Pine Hollow State Natural Area is something for the true outdoor enthusiast. This 400 acre preserve is owned by the Nature Conservancy and is located on a rustic road out in the rural “wilds” of Sauk County (if there is such a thing). Pine Hollow requires a bit of effort to find and is seldom visited. For your efforts, (and if you can catch the hidden driveway) you will be greeted by an old shed and silo from a long gone farm. There is parking for 2 or 3 cars at a time. A hike over a hilltop field recently replanted with oaks will lead you to the proper trail head. Mind you, it’s not easy to find. The best option is to look for a slightly worn foot path in the tall grass and hopefully it will lead you to the trail into the hollow itself.
The trail main trail is well defined and descends deep into a valley where you will cross a stream on an old farm bridge. Crossing the bridge, you turn left to continue the loop. After another short walk you will come to a large sandstone overhang (top image) which was once used as a Neolithic shelter. Now you will find a picnic bench, and possibly a stuffed toy black bear.
Pine Hollow is known for it’s mature forests and strong bird breeding community. Birders will find a mix of northern and southern such as the Canada warbler, Louisiana waterthrush and golden-winged warbler. There are a variety of protected plant species as well including ginseng, drooping sedge, sword moss, and saxifrage.
When deciding to visit Pine Hollow you should consider the drive to be part of the whole experience. County C is a perfect slice rural Sauk County, and Orchard Rd, where Pine Hollow is located is a designated state “Rustic Road”.
Pine Hollow is not “Flash” but offers a relaxing and enjoyable hike filled with bird song and pristine woods. This is a place for folks who really want to get out and away from it all. It’s worth noting that the hike back up and out of the valley may be challenging for some. It’s not a particular steep hike out, but it’s a long constant vertical. Oh, and bring snacks, drinks, and bug spray!
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