Ice Age Trail to Gibraltar Rock

Gibraltar Rock State Natural Area, Wisconsin

Trip Date: Friday, August 17th, 2018
Last Updated: Tuesday, October 9th, 2018
By Ricky Holzer

Hike Information

Rating ★★★★★(5/5)
Overall Difficulty Easy
Navigation Difficulty     Easy
Distance 1.4 miles roundtrip
Time 1 hour
Terrain Hilly
Best Seasons All
Family Friendly Yes
Dog Friendly Yes
Accessible No

Highlights

Hike Walkthrough

I'm not entirely certain how I stumbled upon Gibraltar Rock, though it's likely I either saw its small green square on Google Maps while looking for parks around the Wisconsin Dells or on a fellow hiker's Instagram. Either way, I'm glad I stopped here to break up the long drive from Minneapolis to Chicago -- a perfect roadtrip stop since this place is about exactly halfway between the two. This small area of land known as the Gibraltar Rock State Natural Area contains a small portion of the thousand-mile Ice Age National Scenic Trail that climbs to the top of this 200 foot tall rocky butte with amazing views from the rocky outcroppings. Although this trail does see a bit of traffic due to its views and location near the Wisconsin Dells, it's much less crowded here than in the nearby Devil's Lake State Park or Mirror Lake State Park. If you're ever in the area, this is definitely a hike to check out.

There are two options to hike to the top: following the old gated-off paved road or the Ice Age Trail. The road is no-nonsense and skips some of the scenic overlooks, so I recommend taking the trail. Yellow rectangular marks (a symbol prevalent throughout most of Ice Age Trail) spray painted on trees and rocks help guide the way through the forest as the trail crosses over the old road and uphill. The trail is really gradual up until the very end where there are a few stone steps, as pictured below.

Stone stair steps on the trail up to Gibraltar Rock

Stone stair steps on the trail up to Gibraltar Rock

You will begin to see the edge of the rocky cliff in the last bit of trail, but your view is obscured by trees at first. Eventually, you'll reach the first overlook, with views looking south. Another overlook nearby looks directly west, providing the vast view of hilly farm fields interspersed with forest glades as shown in the first picture below. If you turn your head and look right, you'll be able to see one cliff face of Gibraltar Rock as vertical wall extends 200 feet below, shown in the second picture below.
The view from Gibraltar Rock looking west

The view from Gibraltar Rock looking west

A side profile of Gibraltar Rock shows the scale of the cliff

A side profile of Gibraltar Rock shows the scale of the cliff

As you continue heading north on the trail, you will encounter a few more overlooks. These rocks offer less obstructed views to the north, and on a clear day you can see the waters of Lake Wisconsin, as pictured below.
Looking north with Lake Wisconsin in the distance

Looking north with Lake Wisconsin in the distance

Follow the Ice Age Trail north along the edge of the rock until it intersects with a second trail (I can't seem to remember the name of it) marked by white rectangles sprayed on the trees. This trail loops back to the Ice Age Trail and shortens the return trip. You're also welcome to turn around and go back the way you came if you want to savor the views once again -- this second loop trail isn't particularly scenic and is really only good for its efficiency.

On the way back you might notice a use-trail on the right (heading to the east). If you follow this unofficial side trail, you'll escape the forest and be able to see the edge of the park's property, especially evident since the neighboring farmer plowed right up to the edge. Here you'll have a nice view of the rolling hills in the distance with a nice meadow in the foreground, as pictured below.
A meadow just on the edge of the park property

A meadow just on the edge of the park property

There you have it. Gibraltar Rock is a great place for views with a relatively easy and short trail -- a great way to spend an hour while you're enjoying the beautiful nature around the Wisconsin Dells. Let me know what you think in the comments section below, and be sure to use #nocoastbestcoast on Twitter and Instagram!

Important Information

Dogs are allowed on leash. With the uphill climbing and many cliff edges, this hike is not ideal for families with small children but is good for older children. This trail is available in all four seasons, and its trailhead location along a county road means and well marked trail with blazes in the trees means you can hike even in the heart of the snowy winter. On a Friday afternoon, I encountered a couple groups of people, and this trail's views and location close to the Wisconsin Dells means you will probably see even more people on a peak summer weekend.

Directions

From Madison, take U.S. Highway 12 West toward Springfield. Turn right on Wisconsin Highway 19, then turn left on Lodi Springfield Road. Turn right onto County Road P. After a couple bends in the road, turn left onto Wisconsin Highway 113 towards Lodi. Continue on Wisconsin Highway 113 through Lodi, then turn left on County Road V. Turn left on Gibraltar Road designated by the brown sign for Gibraltar Rock.

From Wisconsin Dells, take Interstate 90/94 east towards Madison, then exit at County Road CS and turn left. Turn left again on County Road J, then turn right on County Road V. Follow the signs to stay on County Road V as it turns before crossing Wisconsin Highway 113. Turn left on Gibraltar Road designated by the brown sign for Gibraltar Rock.

Google Maps Directions

Parking, Fees, and Facilities

Parking is free! There are no facilities near this lot.

External Links

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