the river at first and returning along the lake trail. Very easy and a good morning hike during the summer.
Very easy hike but the mosquito pressure here was nearly unbearable. Important to note that park brochures only list this as a 1.2 mile hike not accounting for both in & out distances!Lat = 45.4006195 , Long = -92.6498108 -- Show at Google Maps