The Pike Lake State Park summer staycation
The Urban Dictionary first declared it a word, er, slang term, in August 2006, but the summer "staycation" might have more relevance now than ever. The economy, gas prices and irreverent weather have put a halt on many people's travel plans this year, but while days of the great American road trip might be dwindling, there are still plenty of places to explore within our own state.
When the wanderlust strikes, turn a day trip into a staycation and retreat into Wisconsin.
Pike Lake State Park is about a 45-minute drive northwest of Milwaukee via U.S. Hwy. 45/41 and is a unit of the Kettle Moraine. Thanks to the last Ice Age that crushed Wisconsin over 10,000 years ago, the are is covered in glaciated hills and valleys, most notably, Powder Hill, a 1,350-ft. glacial kame offering great hikes and a 60-ft. observation tower offering panoramic views of the scenic wooded hills.
Where to stay:
Camping at the park's 32 campsites is available from late April through October. The campgrounds offer a shower building, flush toilets, water fountains, a dumping station, woodshed and firewood for sale for your campfire. Twenty-four of the sites are in the woods, while the other eight are open, but all have a picnic table, fire pit and tent pad. There is one campsite with an electrical hookup.
Enjoying Pike Lake
Fishing -- Pike Lake was named for its abundant walleye pike population, but if you plan to fish, keep your eye open for northern pike, largemouth bass and panfish, as well.
Boating -- There are no boat launches in the park itself, but there are private launches nearby.
Swimming -- You can swim within a designated area between Memorial Day and Labor Day. There's a nice beach with nearby bathrooms.
What else to do
Astronomy Trail -- A half-mile hike with a talk on the solar system.
Black Forest Nature Trail -- A self-guided 0.8-mile hike.
Hike to Powder Hill -- A half-mile walk the Nature Trail.
Ice Age National Scenic Trail -- Part of this 1,200-mile foot trail runs through the park. Bikes are not allowed on the trails, except for the marked part leading to the Hartford Bike Trail.
The Boardwalk Trail -- half-mile hike along the lakeshore near the north picnic area with an observation deck.
Picnicking -- There's a nice, grassy area near the beach with grills, two shelters and a playground.
Bird and wildlife watching -- The wooded areas and open fields are Wisconsin bird sanctuaries. Look for nuthatches, owls, cardinals, jays, juncos and woodpeckers. Hikers might also catch glimpses of fox, rabbits, squirrels, badgers and woodchuck.
Pike Lake is on State Highway 60 between Hartford and Slinger. The forest entrance is about three miles west of U.S. Hwy. 41 and seven miles west of U.S. Hwy. 45.
Any motor vehicle parking in the forest must have a Wisconsin State Parks vehicle admission sticker. You can buy stickers at the forest headquarters, beach area contact station, or self-registration pay stations throughout the forest.
Pike Lake is a wonderful park. There are plenty of other great rainy day things to do outside the park all under 10 minutes away: - Holy Hill - The Wisconsin Auto Museum in Hartford - Watching Saturday practice for free at the Slinger speedway. - For a beautiful drive, there are some state "rustic roads" just south of the park.
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