WI Richard Bong State Recreation Area
Richard Bong State Recreation Area Trails
Bong Recreation Area is a combination of prairie and wetlands with scattered small wooded areas. The terrain is generally flat with some gentle rolling hills and a couple of sections with small but steep hills. The area has trails for hiking , cross country skiing (not groomed), biking, horseback riding, and ATVs. There's also Wolf Lake (more of a large pond than a lake) where you can launch a canoe or kayak. The trails surface is primarily mowed grass with some dirt/mud areas. There are two campgrounds in the park.
- Terrain / Scenery: Generally flat to gently rolling prairie and wetlands.
- Fees / Permits: A Wisconsin Park Sticker and Trail Pass are required for parking in the park and skiing or biking on the trails
- Trail Conditions: You can post or view trail reports on this site by clicking the Discussion tab
- Trail Markings: Color coded trails with maps at key intersections.
- Facilities: Pit toilets. Camping
- Official Web Page: http://www.dnr.state.wi.us/org/land/parks/specific/bong/ Map is available for download.
- Getting There: The main park entrance is located on the south side of Highway 142 east of Burlington (there is a large sign). To get to the main trailhead, after you pass the park gatehouse turn left passing by the main parking lot then turn left again into the trailhead parking lot. There is an alternate trailhead for the North Trails on County Road BB.
May through early June are the absolute best times to walk the trails at Bong since the prairie seems to be exploding with life during this time. Later in the summer as the area dries out things start to turn a bit brown. The wide mowed trails and flat to gently rolling terrain do not make these the most exciting trails for mountain biking, hiking, or skiing, but the total miles of lightly traveled trails, the unique prairie/wetlands scenery, and the variety of activities availability here make it a worthwhile visit as long as you're not driving too far to get here. I like to come out here for a half day during the spring/early summer and bike the North Trails, paddle around the lake a bit, and then do a trail run around the hiking trail that goes around the lake.
Map Notes: My map shows the main Hiking, Biking, and Skiing trails as well as portions of the horse trail that intersect with these trails. In the South Trail System there are many additional short trails (not shown on my map) intersecting with these trails that are generally small connector trails with the campground, picnic areas, lake, or park facilities. In the Northern Trail System, there are additional trails that occasionally intersect with the main trails. As far as I know these are maintenance/access trails for park workers and researchers. The main trails are all clearly marked with colored posts.
The North Trails are designated for hiking, skiing, or biking and are accessed from the main trailhead parking lot. Take the trail heading north from the lot going up the hill back to Highway 142. You'll have to walk across the road to access the trails.
These trails would be considered easy for skiing or biking with the exception of one short but very steep hill (marked on my map) on the western side of the Yellow loop (shortly after the orange trail rejoins the yellow). Though the hill is steep, it is still relatively easy for skiing or biking since it is straight and has a long runoff at the bottom. The remainder of this system is flat to gently rolling terrain. These trails are not groomed for skiing but there are usually tracks made by other skiers.
The Red Loop is the longest at 8.3 miles. If you're skiing or biking the Red Loop you may want to skip the last section of the Red Loop and take the Orange to Yellow return instead in order to catch that one steep hill (it's pretty much the only hill on the whole loop). This is a wetlands area and consequently you may have some wet muddy areas on the trail. For the most part these are just isolated little mud holes, however there is a rather large wet area (marked on my map) on the Orange Trail as it connects between Red and Yellow. Unless you are hiking or biking in the middle of a dry spell, you can almost always expect to get wet feet here. They do sometimes close these trails to biking when they are wet (usually early spring) so check before you go (you would have to call the park office). There is also a short section of the Yellow/Orange trail just before connecting back up with the Red trail that can become overgrown during the summer. I'm talking about six-foot tall prairie grasses and similar vegetation completely engulfing this section of trail. The trail is still clearly visible and makes for an interesting hike or bike (be prepared to get scratched up a bit). I'm not sure why they occasionally let this section go (rather than mowing it like the rest of the system) but I kinda like it.
The South Trails are designated for hiking and skiing only (no bikes allowed). From the main trailhead parking lot, take the trail heading East across the footbridge over the pond. Walk across the park road and go left at the first trail intersection. They no longer groom these trails for cross-country skiing, but they still get quite a bit of skier use. For skiers, the south trails are mostly easy although there are a few moderately steep hills at the Southeast end of the Blue Loop that can be challenging depending on snow/trail conditions. The Blue Loop circles Wolf Lake and provides frequent views of the lake. The Blue Loop also has more hills and wooded areas than the North Trails.
You can launch a canoe or kayak in Wolf Lake at the boat launch. Only electric motors are allowed on the lake, so you can expect a peaceful paddle. I've rarely seen more than 3 or 4 boats on the lake at any given time. The lake is not very large and sometimes suffers from a serious weed problem but can provide an enjoyable paddle. There is a small parking area near the boat launch that usually has plenty of parking spaces available.
There is a small swimming beach at the West end of the lake.
Note: Hunting is allowed in Bong, so be aware that there may be hunters in the area. Most of the hunting occurs in the fall.
- Wisconsin DNR official Richard Bong State Recreation Area page Additional information and maps.
This page is authored and maintained by Dave Piasecki