Excerpted from “Hittin’ the Trail: Day Hiking Polk County, Wisconsin” by Rob Bignell
Your family can walk atop billion-year-old volcanic rock surrounded by the deep blue of a river and the lush green of a forest on the Indianhead Flowage Trail in the St. Croix National Scenic Riverway.
Located along Wis. Hwy. 87 about a mile north of St. Croix Falls, the 1.5-mile long trail begins at Lion’s Club Park. The trailhead is on the park road’s southwest side.
That the path sits at the western start of Wisconsin’s famed Ice Age National Scenic Trail is appropriate. When the last glacier covering this region melted thousands of years ago, massive floods smashed through the area, carving the St. Croix River Valley out of volcanic basalt bedrock that formed some 750 million years before dinosaurs walked the Earth.
The trail winds through forests and wetlands with bridges crossing streams flowing into the St. Croix River. At some spots, the trail comes within 20 feet of that waterway.
A warm, dry spring day marks an excellent time to hike the trail. Colorful wildflowers from trilliums and marsh marigolds to blue flag iris and wild geraniums carpet the area. In summer, the forest greenery dominates, but watch for trail-side raspberries in July.
A variety of migrating songbirds also can be heard during spring. Squirrels, chipmunks, white-tailed deer and raccoon abound as well through summer and autumn.
Be sure to carry insect repellent, however, as mosquitoes, deerflies and horseflies sometimes can be an annoyance. Always check for deer ticks after returning from the trail. Also, make sure kids stay on the trail, as poison ivy grows in the area (Remember: “Leaves of three, let it be.”).
The handicap-accessible trail ends at a riverside campground. A primitive trail continues on but is not recommended for a day hike. Bathrooms, a playground, picnic area, and boat launch are located at Lion’s Club Park.
Rob Bignell is author of “Hittin’ the Trail: Day Hiking Polk County, Wisconsin,” “Headin’ to the Cabin: Day Hiking Trails of Northwest Wisconsin” and other hiking guidebooks. His website is http://hikeswithtykes.com/hittinthetrail_home.html.