This is one of our all-time favorite hikes. This segment of the Ice Age trail is located just north of Gibraltar Rock. There are two Gibraltar Rock segments, one which we’ve previously wrote a blog post about, and the “ice cream trail” that we’ll share today!
The one discussed in today’s post, a.k.a. the “ice cream trail”, has a small parking lot located on Slack’s Road. This trail is beautiful year-round, though a little slippery with snow on the ground. Our favorite time to go is during the warmer months for the sweet treat mid-hike! (see below!)
When you go:
Park at the small parking lot off Slack Road, near Slack’s Jams and Jellies. The trailhead is located here and we hiked about 2.2 miles until we reached the river. Our four kids (ages 2, 4, 7 and 7) hiked with us, so this was a slow hike and took about an hour. At the end of our first 2.2 miles, we were able to take a break and get a sweet treat! The Merrimac Scoop is a small ice cream shop located right at the ferry crossing on the south side, or Lodi side, of the Wisconsin River. There are chairs near the ice cream shop, otherwise find a spot in the grassy area and watch the cars enter and exit the ferry. If you’re feeling up for an adventure, you can even hop on the Merrimac Ferry and take it across the river to a second ice cream shop on the Merrimac side.
After our sugar fix, we hiked the 2.2 miles back to our vehicle for a total of 4.5 miles that day. This was a rewarding hike – the longest Wisconsin hike for our kids – and a guaranteed way to tire out the kiddos. They’ll probably agree that it was their favorite hike, as not many of our past hikes have had an ice cream stop along the way.
Things we love about this segment:
This trail has constant changes of scenery. If you park off Slack’s Road, you will begin your hike through woods that then change into beautiful tall pine trees, making a canopy over you head. After you exit the pines, the trail opens up into some beautiful prairie with a variety of vegetation, before re-entering a new section of forest. You do cross the road at one point but then you follow some railroad tracks. On one of our hikes, a train was on the tracks and our kids found that pretty neat. After this, you end up right at the Wisconsin River near the Merrimac Ferry. The perfect spot for your picnic and regrouping before heading back!
Other fun things to try in Merrimac:
The ferry is the first thing that comes to mind for most people when they hear “Merrimac”. This is a free ferry that crosses the Wisconsin River between Sauk and Columbia Counties. (Note: it’s the only free ferry in Wisconsin!) This is a fun thing to do with kids, especially the littles, that has a treat on the other side!
Katie has done this hike several times even without the ice cream shop open but when it is, it makes for an even more exciting hike!
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