With the cooler weather comes some of my favorite hiking in Wisconsin! Low humidity, a reduction in bugs, and crisp morning air – that is what fall is about. Turns out, about 12 people felt the same way for this Monday’s turn out for a hike to the top of Gibraltar. We continued the hike with a midpoint lunch at “the bench” along the Gibraltar Segment of the Ice Age Trail (IAT) on our way to the ferry.
Wine, chocolate and the trail
According to the DNR website:
Rising 200 feet above the surrounding landscape, Gibraltar Rock is a flat-topped butte, an outlier of the Magnesian escarpment. With a thin Platteville-Galena dolomite cap over St. Peter sandstone, the butte offers panoramic views of the Wisconsin River Valley and Lake Wisconsin. Soils are thin, glaciated sandy loams. On the south is a sheer rock face overlooking a large leather-leaf bog and scenic valley. A major portion of the site is a dry mesic forest dominated by red oak and basswood. Cliff communities are mostly open and harbor several species of ferns, pale corydalis, columbine, and cliff goldenrod. On the bluff top is an area dominated by red cedar with an understory of dry prairie. Species include big and little blue-stem, side oats grama, prairie drop-seed, blue eyed grass, bird’s foot violet, pasque flower, prairie smoke, lead-plant, bergamot, whorled milkweed, goldenrods, and asters. The site is used by migrating raptors, which catch thermals formed by the warm cliff face. Gibraltar Rock was originally owned by Columbia County, which transferred ownership to the DNR in 2007. It was designated a State Natural Area in 1969.
The locals know that it has some of the most spectacular vistas in the state and certainly in Columbia County. Although not the highest point in Columbia County, that honor goes to Owen Park (off Hwy 78), Gibraltar stands some 1,234 feet above sea level with an outstanding view of the Wisconsin River valley. You can see Blue Mounds to the Southwest and miles of farmland in the town of West Point spread out in all directions while Lake Wisconsin and the Baraboo Bluffs extend to the north. Visitors must park at the base of Gibraltar rock then hike up.
Gibraltar Segement (formerly the Colsac Segment)
Thanks to the efforts from the IATA’s local Lodi Valley Chapter and other volunteers from around the state and beyond, the Ice Age Trail’s Gibraltar Segment (formerly the Colsac Segment) has been extended by another mile. Volunteers constructed the new section of Trail during a Mobile Skills Crew project, October 2010. Trailhead parking is available on Slack Road.
About half way along, you will find a wonderful wooden “bench” that comes as close to a wilderness couch as I have seen. Relax
like we did with a lunch and enjoy the view of Lake Wisconsin and Baraboo Range. Once the leaves come down, this is also where you can see the ferry crossing. Come enjoy a beautiful new section of the Ice Age Trail!
Images for the slide show contributed by Wendy Soucie and Kurt Eakle.