New Glarus Woods State Park is pretty much what its name says. It’s a state park that is mostly woods near New Glarus. There’s nothing spectacular about it. It’s just a nice place to visit – perhaps to camp – that has interesting vegetation (mainly outside the wooded areas) and a place to play.
I’ll walk you through our first visit to New Glarus Woods, and you’ll see just how true this is.
Heading North toward New Glarus
We parked our car at the north end of the lot that’s intended for walk-in campers’ use.
The paved path that takes you to those campsites is called the Sugar River Spur Trail because it connects to the main Sugar River Trail. That state trail runs from New Glarus to Brodhead. So, if you wanted to, you could walk (or bike) from New Glarus Woods all the way into town (New Glarus, that is) and as far as Brodhead, which is 23 miles southeast of New Glarus.
You’d go through Monticello and Albany along the way. At Monticello you’d cross the Badger State Trail, so you could easily go even further. You can trek along a fairly flat path because these trails are based on former railway beds.
We walked along the Spur until it met the Great Oak Trail which took us southward. That’s as far north as we went. You can go about half a mile further north and find the Bison Nature Trail, but I had decided to explore the southern part of the park on this our first visit.
Sign, Sign, Everywhere a Sign
The trail map (see below) nicely colors and labels the park’s trails, but the signage along the trails themselves doesn’t reflect those names. Instead, at each intersection, there is a sign showing the map of the entire park along with a “you are here” dot.
This actually works quite well. It’s just too bad the signs (nearly all of them) in New Glarus Woods State Park are in such sad shape.
Here are a couple examples of what I mean. This info sign is very gritty, but at least it’s readable.
On the other hand, this sign about the flora really needs help.
On the map signs, the “you are here” button was usually missing. Fortunately, the little circle where it was supposed to be served the same purpose.
The one bench I noticed along the Walnut Trail could use some TLC as well. I didn’t try it out, but it sure doesn’t look very comfortable.
Savannah Flora in New Glarus Woods
Since there is no significant water in New Glarus Woods, you concentrate on the plant life. Here are some of the more interesting plants we in the southeastern section of the park.
I think this is the first instance of this reddish plant in any park we’ve visited to date.
If you take the Walnut Trail to the south (like we did), you’ll come to what looks like a roundabout.
This is not on the online map. Since we didn’t know which way to go, we each took one of the options and called “Marco” and “Polo” for a while. Very soon we discovered that I had taken the correct path to the right at the faux roundabout. The path to the left ended near a dilapidated nature blind.
Somewhere along the Havenwood Nature Trail, we saw this amazing fallen (so to speak) tree.
Unlike the stillness of Blue Mound State Park, there was almost always the sound of machinery as we walked. Since we were often close to the highway, I first thought it was simply truck traffic.
We discovered the true source of the noise while in the savannah. There is a working quarry across highway 69 just a few hundred feet from the park.
Playground and Pavilion
One end of the Havenwood Trail takes you to the Swiss-themed pavilion and the playground area between the two camping areas. (See my account of our visit to the city of New Glarus for more things Swiss-themed.)
Near the playground is this owl that someone decided to carve out of an old tree stump.
There is a winding concrete pathway (sidewalk, of sorts) near the playground that someone took a lot of time and effort to construct.
At several points along the walk are signs like this one for the opossum.
And embedded into the concrete itself are alternating paw prints and plant prints of some of the local flora and fauna.
So, as I said at the top, there’s nothing spectacular about New Glarus Woods State Park. But if you combine your visit with a tour of the town, you should thoroughly enjoy your time in this somewhat out-of-the-way “corner” of the state.
New Glarus, Wisconsin (2.5 miles)
Nearest Emergency Facility
Monroe, Wisconsin (15 miles)
6:00 AM to 11:00 PM, year-round
Vehicle admission sticker required