Sunday, May 31, 2015

Beautiful Seven Bridges Trail at Grant Park

Covered Bridge at head of Seven Bridges Trail
This trail in Grant Park is one of my favorite places to come, no matter what the season.  It's a lovely place to see spring wildflowers, deer, fall color, and get to the beach without walking too far, if I have my son along. Someone told me when they were younger, there were actually seven bridges, but now there are 10.  I suppose it's not worth it to change the name over a bridge count.  If you watch Around the Corner with John McGivern, you'll know that John Gurda is the area historian.  He did an hour long program about his favorite historical places and he included the history of this park and how the original bridges were built.  You can find it on youtube. Grant Park Clubhouse is a victorian home (with some updates) which was originally purchased from the homeowner, Horace Fowle, so the entire area used to be part of that farm.
The clubhouse near the golf course

wild flowers are plentiful in spring
Fall at the park

The bridges have had some work done in the past few years, but you'll still notice trees lying down in the area.  It's best to stick to the marked paths so you don't add to the erosion or damage the wildflowers. Some say the area is haunted, but I never saw anything to indicate that.
Newest bridge replaced
This trail has lots of steps

This 2 mile trail is listed as a National Recreational Trail, one of many in Wisconsin.  Most of the trails on the list are just a couple of miles in length, and doable in a day.  I might mention that this website is a good place to get a listing, but it has a lot of information missing on most trails, so you'll want to check the county parks link or other organization if you need more information.  You'll find a variety of organizations built these trails, and in fact, some are still being developed.  We owe a lot to the volunteers who maintain them.  Usually they are 'friends groups' for the trail or park location who organize work parties.    The details for Seven Bridges Trail, however, is quite detailed and accurate, so I'll include that National Recreation Trail link here.

I had about an hour today to do some hiking, so I traveled through the covered bridge near where you park, and walked to the lake, following the bluff and parts of the paved Oak Leaf Trail south past the golf course, until I came to the beach access.  You can take the driveway to the parking lot at the beach house.  From the beach house, I walked back along the lake.  The sun was shining today, so by doing this, the sun was at my back when I followed the lakefront until I saw the access to Seven Bridges Trail.  This way I had plenty of bird chatter on the way south and the sound of waves heading north.  There were plenty of robins, red winged black birds, and I even heard a woodpecker.
Oak Leaf Trail is paved

Beach View

The Oak Leaf trail portion of Grant Park is a particularly nice place to take a stroller or wheelchair because you can actually go for quite a long way through the woods and experience nature on a paved path.  Of course, you can't take a stroller through the ravines of Seven Bridges. I was surprised by a pair of deer at the restrooms near the covered bridge.  They were eating quietly and didn't seem to be bothered by me.

If you have small children, and you don't want to do the rugged trail, I'd recommend you park at Wil-O-Way Grant Park.  Here you'll find a picnic area, sand box, playground, bathrooms, and a small pond which had a pair of geese on it today.  There's also access to the Oak Leaf Trail here, so you could take a stroller from the parking lot and go as far as you like in either direction.  The Oak Leaf Trail connects all the lakefront trails, although there are some on-street connections.  Grant Park also has a nice large playground with lots of climbing structures.
Wil-O-Way play area
Play area at Grant Park

If you're participating in the Oak Leaf Discovery Tour and need a passport, you can get one at Grant Park golf clubhouse for $5.  This tour includes passport stamps and code words.  If you participate you can win prizes and attend the end of summer party.
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