Just about three miles from Brown County State Park is Yellowwood State Forest. The trails in this region ranked well on AllTrails.com and we were eager to see as much of the area as we could in a day.
The length of the Lake Trails seems to be a bit up for debate with the two maps available at the Forest Serve office offering lengths of 4.5 and 5 miles. My Fitbit (which is never accurate) clocked the trail at just over 7 miles, but my guess that was due to the snowy conditions requiring picking footing more carefully and therefore more steps per mile.
Speaking of maps, the maps available at the forest service office are grainy photocopies and the trail has a few confusing intersections, so it is important to pay attention to trail signs and/or have a written description of the trail. The Lake Trail blazes are white waves.
We began the trail from the Forest Service office. Alternatively, the trail intersects parking areas at the north and south ends of the lake. At the Forest Service Office a short access trail leaves from across Yellowwood Road. When the access trail reaches the Lake Trail we chose to head right and complete the loop in a clockwise direction. I don’t think there are any particular benefits of either direction.
We picked an interesting day to hike. In the week prior to our hike, the area received a decent snowfall. Although the temps were well into the 40’s on the day of our hike, a few inches still covered the trail, allowing us to see just how well traveled this route is in the middle of winter – and this section is not well traveled. For sections the only other tracks belonged to the deer or coyotes. But the trail was still reasonably easy to find in most sections.
We did bring along our Yaktrax and they were great to add traction in icier spots. I highly recommend them.
We wound through the woods, roughly paralleling the road for about a half mile. Eventually, the trail crosses the road at the horse camp. We thought the trail was a little difficult to find here. I am not sure we did find the correct route, but we followed the campground road on the left, passing over a bridge and through the campsites. A horse trail picked up at the end of the loop and immediately descended to the base of the damn. There the trail crosses the damn outflow. We easily stepped over the rocks, but I don’t know what the trail might be like in higher water.
We followed the parking lot. This might be another good place from which to begin the trail and is also where the wonderfully named Scarce O’Fat trail picks up. We headed back to the top of the damn and joined the Tecumseh trail.
This path follows the lake with some nice winter views. We found some great bird habitat and were pleased to see Red-headed Woodpeckers and Brown Creepers along with normal Chickadees, Tufted Titmouses, and Gold-crowned Kinglets.
At the north end of the lake, the trail enters a pine forest which definitely has a different feel. It seems like it would be excellent owl habitat, but we sure didn’t spot any. The Jackson Creek Trail winds through this area as well.
Eventually we crossed a bridge and began looping back toward the ranger station. The trail passes through a grove of bald cypress. Their knees made interesting patterns in the snow.
Once again we emerged in a parking lot, and again we were a little confused where the trail led. Eventually we realized we were to follow the road for about a half mile, then veer up a set of steps to the left.
The last section of trail was also less-well-traveled, but included some interpretive signs and some lovely stands of trees. We thoroughly enjoyed this beautiful hike and look forward to returning in other seasons.