12. Cross Plains State Park

Have to admit I didn’t know there was a state park just west of Middleton and the Madison urban area. The State Park System brochure lists Cross Plains State Park, 168 acres, at Middleton. The brochure also says there are no trails at this park. It was on my list of places to visit because it’s a state park, even though there supposedly was no trail to hike, when I got the newsletter of the Dane County Chapter of the Ice Age Trail Alliance.

The newsletter reports on development of the Cross Plains Ice Age Trail Complex, which includes this new state park. It also includes land owned by the National Park Service, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and Dane County. There’s a farmhouse on the property, which will be converted into a contact station for visitors and maybe offices for National Park Service employees. Trails are being developed on the properties owned by the various entities that participate in the Complex.

State Park
Minimal signage for the State Park

I visited the State Park on May 22. Getting to the area from Madison is simple. Go out Old Sauk Road, west to the end of the road. Then, take a right (north) on Timber Lane and right (west) on Old Sauk Pass. There’s a parking area, with the State Park on the north side of the road and national park land on the south side. The State Park is identified, but rather minimally. The sign just says “State Park.” Hopefully, more signage and a map are in the plans.

Contrary to what the Park System brochure says, I found a nice trail on the state property. It was about a half hour hike through the woods. It was that very green part of spring in south central Wisconsin, so even though it was kind of cloudy and gray, it seemed like a pretty colorful hike. It might be a newly developed trail, which would account for it not showing up in the brochure.

National Park
National Park sign at the Cross Plains Ice Age Trail Complex

Since I had only hiked for a half hour, I went across the road to see what was happening on the National Park side. I found a nice trail there, which circles a meadow. While I hadn’t met anyone on the State Park trail, I did see three people and two dogs (on leashes — thanks!) in the National Park area.

As the Complex develops and more trails are added, this will be a fantastic resource for the Madison area. The area features several ponds, views of hills and valleys, a prairie and rock outcrops. According to the Dane County Chapter newsletter, “The highlight is the Wilkie Gorge, a meandering, V-shaped valley that geologists tell us was carved by glacier meltwater over a very short time — like several weeks — after the water found a way around or under the tongue of ice that had been blocking its flow to the Black Earth Creek Valley.” So, beautiful and geologically interesting — about as good as it gets!



2 thoughts on “12. Cross Plains State Park”

  1. Interesting comment about the dogs. I visit this location rather frequently. More often than not (at least 75% of the time), the dogs are off leash when I encounter them on the trails. My impression is many treat this as an off-leash dog park with little regard for other trail users or the birds, especially the grassland birds and migrants that use this habitat. Remarks to dog owners about the rules and consideration for other users is often met with hostility.

    • Thanks for the comment. Certainly sounds like my one experience at this park, where the dogs I met were on leashes, was not the norm. I have two dogs that very, very rarely hike with me. When they do (or whenever they’re not in a fenced area), they are on leashes. As much as I like my dogs, I don’t assume that others do. I’m going to make a bit of a change to the post.

Comments are closed.