Rib Mountain State Park
Geographic Location: south side of
Length: 4.6 miles
Difficulty: 7/10 (Moderate/Difficult)
Last Hiked: July 2012
Overview: A rocky hike with great views and history.
Park Information: http://dnr.wi.gov/topic/parks/name/ribmt/
Google Map: http://www.mappedometer.com/?maproute=123305
Directions to the trailhead: On the south side of
Wausau, take US 51/SR 29 to Rib Mountain Park Drive (exit 188). Exit and head west on Rib Mountain Park Drive. Enter the park, pay the large entrance fee, and drive up the mountain. Stop to take in the view from the North Observation Deck, and then park in the Concession Area parking lot where this hike begins.
The hike: Located in the heart of
Wisconsin, 1528 acre derives its name from the long curved shape of its namesake mountain, the fourth highest point in Rib Mountain State Park Wisconsin. The quartzite sandstone that forms the mountain is some of the hardest and oldest rock on earth. Geologically speaking, the mountain is a monadnock, or a hill of free-standing rock. There are several other monadnocks in the area, but at 4 miles long by 1 mile wide is the largest. Rib Mountain
The state park is most famous for its downhill ski area called
Granite Peak (an inappropriate name because you will find no granite on this mountain). An elaborate lift operation takes skiers up the mountain in the winter, and many of the park’s hiking trails double as cross-country ski trails that time of year. In the summer, the 13 miles of trails make for excellent hiking with minimal traffic. The 4.7 mile route described here explores the more scenic western section of the trail system and includes visits to an observation tower, an old homestead site, and an old quarry.
|View from South Observation Deck|
|View west from Observation Tower|
At 0.7 miles, a spur trail leads uphill to the left. Continue straight to remain on the Red Trail. 0.9 miles into the hike, you reach the intersection with the Quarry Trail, which exits to the right. Continuing straight on the Red Trail would lead you back to the Concession Area in another 0.6 miles. We will go that way eventually, but to explore the old quarry and homestead, turn right to begin the Quarry Trail. The Quarry Trail is marked with white metal signs bearing the letter “Q.”
|The rocky Quarry Trail|
1.4 miles into the hike, you reach the intersection with the Homestead Loop, which is marked with yellow metal signs bearing the letter “H.” Continue straight to begin the Homestead Loop. The rate of descent increases somewhat as the trail joins what appears to be an old road. At 1.6 miles, the other arm of the Homestead Loop Trail exits at a sharp angle to the left. Stay right to remain on the main Homestead Trail.
Just past this intersection, you reach the site of the old homestead. Occupied by Ludwig and Katherine Knapp from 1891-1901, only the foundation remains of the homestead. A few trees have grown inside the old foundation, and an interpretive sign tells you about the Knapps and the life they lived. A nearby bench allows you to take a few minutes and think about what life would have been like on
in their day. Rib Mountain
|Foundation of former Knapp homestead|
2 miles into the hike, the Homestead Trail ends at an intersection with the Turkey Vulture Trail, which is marked with orange metal signs bearing the letter “T.” To head for the quarry, turn left on the Turkey Vulture Trail. This trail derives its names from the large black turkey vultures that roost in the quarry walls in the summer. I believe this wide gravel trail follows the old quarry access road, but I could not find any signs to confirm my guess.
At 2.7 miles, the gradual to moderate climb on the wide gravel trail brings you to the entrance for the old quarry. Turn left to explore the quarry floor. Operated by the 3M company, the hard quartzite rock was perfect for construction materials such as roofing. The craggy walls that remain form a horseshoe-shaped pit that you now stand at the opening of. The quarry floor is hot and sunny, so plan your time here accordingly.
|Exploring the quarry floor|
|View from quarry rim|
The Red Trail climbs slightly to reach an intersection with the Blue Trail, which heads left. If you are getting tired, then turn left here and follow the Blue Trail back to the Concession Area. For a little more adventure, continue straight on the Red Trail as it descends steeply to reach an overlook perched at the top of a boulder field. A fine view of farms and woods to the south can be had from here.
|Boulder field on the Red Trail|
With the hardest climbing now over, the Red Trail traces the perimeter of another rocky peninsula, but this one offers no views. After a final rocky gradual to moderate climb, the trail comes out on the park road across from the Concession Area. Cross the park road and grab a snack at the concession stand to celebrate your hike.