Hartman Creek State Park may offer the widest variety of activities of any Wisconsin state park. In addition to the frequently-found hiking, boating, camping, and hunting (and related) activities, you can go mountain (fat tire, singletrack) biking, swimming, snowmobiling, and horseback riding.
Many miles of trails are specifically designed for horseback riding, for singletrack biking (with a range of difficulties), for snowmobiling (in winter, obviously), and for cross-country skiing. Someone has even created activity-specific maps (see below) to help you find your way around the park.
If you can’t find something fun to do outdoors at Hartman Creek, you’re just not an outdoorsy person.
As usual, we limited ourselves to hiking on our visit, and we only tackled one of the shorter trails around Allen Lake.
Allen Lake Deer Path Trail
Quite near a large parking lot, is the Deer Path Trail that takes you around Allen Lake, the westernmost of several lakes found in Hartman Creek State Park. We hiked the one-mile path clockwise.
Almost before you get started, you come upon this fishing pier that a family had just started using this day. (Shortly after I took this shot, one of them actually caught a small bass.)
Allen Lake feeds a small stream that eventually flows into Mid Lake to the east. There is this dam-like structure near the fishing pier.
Just below the “waterfall”, some detritus has collected. I’m thinking some of it was put there on purpose.
It’s a little hard to see the stream itself as it flows away from Allen Lake, but it’s there. There were a few minnows in the water, but you can’t see them in these shots.
Soon after crossing that stream, you find a very basic shelter with many picnic tables.
The first section of Deer Path Trail is paved, but that’s really only because it wanders off to the family campground area. To continue on Deer Path itself, you have to make a right turn here. Not sure what happened to the upper left portion of the sign. Also, it’s not that you have to walk a mile before hitting the trail. It’s that the trail is one mile long.
I have several questions about this (former) swingset that we came across. Look closely and I think you’ll come up with similar questions.
Deer Path Trail is largely a dirt walkway with the occasional tree root to step on or over. Weathering has rendered certain portions of the trail impassable over time.
Weathering has (probably) also reduced the useability of several of the benches found along the path.
In contrast, there is also this very nicely-designed, recently-made bench.
There was really only one small tree that tried to bar our way.
I appreciated the look that this one gave as it leaned over the path.
Someone had created these lean-tos with scrap wood. I’m not sure they’re actually used for shelter.
We saw many mushrooms along the sides of the trail. Before taking the shot below, I removed some of the pine needles. You can see that the mushrooms had started growing around some of the needles that had been there a while.
Most of the mushrooms we saw were of the type shown above, but there were a few like those below. We see shelf fungus on dead trees fairly often, but these were mushrooms with stems growing out of this stump.
Here’s a shot of the calm Allen Lake from its west end.
I mentioned above that hiking, biking, and cross-country skiing were some of the activities encouraged at Hartman Creek. This sign attempts to help you know where to go for each.
Some of the other signposts we saw along the Deer Path Trail weren’t quite as helpful. This was mostly due to redirected trails.
Besides fishing, kayaking on Allen Lake seems to be popular too.
Hellestad House Nature Center
At the other end of the parking lot, away from the lake, is the Hellestad House Nature Center.
I didn’t expect it to be open and wasn’t disappointed on that score.
Note that there is no year designated on that notice. It may have been there for several years, for all I know.
Even though the door was locked (creating an anachronism)…
…I could still get a decent shot of this hawk (I think) mounted inside.
We still learned about the house itself and the man who built it.
If you come at the right time (whenever that may be), you apparently can learn more in this amphitheater. This is not the one mentioned on the map by Hartman Lake.
This bench just outside the Hellestad House isn’t as welcoming as they want you to think it is.
Despite its flaws, the Deer Path Trail and the Hellestad House are both worth taking in. I imagine that most, if not all, of the rest of Hartman Creek State Park are worth visiting as well.