Spring Wildflower Hikes
The walks listed are but a small sample of the places throughout the state, which the naturalist can find spring wildflowers. These places are listed, because the visitor must enter nature on nature's terms. Very little in the way of infrastructure is found other than minimally developed trails. The observer(s) can become part of the natural world and experience its grandeur utilizing all the human senses.
The best time to visit is generally late April through mid-May, and through mid-June farther north (exact times depend on weather).
Two things to remember: Before entering and leaving these sites, be sure to remove any seeds from your clothing and especailly be aware of mud brought in on your boots to prevent garlic mustard and other invasive weed seeds from being introduced. Do not pick wildflowers on these public lands—leave them intact for others to enjoy.
Sites are listed from around the state to provide an easy commute for everyone.
1. Chequamegon Hardwoods SNA, Ashland County, in the Chequamegon- Nicolet National Forest
Chequamegon Hardwoods is an old second-growth northern mesic hardwood forest with an undisturbed understory. Although the stand was logged in the 1930's, it still retains patches of old-growth hemlock, various hardwoods and some very large big-tooth aspen. Sugar maple, basswood, and yellow birch dominate most of the stand with canopy associates of red oak and white ash. Other areas feature hemlock and large big-tooth aspen. The herbaceous layer has never been grazed and is diverse with over 80 plant species including spikenard, blue cohosh, green adders-mouth, nodding trillium, maidenhair fern, and bloodroot.This second-growth hardwood forest contains some very old and large specimens.
From the intersection of highways 13 and GG in Mellen, go southwest on GG about 8 miles, then northwest on FR 187 (Mineral Lake Road) for 0.7 mile, then north on FR 188 (Hanson Road) for 1.6 miles to where the North Country Trail crosses the road. Park along the road and walk due north a quarter-mile to the southern boundary of the site. The North Country Trail skirts the southeastern tip of the SNA as it heads in a northeasterly direction.
2. Plover River Woods SNA, Marathon County
Plover River Woods features a northern wet-mesic and northern mesic forest that contain an extraordinarily diverse ground flora. Bordering the Plover River is a wet-mesic forest dominated by white cedar. Other trees include black ash, white spruce, and balsam fir. The ground layer includes numerous sedges, marsh marigold, three-leaved goldthread, rosy twisted stalk, partridgeberry, naked miterwort, boneset, joe-pye weed, swamp saxifrage, and numerous orchids. Sugar maple dominates the northern mesic forest with basswood, red oak, and hemlock also present. In May, a carpet of spring ephemerals blankets the forest floor and includes an abundance of squirrel corn and Dutchman's breeches. Other species include hepatica, spring-beauty, bloodroot, nodding trillium, wild geranium, wild ginger, blue cohosh, red baneberry, mayapple, and wood betony. From the intersection of Highway 45 and County N in Birnhamwood, go west on N 3.5 miles, then north on South Pole Road 2.1 miles. Park and walk west into the site.
3. Fox Maple Woods SNA, Florence County
This forest is one of only a few genuine old-growth mesic (an area of medium moisture) forests in Wisconsin, and the spring ephemerals are rich and abundant. You’ll see some very large sugar maple, basswood, and hemlock, and get a sense of what the Wisconsin wilderness once looked like. The understory is quite open, so you can walk around freely, but there is no trail system. Wildflowers include spring-beauty, trout-lily, Dutchman’s-breeches, blue cohosh, nodding trillium, rosy twisted-stalk, and bloodroot. From the intersection of highways 2 and 70 in Florence, go west on 70 for 10.5 miles to a parking area north of the road.
4. Haskell Noyes Memorial Woods SNA, Fond du Lac County
Wander up the hills and into the pockets of the kettles of this SNA in the Kettle Moraine State Forest—Northern Unit and you’ll see plenty of wildflowers. In one low-lying area I found a colony of skunk-cabbage, which, in early spring, can actually melt the surrounding snow and ice. Flower species include hepatica, snakeroot, large-flowered trillium, red trillium, May-apple, and bellwort. Small paths crisscross the area and the forest understory is open, which allows hikers to walk around easily.
Head southwest out of Dundee on Highway 67 for 0.4 mile, then south on Highway G for 2.1 miles. Turn east onto Highway SS for 0.9 mile, then head south on Highway GGG for 0.1 mile to a parking area and historical marker west of the road.
5. Nugget Lake County Park (candidate SNA), Pierce County
This medium-sized park offers much more than the fishing and beach opportunities on the impounded lake. The park has the highest Florisitic Quality Index of any mesic forest in the state. Bare ground is impossible to see as the spring wildlfowers cover the entire surface. The superb display starts in mid-Arpil with one the highest populations of snow trillium known in the state. The late-April display of trout-lily is soon followed by abundant numbers of wood anemone, Dutchmen's-breeches, squirrel corn, bloodroot, Jack-in-the-pulpit, meadow-rue, and spring-beauty. Return in May to see large-flowered trillium and wild geranium.From interstate 94, exit south at WI 128, then west on WI 29, then south on County Road CC, then east on County Road HH.
