Hiking St Peters Dome in The Chequamegon


The lower cascade of Morgan Falls at St. Peter's Dome State Natural Area
The lower cascade of Morgan Falls at St. Peter's Dome State Natural Area

An easy half mile trail on boardwalks and gravel leads to the 70 foot high Moran Falls. The path diverges and ascends a level 5 mountaineering rated climb along a rugged single track footpath for an additional 1.5 miles to the top of 'Old Baldy', or St. Peter's Dome.

The bald rock outcropping at the summit of this trail is the highest point in the Chequamegon National Forest and affords views of Ashland and the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore in the distance. This single track out-and-back makes for a 4.2 mile round trip that will get your heart racing and deliver two scenic delights in the waterfall and high overlook.




View from St. Peter's Dome of the Chequamegon National Forest
View from St. Peter's Dome of the Chequamegon National Forest


Today it's hard to imagine the area around Ashland County as being a cutover clearing of environmental devastation; especially when on the trail to St. Peter's Dome where girthy hemlocks and white pine cast such dense shade as to keep the forest floor in perpetual dusk. And, yet, in the early 20th century you could stand at the summit of St. Peter's Dome and not be able to see a single tree between you and the horizon.

Now we can gaze out at this second growth forest in all directions and believe that this is an ancient mesic forest. There are a few reasons for the resurgent forest: Most people use fossil fuels instead of wood for home heating; less lumber is used in building and more building materials are recycled; computerization has caused us to use far less paper; and the Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forests are managed for sustainability.

The Chequamegon Forest still produces a million board feet of sawtimber each year - but annual growth far exceeds that number. The National Forest  manages the forest for multiple uses - not just for timber. Recreation and ecology are now critical factors in forest management decisions. As a result, Wisconsin's forests are a sustainable resource that will continue to generate economic stability for every generation going forward.

Morgan Falls cuts a 70 foot high flume out of a crack in a wall of granite
Morgan Falls cuts a 70 foot high flume out of a crack in a wall of granite


St. Peter's Dome State Natural Area is land that is owned and managed by the Nicolet-Chequamegon National Forest. It has been designated as a state natural area to further protect the particular natural wonders of this land. These wonders are evident as you hike to Morgan Falls and St. Peter's Dome.

The waterfall is easy to access from the parking lot. The trail to Morgan Falls was recently reconstructed to be accessible to wheelchairs and strollers. A wide boardwalk and hard packed gravel trail leads a little more than a quarter mile through a young hardwood forest to a trail intersection. From the intersection it is another 640 feet along the banks of Morgan creek to the waterfall.

You will hear the rushing water before you see the falls. And, from many viewpoints you cannot see the falls at all. This unusual waterfall cuts through a fractured wall of granite. Morgan falls is a single narrow stream of white water that is often called the prettiest waterfall in Wisconsin.

Boulder fields and steep climbs make the St. Peter's Dome trail moderate to difficult
Boulder fields and steep climbs make the St. Peter's Dome trail moderate to difficult


If you are up for more of hike, then you can backtrack to the trail intersection and begin to climb through layers of dense forest to St. Peter's Dome. This portion of the trail is moderate most of the way and difficult in some spots. The climb is a level 5 mountaineering rated climb spread over 1.5 miles. The footpath winds along at a slow incline over large boulder fields and a woven floor of tree roots. It is very useful to have trekking poles on this hike, and use of a bear bell and a handy can of bear spray is advised.You might encounter wolves or bears on this trail - so it is a good idea to leave snacks behind in the car to prevent the temptation for a large predator to investigate you and what's in your backpack.

At 1600 feet above sea level you will have arrived at St. Peter's Dome - locally known as "old baldy". This popular overlook affords long views over the Chequamegon national forest to Ashland and the Apostle Islands beyond. At the bald outcropping you will notice that the hill behind you ascends a few feet higher. At the top of this hill is a geologic survey marker.

Between the sights of Morgan Falls and the overlook at St. Peter's Dome this hiking spot has become one of the most popular in  the Chequamegon National Forest and in all of Up North Wisconsin. It is about a half hour drive away from Copper Falls State Park, 20 minutes from Ashland, and about 45 minutes from the popular tourist trap of Bayfield. Any trip to the Apostle Islands or the Northwoods should include a hike to St. Peter's Dome.

The St. Peter's Dome Hiking Trail passes through maturing second growth forest
The St. Peter's Dome Hiking Trail passes through maturing second growth forest



Overview: St. Peter's Dome and Morgan Falls Trails


COUNTY: Ashland
COMMUNITIES: Marengo

TOTAL MILES: 4.2
DIFFICULTY: Moderate - Difficult

POINTS OF INTEREST: Morgan's Falls, St. Peter's Dome, Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest


Directions and Trail Map



If viewing on a mobile device, open the trail map above to load into Google Maps App by touching the expand rectangle in the upper right corner

Address for your GPS: St. Peter's Dome State Natural Area Forest Rd 199 Marengo, WI 54855
| coordinates: 46.350888, -90.923689 |

From Milwaukee5.5 Hours
From Madison5 Hours
From Green Bay4.5 Hours
From Wausau3 Hours
From Minneapolis3.5 Hours
From Chicago7 Hours


Photos




Boardwalk on the trail to Morgan Falls at St. Peter's Dome State Natural Area
Boardwalk on the trail to Morgan Falls at St. Peter's Dome State Natural Area

Trail intersection with spur to Morgan Falls
Trail intersection with spur to Morgan Falls

The Spur trail to Morgan Falls follows along Morgan Creek
The spur trail to Morgan Falls follows along Morgan Creek 


The St. Peter's Dome Hiking Trail passes through maturing second growth forest
The St. Peter's Dome hiking trail passes through maturing second growth forest


Geologic Survey Marker at the top of St. Peter's Dome - The highest point in the Chequamegon Forest
Geologic Survey marker at the top of St. Peter's Dome - The highest point in the Chequamegon Forest



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