Sand Cave Trail - Newest Trail at Wyalusing State Park

Unofficial Trail map for Sand Cave Trail. (Click on map to enlarge.)

The new Sand Cave trail is Wyalusing State Park's first completely new trail in decades. The trail takes the walker into a familiar place; a place filled with local history and lore of long ago; Sand Cave. The new Sand Cave trail's route was laid out on paper, walked by planners, Wyalusing park staff, as well as the State of Wisconsin Parks staff. Even after it was planned and the flags placed into the ground, the route underwent changes.
Hard-working trail crew members. (Click on map to enlarge.)
Changes, planning, and very hard work of digging, sawing, and laying natural stone walkways has become reality. The new trail takes the park visitor to places which only a few have seen; Black Thunder Point, Wild Ginger Hollow, and Little Sand Cave. It follows a route bordered by deep ravines, hollows and limestone out-croppings.

(To start six minute Video, click on arrow. Video contains audio.)


Sand Cave trail follows, for the most part, a hillside contour line never going beyond a 10 percent grade. The trail bed is cut into the hillside, appearing level. The trail-bed is actually a slight incline which allows for slow water drain-off. The cut-in is terraced. The careful planning permits less maintenance. The design also allows for visitor safety.
Sharp elevation change is alleviated through the use of trail switchbacks. The switchbacks enhance the design and appearance of the trail.

The Route
Sand Cave trail begins and ends just south of the Naturalist office Sand Cave trail turns east off of Walnut Springs trail, following a gentle slope.
Sand Cave Trail starts just south of Naturalist Office. (Click on map to enlarge.)
The original trail also followed this contour, but the trail was on the other side of the valley. The new trail follows a gentler slope than the old trail. The old trail had steps carved into the hill side and supported by railroad ties and tree trunks. Running water undercut the steps which, in turn, made walking dangerous. The new trail is a smooth bed allowing slow water run-off.
Sand Cave trail will take the visitor on a route above Big Sand Cave. The trail passes along side a steep hill. Looking north, the visitor will view a deep ravine. Beyond the ravine, lies the Outdoor Group Camp, and the Wisconsin River.
The trail makes a tight turn, heading north.
A surprise lies in wait as the visitor continues along the trail... (Click on map to enlarge.)
... and looks over the left shoulder: Big Sand Cave. Gazing down into the gaping opening of Big Sand Cave, one can only imagine what pioneers must have thought. Continuing north, the walker can take a spur trail which leads into Big Sand Cave.
Just beyond the Big Sand Cave spur, the trail continues, following a circuitous route to Black Thunder Point and Little Sand Cave.
Black Thunder Point is the northern most point of the new trail. It is about 0.8 miles from the trail head. Black Thunder Point offers a panoramic view of the entire Wisconsin River Valley, and Prairie du Chien. The view is best seen during late fall, winter, and early spring.
View from Black Thunder Point, looking southwest. (Click on map to enlarge.)

At Black Thunder Point, the trail turns south between a plunging ravine and limestone outcroppings. The visitor passes over a few switchbacks, through Ginger Root Hollow, on the way to Little Sand Cave.
Little Sand Cave is about 0.6 miles from Black Thunder Point.
Little Sand cave is a limestone outcropping. (Click on map to enlarge.)
During most of the year, a small water fall flows over Little Sand Cave. The trail does not go into Little Sand Cave. The drop-off and elevation changes are too severe. It is here that the park visitor will spend most of the time. Bring lots of batteries for your digital camera.
Leaving Little Sand Cave behind, the visitor walks north, then west following the contour of the hill. The hill crest marks the highest point of Sand Cave trail.
As the visitor continues, the trail meets at a point just north of the Big Sand Cave spur. The return is on the same trail that the walker started. In all, the new Sand Cave trail is about 1.8 miles in length.

Additional photos here.