by Eric Hansen, revised by Kevin Revolinski (Falcon Guides)
© 2016 Eric Hansen, revised by Kevin Revolinski/Falcon Guides. All Rights Reserved.
A well-kept trail through a nice woodland area. There are a couple decent overlooks but in general you won't find spectacular views here. The trail is only marked as "expert" because the guide company marks all trails over 10 miles "expert", really the path is wide and clear for the most part as it must be since it is used for cross country skiing in the winter. I did encounter some wildlife alone the way -- several deer, large birds I couldn't identify and what I think was a fox -- but overall it was pretty quiet. I think this trail would be better suited as a light mountain biking trip or for skiing in the winter, as for hiking it is just too long to be interesting.
Also, as a side note there is a state park called "wildcat mountain" not too far away which I ended up at looking for this place... when looking up directions search for black river state forest not wildcat anything. The other park is very nice though and worth a look in its own right.
This is a good mid-level trail (in spite of it's "Expert Only" markings) and can be done in a day or over the course of a weekend. I wasn't impressed with the trail quality (mostly grass with ATV/4x4 tracks interspersed with bark and/or rock) and I encountered more ticks in 20mins than I ever have in the last 13 years of my backpacking experience. The scenic overlooks are usually difficult to see since the elevation gains are minimal and cannot support a tree line. This can be depressing at times but rather helpful on hot days. The best lookout in this park isn't on the hiking trails but rather atop the Castle Mound observation area (near one of the campgrounds). It was closed when I was there but my friend and I managed to climb through the rocks and reach the top; definitely worth it! The benefit of this area is they allow true backpacking which is a rarity in WI. As long as you check in by 9:00pm Friday at one of the offices (I recommend the Castle Mound Campground post) you can hike and set up camp where ever you want (well, almost… but it beats crowded campsites!). This is one of the better places I’ve been for hiking, biking, and backpacking since moving to WI from WA and would recommend it to others; just be sure to take some bug spray and cover up or be willing to face the consequences!
The trails around wildcat mount are a series of short loops of grassy 2-track that is probably used as snowmobile trails in winter. The terrain is rolling with some short steep climbs. There are some decent-sized ridges and several scenic overlooks are marked on the map, however in many cases the views are blocked by thick foliage in summer, making them only "scenic" in winter. There are no natural water sources, so you must either pack in your water or drink the rust-orange water that comes from the trailhead hand pump. When I was there in August, the ticks were terrible, and we were continually pulling them off our skin and clothing. Our only wildlife spotting was a porcupine, but did see several signs of black bear (scat and hair rubbings on trees). The short loops radiating from a common trailhead make this system a decent choice for day hikers, but I wouldn't recommend it for an overnight trip, especially in the summer when the ticks are so active and water is more precious to battle the heat.
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