Hiking Hartman Creek State Park
Two down, three more to go. That’s right I’m almost halfway through my goal of visiting at least five new state parks this year. I’ll admit, these beautiful sunny and warm winter weekends really have me motivated to get out and do some exploring. This time of year, getting outdoors can be tricky. We can get a lot of snow and cold weather. Or it warms up so fast that hiking trails become unusable or even dangerous. To have the weather we’ve had in the past few weekends has been amazing and our family is taking full advantage of it.
On a sunny 50-degree Sunday afternoon, I packed up the family and we headed south down I-39 and then east on Hwy 54 towards Waupaca to Hartman Creek State Park. To be honest I didn’t know much about this state park and until I searched for a closer state park to my home, it’s the first time I’ve even heard of it. After doing a little research, I did find out that Hartman Creek is very popular with the local living near the park and is a summer destination because of its small lakes and beach fronts. The Wisconsin DNR describes Hartman Creek as, 1,500-acres that’s a quiet and friendly natural gem that's located near the beautiful spring fed Chain O'Lakes comprising of seven lakes with crystal clear waters.
When looking at their summer trial map, the first thing you notice is there are a lot of trails. Trails seem to wind endlessly throughout the park and that makes for a great day of hiking. However, during the winter some of these trails are unavailable. But don’t let that keep you from enter Hartman Creek in the winter, there are still plenty of trials that are open to different types of winter fun. On this day we choose to stick to hiking the trails by foot, but could have easily went cross country skiing, fat tire biking or even snowmobiling. But besides the many small lakes that make up the majority of the park, I think one of the biggest highlights of this part is the fact that you can hike 3 miles of the ice age trail and travel through Waupaca and Portage county.
As we drove into the park, we wanted experience part of the Ice Age Trail, so we drove all the in to a parking lot on the edge of the park that also converged on the center of many of the trails. We set out south of the parking lot and found our way to the trail that hooked up with the Ice Age Trail. We weaved throughout the park making sure we walked the Ice Age Trail as far as we could while still being able to experience a new trail without turning around on the same trail. We enjoyed the quiet and surprisingly empty trails. I don’t think we ran into anyone else on the trails. Which surprised me on such a beautiful winter day. Our wandering hike was about 3 miles long and was one of the easier hikes that’s we’ve been on. There’s not the steep hills or narrow trails that might challenge you from other state parks.
Before we finished our day, we drove to the other side of the park and visited the chain of lakes. We took short walk out to Hartman and Mid Lake and saw more people enjoying the openness of the area around the lake. This is where most of the winter action was happening and we could see why. It’s a beautiful part of the park and easily accessible. I can understand why this area of the park would be a very popular summer destination. With the clear lakes and available beaches, you could really enjoy a summer outing soaking up the sun.
This park offers you something different for every season. It’s the perfect park for a quiet winter hike. Especially if you’re looking for a place that’s not over crowded with people. And during the winter months, you can snowshoe, cross-country ski, fat tire bike and even snowmobile. You can experience part of the Ice Age Trail or lose yourself winding your way around the park on the different trails that cross through the park. If you’re not into hiking through the woods, you can choose the other side of the park and enjoy the winter lake scenes. In the warmer months, I can image this park gets busier with people enjoying the cool lake waters and beaches.
I think Hartman Creek offers a great representation of what Wisconsin is. It’s forests and lakes make you feel like you could be anywhere in Wisconsin. You can take a casual walk through the woods and really get a sense of what Wisconsin is all about. You’re not going to find waterfalls, bluffs or special rock formations. Leave that to the other state parks. What you will find is the quiet walk in the woods that Wisconsin is known for. The next time you’re driving I39 heading to the Northwoods, take a quick detour off of Highway 54 to Hartman Creek State Park and experience the calm of Wisconsin as one of Wisconsin’s Outdoor Explorers.