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Family Hike on the Ice Age Trail: Table Bluff Segment

June 10, 2021

Family Hike on the Ice Age Trail: Table Bluff Segment

June 10, 2021

Throughout the past couple years, we’ve started hiking more and more segments of the Ice Age Trail with the kids. Mind you, we’re usually only getting a few miles at a time since our kids are still pretty young and struggle with the distances but each segment has its own appeal to us.

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We haven’t written them all up yet in blog posts but here’s one of our favorites since there was an ice cream pitstop along the way!

Ice Age Trail: Gibraltar Segment off Slack’s Road in Lodi

IAT: Table Bluff Segment in Cross Plains, WI

Sara here :: The Cross Plains segment, Table Bluff, has often been recommended to us and our kids had been asking to return to a new favorite park of theirs nearby (more about that later!). Justin and I used to live in this area and loved to drive around the rural roads while dreaming about building a house in the country before having kids, so it was fun and nostalgic for us to return to this area.

We made the short drive west of Madison and parked at the trailhead alongside Scheele Road. There is a lot of private property surrounding the trail and it is well-marked so stay on the trail and you’ll be fine. This segment is 4.5 miles out-and-back but we were hoping to get in a few miles at least with the kids. It was a beautiful warm, sunny day with little wind and the trail wasn’t muddy at all.

At the beginning, the trail forks with to a private paved section to the right but continue straight along the dirt path with the IAT yellow rectangles and both sections converge together at the top of Picnic Hill. There is a porta-potty, a large shelter with picnic tables and a grill, a firepit, and a huge area overlooking the Cross Plains countryside. We weren’t sure what to make of this area since it had some ‘Private’ signage but found this on the shelter that explained:

Picnic Hill Shelter Usage Restrictions

A sign on the property also explained the purpose of Swamplovers, Inc. and how it is a nonprofit organization working to restore, protect and conserve the area. Pretty cool! Imagine our surprise when our kids asked to stop for lunch at only 0.35 miles in. Luckily, we were able to make use of a bench beneath a huge oak tree and enjoy our lunch – even if we hadn’t walked far enough to earn it 🙂

Lunch break on Picnic Hill overlooking Cross Plains and Black Earth countryside

This trail had a lot of variation in the first mile: dirt trails, boardwalk, stone stairs and even some cool rock formations.

Rock formations on the trail in the first half-mile

It then became pretty dense forest with a really narrow dirt trail and lush greenery forming walls on both sides. It reminded us a bit of the hikes we did in North Carolina, without the humidity and random afternoon downpours!

We even managed to save a few caterpillar lives along the way. The kids found a couple in the middle of the path and safely moved them to the side. It wasn’t until we got into the deeper woods about 1.5 miles in that the flies and gnats started bugging us but overall wasn’t too bad (at least in late May).

We got to a bench 1.5 miles in for (another) snack break and decided to call it a day and head back. The kids still wanted to stop by a park and we had dinner plans with Katie and Travis, so we hiked back pretty quickly. We ended with a total of 3 miles. Overall, this was our favorite segment as far as the trail and scenery went, even if there were no ice cream stops along the way!

A Great Hike for Kids of All Skill Levels

We’d definitely recommend this hike for families with kids of all ages. Even if you only make it the 0.35 miles to the top of Picnic Hill to enjoy lunch and head back to the car, you won’t regret it. This would be a great hike for families looking to begin hiking with their kids since there is a lot to see and explore on the trail right at the beginning.

Our kids wore their hiking shoes and brought their hiking sticks which was nice for some areas of the trail but weren’t necessary either. Pack a few snacks, some water, and bug spray and you’ll be good to go!

Our Favorite Items on this Hike:

Afterwards, we made the short drive into the town of Cross Plains to visit a recently discovered park. We’d learned of this park from EverydayM&K who’d shared it in their Instagram stories a few weeks back. The kids love this park! It is different than others in the area with bigger slides, more challenging climbing structures, a fun zipline swing and a basketball court with adjustable height hoops.

Glacial Valley Park in Cross Plains, Wisconsin

This park is a bit hard to find on the internet maps but it’s located at the intersection of Bourbon Rd and Hillebrand Drive, just behind Main Street in Cross Plains. It was too early in the season, but Cross Plains has a really nice public pool in town if you’re looking to continue the fun. We were all pretty wiped after our day outside so grabbed some Fruit Coolers from Culver’s across the street before heading home for the night.

Interested in some more hikes? Make sure to check out our Outdoor Page that has all kinds of local Madison-area activities to do with kids!

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