And away we go!
The first Wisconsin state park we went to, after I decided to try to visit all of them, was Belmont Mound. We stopped there on our way home following a two-day vacation, of sorts, with relatives who live in Des Moines, Iowa.
If you’re familiar with the state parks in southwestern Wisconsin, you might be wondering why we didn’t go to Nelson Dewey State Park instead. After all, you can take the ferry across the Mississippi River near Cassville and then head to the park nearby. Unfortunately, we were traveling on a Tuesday, and the ferry wasn’t running on weekdays yet this early in the year. It was only taking passengers on weekends. So, we decided to save that park for another time when we could get there from Iowa “properly”.
Location and Size of Belmont Mound
Belmont Mound is about 2 miles north-northwest of downtown Belmont, Wisconsin, which is a small town of about 1000 residents. You may not be familiar with Belmont, and I can’t blame you for that. It’s about 3 miles east of Platteville, which is a college town (University of Wisconsin), so I’m hoping you’ve heard of it. If that still doesn’t help enough, you can click a link at the end of this article to get to a map of the area.
When you first hear the name, Belmont Mound, you might think of some of the burial mounds that are visible in various parks around the country. That’s not the kind of mound we’re talking about here.
Belmont Mound is a 400-foot high hill that rises up…
…from the surrounding farmland.
By my reckoning, the park itself is a little less than a half square mile in area. This includes the Belmont Mound Woods State Natural Area. If you didn’t know that that was a distinct entity, you’d think it was just more of the State Park. (Honestly, I don’t know the difference, nor do I think it really matters.)
What to See at Belmont Mound
Before we went to Belmont Mound, I had discovered that a visitor should look for the Devil’s Dining Table rock formation, as well as the Devil’s Chair and a nearby cave.
Somehow, we managed to miss all three of those attractions!
So, until we take another trip there, you’ll have to rely on other guests for pictures of the Table, Chair, and cave.
Sorry about that.
Maybe the Belmont Lions Club, who maintains the park, could put up a sign that says, “Devil’s Table This Way”…?
We first took a path marked “Easy” around the mound.
On the DNR map (link below), this is the trail marked for cross-country skiers. It’s quite level all the way around the mound.
Even though this is a fairly easy walk, we noticed two benches along the way for those who need a rest. One seemed to encourage you to examine a fallen tree.
The other was more reasonably positioned along the side of the trail.
Speaking of fallen trees, such natural features are fairly often found in state parks. Sometimes they block your path, as the main part of this one did. (The dangerous-looking stump was more interesting than the trunk.)
The one attraction we did manage to find was the abandoned lime kiln. At least, that’s what I’ve read that this once was. I personally have no experience with such things and so must take the word of others in the matter.
There are two of these side by side that look virtually identical.
Also along this “easy” trail, we heard and then saw this woodpecker. The lighting wasn’t good, so you can only see this small bird in silhouette.
We came across this nifty rock wall (which may have been near the Table).
Above the wall, there’s a path that ends at this fence, so you don’t fall and seriously hurt yourself…or worse.
Road Closed to the Tower on Top
There is a paved road that winds around the mound and would take you and your vehicle to the observation tower at the top…but for two things.
One, the road is closed off by a gate.
And two, the tower was removed in the fall of 2021. Without going into too many (probably gruesome) details, I’ll just mention that the removal was due to a) some deaths in the area over the previous decade or so and b) the generally poor condition of the tower itself.
You can still see the remains of a parking lot at the end of the road.
You can also see the concrete foundations where the tower once stood.
I was able to snatch an overhead shot of the tower from one of the online map sites, so you can see (sort of) what the structure once looked like.
Eat and Drink But Don’t Sleep at Belmont Mound
Belmont Mound isn’t equipped for campers, but you could have quite a good time eating and drinking there, if you brought in your own victuals.
The main shelter has lots of picnic tables. (I didn’t count how many.) They appeared to be in decent condition.
If you’d like a more secluded spot for your meal, there’s a single table with a roof some distance to the west of the main shelter. I’m not sure if the insects would bug you too much there.
Then there’s also a similar table behind the welcome sign, which is east of the main structure. (See above.)
In addition, there’s a nice bench, donated “In Memory of Ken & Caroline Hamilton” next to a lending library – one that did actually have several books inside. One wonders how often this little, out-of-the-way book house is used.
Besides the hiking, which includes snowshoeing in winter, there are two other activities Belmont Mound is good for – hunting and trapping. Since I do neither, I can’t clue you in on anything here, other than to say that you should be sure to have the proper licenses before engaging in either sport.
Wisconsin’s First Capitol Historic Site Next Door
This isn’t a state park, but as it’s located just down the road about half a mile past Belmont Mound, we could hardly have justified leaving the area without a quick visit. After all, we missed the Table, so we weren’t about to miss this obvious attraction.
The only downside to this visit is that the buildings were not currently open to visitors. They’re basically open from Memorial Day to Labor Day.
All you can see here are several informational plaques and signs.
Around the back of the buildings, you can see an obvious addition for the handicapped – not that they make much of a difference for getting into the locked buildings right now.
We did stumble upon an official geocache cache.
We peeked inside but didn’t sign the book, take anything out, or leave anything new.
On the same day, we also went to Yellowstone Lake State Park about half an hour to the east.
If we ever make it back to Belmont Mound State Park (which seems likely since it’s on our usual route to Iowa), we’ll be sure to find the Table and related items, in which case I’ll either update this article or link to a new one so you can see what we missed the first time.
Belmont, Wisconsin (2 miles)
Nearest Emergency Facility
Platteville, Wisconsin (7.5 miles)
6:00 AM to 11:00 PM, year-round
None, no sticker required