Horicon National Wildlife Refuge is a place of wonder. Located just about 1 hour from Madison, it is a super easy day trip for a hike or a bike ride upon your arrival.
We had decided to bike and made our first vehicle stop at the Federal Visitor Center on Headquarters Road for some suggestions on the best path for our family. We were pleased to discover a nice nature display, an observation deck, a small gift shop, and clean bathrooms within the Center.
The Center’s guide suggested that we try a bike path that runs along side an auto tour road. This path included access to a network of floating pathways which led out into the wetlands and a central observation spot. We have the most luck on our hikes and biking when our travels include water, so we knew this was probably a great trail to explore.
Tip1: Be careful to examine your maps closely. In our haste to begin, we ended up on a path that shared the way with vehicles. The majority of drivers were using extreme caution, but a few zipped down the path with seemingly no care about the blind corners, hikers, and bicyclists.
We were happy that the bike trail had only a few rises that Bluey easily managed. We had to leave our bikes to explore the floating pathways.
Tip2: There are no bike racks at the head of walking-only pathways. Be prepared to take valuables with you and to leave your bike propped off the main road.
The surroundings were breathtaking. We’ve done a lot of biking and hiking in the areas in and around Madison. But we were impressed with the beauty of Horicon National Wildlife Refuge. And we had more wildlife encounters than we’ve ever experienced in our prior outings. If you aren’t familiar with many species of water birds, you may want to tuck a pocket guide in your gear. You will have a chance to see many rare birds in a wildlife setting such as this.
Tip3: It appears that dogs are allowed on many trails but we’d suggest you leave them at home if you are interested in experiencing wildlife.
Even though we spotted a school bus, vehicles, and others out and about on the trails- we managed to enjoy the majority of the area we chose on our own, without fighting crowds. Parking wasn’t an issue and access is free.
We can’t wait to go back in the Fall and perhaps witness some migratory bird viewing!