Kettle Moraine Bald Bluff Hike – Ice Age Trail

An erratic rock known as the stone elephant on a hillside

The Kettle Moraine Bald Bluff Trail is some awesome hiking only about an hour from Madison. So often we overlook exploring the places close to home. I had only hiked the Kettle Moraine once and Mike Murray of North Sand Photography had never hiked there so we figured it was time we did. We spent a Sunday morning leisurely walking a short section of the Ice Age Trail between the Bald Bluff Trail parking lot and the Elephant Stone- an erratic left behind after the glaciers melted. (above photo)

Ice Age Trail

One of the purposes of Ice Age Trail is to feature all kinds of interesting glacial geology. That same topography makes for perfect hiking. Doing it on the last official day of winter with no leaves on the trees was an excellent time to go. It allows you to see all the interesting glacial topography along the trail better.

The entire trip was about three miles so it was an easy short hike to do in the morning and head into Palmyra for lunch. It’s a good workout though hiking up and down the glacial moraine.

The Kettle Moraine Bald Bluff Nature Trail overlook.
The Bald Bluff Nature Trail in Kettle Moraine State Forest

The highest point of the trail is very early on in the hike, the top of Bald Bluff. From the overlook you can really envision how the glaciers  gouged out the valley below as they traveled south stopping right where you are standing. The ridge running to the southwest curving slightly back north in the distance is the terminal moraine bulldozed up by the glaciers southern advance. The valley floor is very flat where the glaciers scraped the earth. At least it looks nearly flat from where you are standing. The hill is about 200 feet above the road you came in on and the parking lot.

Stone Elephant

a sign pointing to the Stoned Elephant
The Bald Bluff Nature Trail in Kettle Moraine State Forest

After taking in that view from Bald Bluff you continue on north on the Ice Age Trail. The Stone Elephant is only about 1.5 miles down the trail. It’s not Mount Rushmore, but it is pretty interesting and is a nice destination to have a snack on the park bench before heading back. Or explore further. Next time I’d like to do that or bring two cars to set up a shuttle so we can do a point to point hike rather than an out and back. It would be easy to keep on hiking to Tamarack Road about another mile and half up the trail to another parked car rather than returning to where you started.

hiking the ice age trail.
The Bald Bluff Nature Trail in Kettle Moraine State Forest, part of the Ice Age Trail, has a lot of interesting glacial geology.

It maybe takes a little creativity to see an elephant in the rock. I took a pinhole photograph from the angle I believe it’s supposed to look like an elephant. (top photo in this post) I could be wrong. But what I think IS actually amazing about this rock is to think this enormous boulder was carried here by a glacier from some point up north. Often these erratic stones were carried hundreds of miles from it’s original resting place. As the glaciers melted they left behind the debris they were carrying with them.

Getting there

Start the hike at the Bald Bluff Nature Trail trailhead a few miles south of Palmyra. There is a nice gravel parking lot and a historical brochure about the area around the Bald Bluff. Abraham Lincoln even slept here!!!!! No really, in his days serving in the army he camped near Bald Bluff.

Taking a selfie on the Kettle Moraine Bald Bluff Hiking Trail.
Mike Murray, left, and myself on a late winter hike scouting locations. And that would also be my hiking pole in the photo. I’m not the greatest at taking selfies!

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