Sand Cave Trail - Part 3 in a Series

Sand Cave Trail was redesigned and completed in late fall 2009. This trail encompasses Little Sand Cave as well as Big Sand Cave. Black Thunder Point, located between the two caves offers great views of the Wisconsin River. Distance from the old park office to Big Sand Cave (one way) is .8 of a mile. An additional .8 of a mile will take you around the loop past Little Sand Cave.
Total distance of Sand Cave Trail round trip is 2.4 miles.*
*Previous description from: Wyalusing State Park Visitor Newspaper, 2010
Following is an unofficial trail description.
Trail Rating Guide:
  • 1=walking on a level paved road.
  • 10=Walking on an unmarked trail up a bluff, covered with leaves, poison ivy, tree roots and boulders the size of a house. 
Sand Cave Trail (Unofficial Map)

Distance: 2.4 mile modified loop
Time: 1.5-2.5 hours
Difficulty: 2.5-3.5
Bathrooms: Nearest bathrooms located at Outdoor Group Campground.
Parking: Small parking lot next to the former park office
Water: Fountain located at Outdoor Group Campground and former park office.

Sand Cave Trail features Big Sand Cave, Little Sand Cave and Black Thunder Point.

Thanks to the work of the Wisconsin State Trail Crew of two-three people, the original Sand Cave Trail was redesigned and completed in late fall 2009,

The redesigned trail includes Black Thunder Point and Little Sand Cave. Black Thunder Point offers great views of the Wisconsin River.

Distance from the former park office to Big Sand Cave (one way) is .8 of a mile.

An additional .8 of a mile loop continues to Little Sand Cave.

Description:
Most of the trail follows the contour of the hill side. The trail has very few severe changes in elevation. The trail tread is wide and relatively level. Mosquitoes are moderate during the summer months. Reportedly, there are no mosquitoes in Big Sand Cave.


The trail head is located behind the former park office, to the south. It is marked with a sign. After rainy periods, the trail may be closed for a few days to dry out. Periodic closings will occur until vegetation has grown over the new trail bed. The gradual descent into the hardwood forest is hardly noticeable. A deep ravine in on the north (left). About 0.1 miles from the trail head, the trail reaches a beautiful fern grotto with a small waterfall. Many spring flowers can be seen here.

The trail continues with a short, steep section. Use the large flat rocks to traverse a usually dry stream bed. The flat rocks were quarried and carried in large slings, and placed by hand by the Wisconsin Trail Crew. The trail follows an easterly direction with a hill side on the south and a ravine on the north. The original trail was located on the opposite side of the ravine.

Big Sand Cave
Just after crossing the dry stream bed, the trail makes a gentle turn south. The trail is actually crossing above Big Sand Cave. Keep an eye on the trail and look over your left shoulder. Depending on the amount of leaves on the trees, you may be able to look down into the cave.

After a short walk, the trail makes a 'Y'. Going to the right (east) the trail goes towards Little Sand Cave. Continue straight (north) the trail goes to Black Thunder Point, and left (west) to Big Sand Cave.

Go to Big Sand Cave. Turn south (left). A trail sign should point the way.

The short trail leading to Big Sand Cave Trail is steeper than the main trail. It follows the original trail bed. The wooden stairs (west across the ravine) were part of the original trail. The new Sand Cave Trail eliminated the need for wooden stairs. Most of the stairs were washed out during the rainstorm of 2008. This part of the trail has sizable rocks. Difficulty level is 4.0-5.5.

The rocks, near the mouth of Big Sand Cave, once formed the roof of the cave. During earlier times, the cave was actually much bigger. Paul Kosir, in his book, Wyalusing History: The Park, the People, the Land, retells a wonderful story about the consequences of hog rustling and the part that Big Sand Cave plays.

The floor of Big Sand Cave is usually filled with water supplied by many springs in the area.

In the winter, a frozen water fall forms over part of the cave.

Black Thunder Point
After exploring Big Sand Cave, follow the trail, back to the junction. Continue to follow the trail to the northeast (left), towards Black Thunder Point. A slight increase in elevation towards Black Thunder point is noticeable.

After about 0.1-0.2 miles, the trail tread is changes to sandstone forming the top of the ridge. Black Thunder point is a wonderful point to stop and take in the sights. The Wisconsin River is east. Prairie du Chien may be seen looking west.

At Black Thunder Point, the trail takes a southerly direction, down a gentle slope, into Wild Ginger Hollow. Sometimes, deer or turkey can be seen in the valley below.

Little Sand Cave
Continue about .5 miles to Little Sand Cave. This is the first time, in the park's history, that a marked trail actually leads to Little Sand Cave. The area is picturesque. Take lots of photos. Leave nothing behind but footprints.

After leaving Little Sand Cave, the trail starts level. After a switch-back, it begins a gentle climb back to the top of a ridge. Once on top of the ridge, head south and back to the trail intersection. Follow the trail back to the tail head.

Sand Cave Trail is an excellent trail for snowshoeing. The trail is not a groomed xc trail.

We hope you enjoyed the trail. Stop at the concession stand, for a cool beverage.

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