WI Kettle Moraine South Stute Springs and Homestead
Stute Springs and Homestead Nature Trail - Kettle Moraine State Forest - Southern Unit
The Stute Springs and Homestead Nature trail has about 2 miles of hiking trail running through an old farm homestead. The trail incorporates a self-guided tour illustrating farm life in the early 1900s.
- Terrain / Scenery: Mix of woods, prairie, and wetlands with historic farm buildings.
- Fees / Permits: A Wisconsin Park Sticker and Trail Pass are required for parking in the park and skiing or biking on the trails.
- Trail Markings: Directional markers at key intersections
- Facilities: Pit toilets available at the Nearby Emma Carlin trailhead.
- Official Web Page: http://www.dnr.state.wi.us/org/land/parks/specific/kms/
- Getting There: The parking area is located near the town of Palmyra on County Road Z just south of Highway 59. You'll see a sign just a little south of the Emma Carlin Trailhead.
I had been driving past the Stute Springs trailhead on my way to the Emma Carlin mountain bike trailhead, and skiing right through the middle of this nature trail on the McMiller Ski Trails for many years, always saying to myself "I need to check that out one of these days". Well, that day finally came.
Basically what you have here is an old farm that was operated between 1850 and 1940 (approximately). Some of the old buildings are still standing and maintained, and there are numbered markers along a one-mile self-guided nature trail designating specific historic points of interest. There is also an optional trail (adds about a mile) leading to the "Big Hill Overlook".
Stute Springs and Homestead Trail Map
Self-guided nature trails are typically "no-brainers" to follow because they usually consist of a single self-contained short loop of somewhat wide trail. Stute Springs doesn't quite fit this profile because it's a mix of wide mowed trail and narrow natural surfaced hiking trail, and intersects in several places with the McMiller Cross Country Ski Trail system. There are (should be) some nice informational booklets available (donation requested) in the parking lot that detail the history and specific points of interest. But the map in the booklet is not the greatest, so I would recommend bringing a copy of my map with you your first time out.
From the parking area, you just follow the dirt/gravel road to the homestead clearing. Along the way you should notice a mowed grass trail on your right, this is the return trail. Once at the homestead clearing, you will see the various buildings that make up most of the self-guided tour. To get to the trail (shown Red on my map)you need to walk all the way to the far side of the clearing (far North corner)where the trail starts next to the Springhouse. The trail can be a bit of a mudhole at the springhouse, so as an alternative you can access the McMiller ski trail (shown Light Blue on my map) at various points along the southeast edge of the homestead clearing. The McMiller ski trail and the Nature trail will intersect shortly ahead at the Ski Trail Shelter. From this point on, take the Nature trail (the narrower trail).
You'll eventually encounter a side trail heading off to your left at the top of a small hill. This short side trail goes down to a natural spring, or at least that's what the brochure says. I heard the spring waters flowing, but the mud, overgrown vegetation, and mosquitoes convinced me to not look too hard for it.
Back on the main trail at the top of the hill, follow the trail to the right and down the small hill where it intersects with the ski trails. You'll recognize the ski trails because they are very wide ( a good 12' or so). You need to go right on the ski trail briefly until you see the nature trail (narrower trail) heading off on your left (South). Take this trail a short distance until you see another trail on your right. This is the return portion of the nature trail loop, take this to return to the parking area, otherwise continue on the trail to the Big Hill Overlook.
If you take the trail to the Big Hill Overlook, you will intersect with another section of the wide ski trail. Go left on the ski trail and look for a narrow trail on your right. This narrow trail leads up to the "Big Hill Overlook", and yes, it's all uphill.
After the overlook, just retrace your steps back to the return trail intersection.
The return trail takes the high ground above the swamp area and works back towards the parking area. You will intersect with the ski trail one more time, go right on the ski trail, then left on the return trail. Shortly thereafter you will be back on the dirt/gravel road. Go left to go back to the parking area.
Key to the Numbered Markers on the self-guided tour
For the self-guided tour, you really should pick up one of the booklets at the parking area (make sure you leave a donation). Unfortunately they don't seem to offer this information anywhere online. I really don't care to include all the detailed historical stuff here, but I will at least list what the numbered markers you will encounter on the trail mean.
1. The Milkhouse
2. The Stone Chicken Coop
3. The Stute Farmhouse (well, a small part of it at least)
4. The Log Smokehouse
5. The Springhouse
6. Stone Fence
7. Natural Springs
8. Stute's Ancient Woods
9. Wagon and Native American Trail
10. The Big Hill
12. The Stock Shelter
Special Notes on McMiller Ski Trail
The McMiller Ski Trail system is not maintained during the summer. What that means is that they don't mow it except in preparation for the ski season. They do however, mow the sections required as part of the Stute Springs nature trail and Big Hill Overlook. I show the northern portion of the Mcmiller Ski Trail on my map to avoid confusion with the nature trail, but also because you can see how you can easily make an additional hiking loop by using a portion of the ski trail north of the Big Hill Overlook. This should work well in the early spring before the vegetation starts to get overgrown, or in the late fall after they mow it but before the snow comes (you should not be hiking on the ski trails when they are snow covered). To see a map of the entire ski trail system, go to the McMiller Ski Trails Page
This page is authored and maintained by Dave Piasecki