You might start your tour at Wildcat Mountain State Park near Ontario and overlooking the Kickapoo River Valley. This time of year offers a splendid view of the surrounding area from the overlook, and the river might oblige with a few more appearances through the canopy. According to recent reports, the trails are in great shape and the deer are moving, making for an optimum chance of wildlife sightings in the sparsely foliated woods.
A few miles downriver near La Farge, the Kickapoo Valley Reserve invites closer inspection of the valley. The Reserve features an extensive trail system for hiking, including six miles of hiking-only trails and 50 miles of mixed-use trails. Check out the park calendar for “Introduction to Geocaching” on Nov 6, which includes a presentation, hands on exercises, and a prize hunt. On Nov 17, Rhonda Funmaker, a Ho-Chunk tribal cook, will demonstrate her traditional methods of preparing wild game.
At the south end of Driftless Wisconsin, across the Wisconsin River from Prairie du Chien and overlooking the Mississippi River, Wyalusing State Park towers above the confluence of rivers. Looking north from Wyalusing’s popular overlooks provides a stunning panorama of the Driftless landscape and the forces that shaped it – the Wisconsin River coursing from the East and the Mississippi powering from the North. The park features 14 miles of trails that explore 2600 acres of parkland.
Eight county parks scattered throughout Driftless Wisconsin present an intimate look at nature worthy of a stop along the way. Crowley Ridge County Park sits on County E off State Highway 179 about five miles northwest from Steuben. I stopped one day to see what lurked below the icon on my map and discovered a small but idyllic picnic area surrounded by a woods and brook. The brook flows from a small pond nestled at the base of a hillside, filled with fallen trees that form mosaics in the water and fed from a spring heard gurgling nearby.
Send for a map and spend an afternoon, a day, or a week touring Driftless Wisconsin’s state and county parks. Whether exploring a patch of woods or an entire preserve, the trail of discovery never ends.