Rocky Arbor State Park

Rocky Arbor State Park

Rocky Arbor State Park is well-named. It’s got big rocks and big trees – many of which have fallen over (the trees, that is).

When deciding which trail to take through the park, you have zero choice. There’s only one option.

You take the Hiking Trail.

Hiking Trail sign at Rocky Arbor

While it’s true that there is a “hiking trail” that leads to the campground, this doesn’t really count as far as non-campers like us are concerned.

Speaking (briefly) of the camping facilities, there are 89 campsites in this smallish park. Almost a quarter of them (18) are electrified. If you intend to camp at Rocky Arbor State Park, just be aware that you’ll likely hear highway traffic that whole time – that includes at night when you’re trying to sleep.

Rocks along the Trail

Let’s take a look at the Rocky part of Rocky Arbor first. And let me state here too that only half of the trail – the portion that runs along the creek – really holds any interest. You’ll see why shortly.

Near the head of the trail by the parking lot is this wildlife observation blind. If you intend to use it for any length of time, you might want to bring your own chair as none is provided. (We didn’t wander into the blind itself.)

Rocky Arbor wildlife observation blind

The following descriptions of the Rocky Arbor Trail assume that you walk the loop clockwise, taking the path along the creek first.

The path beyond the blind becomes quite narrow as it follows this creek.

Rocky Arbor creek

I only know it’s a creek because the map (see below) says so. The water doesn’t seem to flow. It’s more like a long, narrow bog than a stream. If it has a name, I don’t know what it is.

Okay, now the rocks.

For almost the entire length of this part of the trail, you have the creek on your left and a high, rocky wall on your right. A few places stand out more (and better) than others – such as those I took pictures of below.

Rock 1
Rock 2
Rock 3
Rock 4

One exception to the rocks being on your right is this standalone rock in the middle of the creek.

Rock 5

To get to the other part of the trail (that takes you back to your starting point), you have to climb this stairway at the far end of the trail.

Stairs south

Then, as you complete the loop, you descend this one.

Stairs north

Trees along the Trail

There is one place to rest along the creek-side path. However, since the path is so narrow, the builders had to put this bench on the trail itself. Rather unusual.

Bench in path

Much of the trail is covered with roots like these (from the upper section).

Roots in path

So it’s a little surprising that there are many large trees that have fallen and have their roots exposed like this. (It was difficult to get a good shot of this.)

Fallen tree roots

There were several such root exposures right along that path which makes me wonder what the path looked like when these trees were still upright. It seems they would have stood right on the current trail. Did the trail go around them? Or have they been down since before the trail was created? (Rocky Arbor has been around since 1932.)

I’m confused.

Several trees grow at sharp angles out of the rocks. This was one of the more obvious.

Bent tree

Besides the usual leafy plants, there were some interesting mushrooms along the way. This one was on a fallen log.

Mushroom on log

This one was small but brightly colored.

Orange mushroom

And this one I believe is the famous fly agaric. Mario and the Smurfs should come to mind.

Fly agaric

We also noticed (but didn’t taste) a few wild raspberries beside the trail.

Wild raspberries

Along the upper portion of the trail was this log bridge spanning a dip in the path. What makes this worth noting is that the logs have not been sawn into boards. They’re still rounded and a little tricky to walk on.

Log bridge

Back at the trailhead is this nice playground with a large rock climbing wall.

Playground at Rocky Arbor State Park

I was mildly surprised that there were several other visitors to the park while we were there. Some were obviously campers. Being such a small park with only the one trail, I didn’t think we’d see so many others.

Maybe its popularity has something to do with its proximity to Wisconsin Dells, which, as you likely know, is very popular in its own right and may be an excuse for you to visit Rocky Arbor State Park yourself.

Location

Nearest City

Wisconsin Dells, Wisconsin (2 miles)

Nearest Emergency Facility

Wisconsin Dells, Wisconsin (2 miles)

Hours

6:00 AM to 11:00 PM, year-round

Cost

Vehicle admission sticker required

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