Sand Cave Trail

Wyalusing State Park, Wisconsin

Trip Date: Saturday, June 1st, 2019
Last Updated: Wednesday, July 24th, 2019
By Ricky Holzer

Hike Information

Rating ★★★★☆(4/5)
Overall Difficulty Moderate
Navigation Difficulty     Easy
Distance 2.5 miles roundtrip
Time 1 hour
Terrain Hilly
Best Seasons All
Family Friendly Yes
Dog Friendly Yes
Accessible No


Hike Summary

I didn't expect much from this hike, probably because it was a short loop on the interior of Wyalusing State Park away from the scenic bluffs. However, it turned out to be excellent, with two waterfalls flowing over the advertised sand caves. It might not be the highlight of the entire park, but it's certainly a cool journey nevertheless.

The hike is a lollipop loop starting with 0.8 miles mostly downhill leading to the spur trail to Big Sand Cave and the beginning of Little Sand Cave Loop Trail. Look for the signs pointing to the Sand Cave Trail when you start hiking -- the Walnut Springs Trail also begins from this parking lot and it is easy to accidentally follow that trail instead. As you descend, the trail mirrors the seasonal creek, fed by water runoff from the top of the bluff, pictured below.

Fallen logs over the trickling creek

Fallen logs over the trickling creek

Ahead take a sharp left onto the spur trail to Big Sand Cave, heading further downhill to the creek bottom. The trail ends at your first destination, a large rock overhang with a waterfall, shown in the two pictures below. This entire impressive scene is too wide to fit in one photograph! Rock formations like this are common in the Driftless Area, the parts of Iowa, Illinois, Minnesota, and Wisconsin along the Mississippi River that escaped the flattening effects of melting glaciers after the last ice age. Just across the river in Pikes Peak State Park, you can find another similar waterfall, Bridal Veil Falls.
The thin waterfall at Big Sand Cave

The thin waterfall at Big Sand Cave

Part of the massive overhang of Big Sand Cave

Part of the massive overhang of Big Sand Cave

Head back uphill and continue on the trail. At the intersection ahead, you can go either direction on the Little Sand Cave Loop Trail. This dense forest covering the loop blocks any hope of views, despite your location on top of a bluff. On the southern end of the loop, you'll be able to enjoy the smaller "cave" and waterfall pictured below. Once you're done watching the waterfall, finish the remainder of the loop, then return the same way you came on the Sand Cave Trail.
The mossy waterfall at Little Sand Cave

The mossy waterfall at Little Sand Cave

While this hike isn't very long, it is quite beautiful. It's definitely worth a visit if you're ever in the area! Connect with me using the social media links below and share your adventures!

Important Information

Dogs are allowed on leash. This is a great family-friendly hike due to its multiple scenic destinations, but the hills and distance may make this too challenging for the youngest children. You can hike this trail in any season, including winter when the waterfalls will be frozen. Expect to see other people on the hike unless you go early or late in the day.


Located just outside of Praire du Chien, use the Google Maps link below to navigate through the rural highways required to reach this part of the state.

Google Maps Directions

Parking, Fees, and Facilities

Parking is $8/day or $28/year if you have Wisconsin plates; otherwise, it's $11/day or $38/year. There are no facilities here, so drive further down the road to the campground or picnic area for restrooms and water.

Nearby Hikes

Bridal Veil Falls trickling over the limestone overhang
Bridal Veil Falls and Hickory Ridge Mounds Loop
Pikes Peak State Park, Iowa
The view of the Mississippi From Hanging Rock
Effigy Mounds Trail to Hanging Rock
Effigy Mounds National Monument, Iowa
The sign at the top of Charles Mound marking the elevation
Charles Mound (Illinois State Highpoint)
Charles Mound, Illinois
The view of Bellevue and the Mississippi River and bluffs from the overlook
Overlook Trail
Bellevue State Park, Iowa

External Links