Hiking The Ice Age Tail - Indian Lake Segment

share this article
follow


Ice Age Trail Indian Lake
Ice Age Trail Indian Lake


The Indian Lake Segment of the Ice Age National Scenic Trail is an isolated section that tracks a wide footpath through Indian Lake County Park in Dane. Indian Lake is a quiet glossy lake at the bottom of a valley between two picturesque hills of driftless area on Highway 19 between Waunakee and Mazomanie. The section is an easy 2.8 miles, and for section hikers there is the opportunity to make it a loop. I logged 5.5 miles total on my loop walk. While seemingly easy, the first mile of the trail does add up to a level 5 mountaineering climb. 








WHAT is this life if, full of care,
We have no time to stand and stare?

 No time to stand beneath the boughs,
And stare as long as sheep and cows:

No time to see, when woods we pass,
Where squirrels hide their nuts in grass:

No time to see, in broad daylight,
Streams full of stars, like skies at night:

No time to turn at Beauty's glance,
And watch her feet, how they can dance:
No time to wait till her mouth can
Enrich that smile her eyes began?

A poor life this if, full of care,
We have no time to stand and stare.

W. H. Davies



A family of 5 cranes circled ominously overhead. Like dragons preparing for a raid on a medieval castle their prehistoric cackling reflected off the glass surface of Indian Lake and penetrated deep into hardwood ravines picking up haunting low frequency echos that I could sense between the joints of my knees and shoulder blades. A tumultuous sky above them prepared to open up with electric fire at any moment.

 Halfway Prairie Wildlife Area
Ruins at Halfway Prairie Wildlife Area

The stone ruins of a farmhouse rise dramatically from a haunted hill across from the main entrance to Indian Lake Park. It was once a peaceful farm, but now it serves as a dark and mysterious gatehouse to the Halfway Prairie Wildlife Area. Because the wildlife area is reserved for hunting, the Ice Age Trail will not likely extend through these 127 acres. But, perhaps a sliver of it could be carved out in the hunting buffer zone along residential borders. A hope.

As it is, the Indian Lake section of the Ice Age Trail is a beautiful section of hiking and one of the first official segments of the IAT. It is also a lonely three miles that is separated by dozens of miles from the Lodi and Cross Plains sections.

There are a few hiccups in the design of this segment: its current isolation, its short length, a lack of paint blazes and signing at trail junctions, the existence of a second yellow blazed trail that is not the IAT, and a route which does not fully utilize the size of Indian Lake County Park to act as a linear trail connecting thru-hikers to quieter roads. These unfortunate conditions add up to a trail segment that will be unappreciated by long distance hikers, and not  worth the journey for slackpackers and section hikers.

Indian Lake occupies a lovely idyllic valley. The trail winds into the hilly forest that buttresses the south side of the lakeshore. The forest is deep and verdant; home to many native flowers such as shooting stars, jack-in-the-pulpits, may apples, and more. It is a clean forest with wide understory views. The trail then lets out into rolling prairie lands.

Indian Lake is a popular fishing spot and features one of Dane County's dog exercise parks. The IAT passes its third mile through the dog park where many dogs are allowed off the leash. Be prepared for a likely boisterous greeting a large muddy pet. You will also find pit toilets and a picnic shelter at the park. I didn't look for a water source, though I think there is likely one located here.

The IAT at Indian Lake is a nice little trail for the locals. With any luck, the near future will bring more miles and a better route that crosses the full extent of Indian Lake Park. When the Ice Age Trail is fully connected, the route between Merrimac and Cross Plains will be one of the most remarkable sections of this National Trail.





Overview: Ice Age National Scenic Trail - Indian Lake Segment


COUNTY: Dane
COMMUNITIES: Dane

TOTAL MILES: 2.8
DIFFICULTY: Easy

NEXT IAT SEGMENT EASTBOUND: 5 miles on roads to Table Bluff Segment
NEXT IAT SEGMENT WESTBOUND: 5 miles on roads to Springfield Hill Segment

POINTS OF INTEREST: Indian Lake County Park




Directions and Trail Map



Address for your GPS: 6213 Matz Rd, Dane, WI 53529
| coordinates: 43.195722, -89.620645 |

From Milwaukee1.5 Hours
From Madison25 Minutes
From Green Bay2.5 Hours
From Wausau2 Hours
From Minneapolis4 Hours
From Chicago3 Hours




Photos


The Ice Age Trail at Indian Lake County Park in Dane WI
The Ice Age Trail at Indian Lake County Park in Dane WI

The Ice Age Trail at Indian Lake County Park in Dane WI
The Ice Age Trail at Indian Lake County Park in Dane WI

The Ice Age Trail at Indian Lake County Park in Dane WI
The Ice Age Trail at Indian Lake County Park in Dane WI

The Ice Age Trail at Indian Lake County Park in Dane WI
The Ice Age Trail at Indian Lake County Park in Dane WI

The Ice Age Trail at Indian Lake County Park in Dane WI
The Ice Age Trail at Indian Lake County Park in Dane WI

The Ice Age Trail at Indian Lake County Park in Dane WI
The Ice Age Trail at Indian Lake County Park in Dane WI

Shooting Star native wildflower at Indian Lake County Park

The Ice Age Trail at Indian Lake County Park in Dane WI
The Ice Age Trail at Indian Lake County Park in Dane WI

The Ice Age Trail at Indian Lake County Park in Dane WI
The Ice Age Trail at Indian Lake County Park in Dane WI

The Ice Age Trail at Indian Lake County Park in Dane WI
The Ice Age Trail at Indian Lake County Park in Dane WI

The Ice Age Trail at Indian Lake County Park in Dane WI
The Ice Age Trail at Indian Lake County Park in Dane WI

The Ice Age Trail at Indian Lake County Park in Dane WI
The Ice Age Trail at Indian Lake County Park in Dane WI

The Ice Age Trail at Indian Lake County Park in Dane WI
The Ice Age Trail at Indian Lake County Park in Dane WI