6. Logan Creek SNA, Door County
Managed and owned by The Ridges Sanctuary, the Logan Creek property offers several habitats, including an upland beech maple forest and a wetland forest dominated by cedar and hemlock. The best time to see spring wildflowers here is mid- to late May, when a profusion of spring-beauty, Dutchman’s-breeches, toothwort, large-flowered trillium, trout-lily, and more than a half-dozen varieties of wild violets carpet the forest floor. A trail system makes hiking easy. Bring your binoculars to take advantage of good birding opportunities. From Jacksonport, take Highway 57 south. Turn left onto Loritz Road. Drive in about three-quarters of a mile and look for two stone pillars with an iron gate marked “Tree Haven.” Park and walk around the gate to find the trail.
7. McGilvra Woods SNA, Sauk County
This rich southern mesic forest contains mainly sugar maple and basswood. You won’t find trails here, but this SNA is easy to navigate since there’s almost no underbrush. In mid-May, you might see woodland phlox, nodding trillium, Jack-in-the-pulpit, hairy Solomon’s-seal, and red baneberry. Earlier in the season, you’ll find a good display of trout-lily. All in all, look for dozens of species of plants, including the rare cuckoo-flower and putty-root orchid. From the intersection of highways 12 and 136 in West Baraboo, go south on 12 for 1 mile, then west on Highway W for 3.25 miles, then north on Farview Road. Park on the road and walk east into the site.
8. Martin's Woods SNA, owned by Waukesha Land Conservancy, Waukesha County
Martin's Woods features a mesic and wet-mesic forest located on a low, gently sloping terrace adjacent to the Fox River. Sugar maple and basswood dominate the mesic forest while the southern hardwood swamp is dominated by green ash and large swamp white oaks. Associated species include chinquapin oak, basswood, American elm, red maple, black ash, bitternut hickory, and black walnut. The understory includes eastern hop-hornbeam, ironwood, rock elm, gray dogwood, and elderberry. The uncommon Kentucky coffee tree (Gymnocladus dioica) is also present. Vines are prevalent with Virginia creeper, river grape, wild cucumber, wild yam, and upright carrion flower. Poison ivy is ubiquitous and found as a vine, shrub, and herb. The herbaceous flora is rich with many uncommon species including goldenseal (Hydrastis canadensis), forked aster (Aster furcatus) and American gromwell (Lithospermum latifolium). Other species include fragile fern, false mermaid, recurved trillium, declined trillium, spring cress, common great angelica, and hog peanut. From the junction of Highway 164 (Big Bend Drive) and Edgewood Avenue in Big Bend, go west on Edgewood Avenue 1.1 mile. Park along the road and walk south into the natural area.
9. Powers Bluff Maple Woods SNA, Wood County
A 300-foot-tall bluff of erosion-resistant quartzite is the setting for this SNA. Dotting the floor of this forest, which is dominated by sugar maple and yellow birch, are wild columbine, blue cohosh, ferns, violets, trout-lily, bloodroot, and an incredible array of large-flowered trillium in mid-May. Follow trails through the site, or to a more developed section of the park with picnic tables and restrooms. From Arpin, take Highway E south for 1 mile. Head west on Bluff Drive for 1.1 miles to the park entrance. The natural area covers the eastern portion of the park.
10. Wyalusing Walnut Forest SNA, Grant County
Wyalusing Walnut Forest lies on the north face of a steep, 500 foot-high bluff overlooking the confluence of the Wisconsin and Mississippi Rivers. It features a continuum of forest types from wet, floodplain forest of silver maple and cottonwood at the bluff's base to dry oak woods with white and black oak at its summit. The mid-slope and rich soils around the cliff base are forested with southern mesic forest of red oak, sugar maple, hackberry, butternut, and a high number of black walnuts. Two areas contain nearly pure stands of black walnut. On the vertical cliffs above the Wisconsin River are a variety of species including Canada yew, Sullivant's cool-wort, and jeweled shooting-star (Dodecatheon amethystinum), a rare Driftless Area plant. Spring wildflowers abound with large populations of such uncommon species as dragon sage-wort (Artemsia dranunculus), narrow-leaved spleenwort (Diplazium pycnocarpon), and Goldie's fern (Dryopteris goldiana). From the intersection of Highways 18 and 60 in Bridgeport, go east on 18 1.3 miles, then west on County Highway C 3.5 miles, then west on County Highway X 1.1 mile, then north into Wyalusing State Park on the park road 1.7 miles to the nature center parking lot. Get a park map at the visitor center. The Bluff and Sentinel Ridge trail provides access to the natural area.