Hiking Gibraltar Rock – Ice Age Trail

Pinhole photography from the Gibraltar Rock trail near Lodi, Wisconsin.

Hiking Gibraltar Rock on the Ice Age Trail is a pleasant surprise to most everyone who arrives at the top of the hike. I overheard a backpacker at the top of Gibraltar say “I didn’t know there was anything like THIS in Wisconsin.” That’s the same thing I thought several years ago when I reached the top. The above pinhole photograph shows off the view.

It’s also just a short drive from Madison and is one of the best hikes in Wisconsin.

hikers on top of Gibraltar Rock
Hikers take a break on top of Gibraltar Rock.

Views from a two hundred foot high cliff offer hikers a vista for miles across the beautiful Wisconsin landscape. Blue Mound State Park and Devil’s Lake State Park can be seen in the distance. Gibraltar Rock offers spectacular views like Devil’s Lake State park, but without the crowds. This lesser known park has much fewer visitors so on a weekday you might even have the place to yourself.

The trail to the top of Gibraltar Rock is a fairly easy short hike from the east parking lot. It’s also not nearly as arduous of a climb as the bluff in Devil’s Lake State Park.

You can extend the hike by walking to the top from the east parking lot and then back down to the west parking lot and return back for a total of 3.4 miles round trip. The additional scenery going down the west side makes both sides worthwhile.

taking a break from hiking the ice age trail.
Nazan and I take in the view from Gibraltar Rock.

Nazan and I combined the Gibraltar Rock hike with another section of the Ice Age Trail connecting Gibraltar Rock to the Merrimac Ferry on Lake Wisconsin for a total of 4.8 miles. I used a bike shuttle to get back to the Merrimac Ferry after leaving our car in the west parking lot of Gibraltar where we ended our hike. That way we could enjoy a one way hike from north to south without backtracking. The bike ride between the west parking lot and the Merrimac ferry is a short 2.4 miles on 188 and County Road V. It was an okay ride in April, but It might be more dangerous biking with busy summer weekend traffic.

Rock formations on the hike up Gibraltar Rock
A pinhole photograph from the hike up Gibraltar Rock.

There is a short 1 mile road walk connecting the two sections to each other but we really enjoyed both segments making it almost a full day hike. The Ice Age Trail between Gibraltar and the Merrimac Ferry is much less used, but is still breathtaking. It climbs up and follows a ridge with amazing views of Lake Wisconsin. There is parking on both ends of the trail. Several well placed benches at overlooks are a great place to rest and have a snack. It’s well worth combining this trail with the Gibraltar segment for a longer full day hike.

The mother of all trail benches at the top of the Merrimac segment, complete with a foot rest to recline and take in the view from the top of the ridge.

*After the Hike*

Beers- Reward yourself with a beer at Lone Girl Brewing in Waunakee after the hike. Lone Girl Brewing is worth making a road trip just by itself! It’s a good stopping off point for a beer on your way back to Madison. A perfect way to end an awesome hike.

Breakfast/lunch- Lucy’s Family Restaurant in Lodi offers breakfast all day. Nothing hits the spot like having a home cooked breakfast after a morning hike.

Coffee shop- Downtown Coffee Grounds is a fantastic Mom and Pop coffee shop in Lodi. The home cooked scones are delicious if you want to stop for a morning bite to eat on the way to Gibraltar or stopping off after.

Lone Girl Brewing has some of the best beer in Dane County.

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