Distance: 12 miles
Any hike that starts off with the words of William Wordsworth is up my alley. The trek to Wallace Falls and Lake did not disappoint – even if I was a little uneasy as we approached the trailhead with the high-voltage power lines buzzing loudly above. The path is a popular one, located at a state park in the hamlet of Gold Bar, and is incredibly well-maintained.
The Woody Trail leads through a dank forest with the rushing of the nearby river almost immediately audible. A series of pretty cascades to the left tempt passersby away from the main attraction, the first of which is 1.5 miles up the easy grade. The lower falls offers the closest exposure and it was fascinating to see the water tumble into the pool below and then further narrow through a chasm into the roiling river.
We left the river behind as we began climbing to the middle falls, a mere half mile ahead. The ground was covered with boughs of ferns and moss-shrouded trees towered overhead, keeping the mist and small raindrops to a minimum. The middle falls was by far the best show. At 265 feet, it could be seen even from the parking lot and beckons to those who might contemplate stopping at the lower cascade. The overlook was drenched but provided spectacular views.
After the impressive show put on by the middle falls, reaching the lower falls was a bit anti-climatic. The last 500 feet became steeper as we climbed but the upper falls was even less impressive than the lower. We headed back down the muddy path, veering slightly to the left at a junction to pick up the Railroad Grade for a change of scenery.
I shouldn’t have looked at the map. It told me that Wallace Lake was a mere 2.5 miles beyond that. And with little hesitation, we turned back up the slope and wound our way through an increasingly damp forest, crossed a DNR road and carefully picked our way across deep mud puddles before reaching the still lake.
It was hard to get a good glimpse of at first. Soggy logs and leaves blocked my view as I stood on the bridge craning my neck. But a quick walk along the gravel path led me to a clearing where I could stand in the goop and see the raindrops hitting the water, disturbing the previous stillness. Well worth an extra five miles, if you ask me.