5 unusual things to see along the Ice Age Trail, from an airplane wreck to a Stone Elephant

Most hikes along the Ice Age Trail feature views of beautiful natural landscapes: rolling prairie, thick forests, babbling brooks.

But some hikes also feature unusual treats: a boulder shaped like an elephant's head, the fuselage of a small airplane, an old root cellar converted into a resting place for hikers.

Here’s where to see those and other unique landmarks along the Ice Age Trail in Wisconsin, starting at the western terminus and heading east.

Glacial potholes, St. Croix Falls segment, Polk County

Near the trail’s western terminus is one of the most interesting glacial features along the 1,200-mile trail: potholes.

The holes in the basalt rock, some up to 12 feet deep, were created when a glacial river covered the area; sediment swirling in eddies and whirlpools drilled the holes into the rock.

Across the St. Croix River, Minnesota’s Interstate State Park is home to the world’s deepest explored pothole, the Bottomless Pit, which goes down 60 feet. The potholes on the Wisconsin side are smaller but still impressive.

Find them: The trail’s western terminus is in Interstate State Park. Find the potholes along the 0.4-mile Potholes Trail, which shares a tread with the Ice Age Trail for part of its loop.

Airplane wreckage, Bear Lake segment, Barron County

The fuselage of an old Cherokee airplane sits along the Bear Lake segment of the Ice Age Trail in Barron County.
The fuselage of an old Cherokee airplane sits along the Bear Lake segment of the Ice Age Trail in Barron County.

In a small clearing along the Bear Lake segment is the fuselage of a red and white Cherokee plane. The windows and everything inside the plane are gone, but sections of the wings are scattered around the clearing.

The plane is on the south side of the L.E. Phillips Scout Reservation, after the trail passes the Boy Scout camp’s lake and cabins.

Find it: The plane is about a mile west of the trailhead and parking on County Highway VV west of Haugen.

Hillbilly Hilton, Lumbercamp segment, Langlade County

The Lumbercamp segment of the trail passes through the old Norem Lumber Camp, which operated in the 1920s and '30s. All that remains of the camp are some log foundations and a root cellar, which has been turned into a rough bunk house dubbed the Hillbilly Hilton.

The small sod-roofed structure looks a little like a Hobbit house built into a rise in the ground. Inside are a couple wooden bunk platforms, a small table, shelving, and odds and ends left behind by people who have passed through.

Find it: The 12-mile Lumbercamp Segment’s western end is on County Highway A near the Peters Marsh State Wildlife Area, where parking is available. The eastern end is on Highway 52. There’s also parking on County Highway S, which is about 3 miles west of the Hillbilly Hilton. Look for the structure just west of Otto Mauk Road.

Note that there are active logging operations on this segment of the trail, so be aware of debris and possible trail reroutes.

Alligator statue, Table Bluff segment, Dane County

A sunbathing alligator statue sits along the Table Bluff segment of the Ice Age Trail near Cross Plains.
A sunbathing alligator statue sits along the Table Bluff segment of the Ice Age Trail near Cross Plains.

The 2.5-mile Table Bluff segment is a beautiful stretch of trail with a fun permanent inhabitant: a statue of a sunbathing alligator wearing a blue polka dot bikini. The small statue is near the southern end of the segment, which is less than 5 trail miles from the Ice Age Trail Alliance’s headquarters in Cross Plains.

The segment's northern end is on Table Bluff Road. From there, the trail travels through the 73-acre Holmes Preserve, which the IATA is converting from farmland back to the oak savanna landscape it was before European settlement. A white-blazed side trail creates a small loop within the preserve.

To see the statue, keep hiking as the trail heads into the Swamplovers Preserve and climbs a bluff. A picnic area at the top offers a spot for soaking in the views. This area features another white-blazed loop for a change of scenery if you’re doing an out-and-back hike.

The trail then descends the bluff through a goat prairie to the segment’s southern end on Scheele Road.

Find it: There are parking areas on the northern and southern ends of the segment, on Table Bluff and Scheele roads, both off County Highway KP west of Cross Plains.

Stone Elephant, Blue Spring Lake segment, Jefferson County

You’ll have to find the right angle and use your imagination a bit to see the Stone Elephant along the trail’s Blue Spring Lake segment in the Kettle Moraine State Forest’s Southern Unit.

The stone is an erratic, a boulder that was moved by the glaciers that pushed through the state thousands of years ago. The erratic is shaped like an elephant’s head, with a large ear and trunk. It’s best viewed from the opposite side than you first approach it.

Hiking this segment comes with a bonus view from one of the highest points in Jefferson County along the Bald Bluff Nature Trail. Native Americans used the bluff as a lookout and for ceremonial dances, and it was also the site of a U.S. military encampment during the Blackhawk War in 1832.

Find it: The 7.1-mile Blue Spring Lake segment’s western end is on Young Road south of Palmyra. Find parking for the trail and Bald Bluff north of there on County Highway H. It's about a half-mile hike up the bluff along the nature trail, then another mile along the Ice Age Trail to the Stone Elephant.

Contact Chelsey Lewis at clewis@journalsentinel.com. Follow her on Twitter at @chelseylew and @TravelMJS and Facebook at Journal Sentinel Travel.

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This article originally appeared on Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: Ice Age Trail unusual things, from Hillbilly Hilton to Stone Elephant