Another one of my favorite hikes near Madison is Donald Park. It’s included in my book 60 Hikes Within 60 Miles of Madison, but I recently hiked there again and found that the trails have expanded, nearly doubling the amount of miles you can put on there. In the winter, Donald County Park offers cross-country ski trails, which are also great for hiking, but some of the trails are strictly footpaths and cover quite varied terrain. Stroll along the edge of a very nice trout stream, follow along the back of an impressive sandstone ridge, stop and watch birds at a pond, find apples in the fall in an orchard. Prairie and woods, pine plantation and savanna. This is quite a hiking gem for Dane County.
Abundant milkweed attracts Monarch butterflies in summer. Here’s one perched on some Rattlesnake Master (Eryngium yuccifolium), another common prairie plant.
The park includes land donated from private owners who lived on it: Delma Donald Woodburn’s family gave 103 acres to get the county park started. Apple trees are remnants of the farm days. Donald Park now includes 624 acres plus 263 acres of land protected by conservation easements.
One section of the trail climbs to the top of Hitchcock Ridge and follows along its back. The return path passes beneath large rock outcrops.
For more Madison area hiking opportunities, check out my book: 60 Hikes Within 60 Miles of Madison (free shipping)
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