Create your own trip. Trails range from 0.5 miles to 15.5 miles, with 40 miles of total trails.
Destination Distance From Downtown
2 of 5 diamonds
Governor Dodge has trails for everyone, from short out and backs, to difficult lengthy loops.
Time To Complete
Plan to spend at least an afternoon exploring the different trails in the park. Short trips can take under an hour (Stephen's Falls trail out and back), but you can also hike the entire day by traveling the 15.5 mile outer horse trail.
Spring, Summer, and Fall
Technically open in the winter, but only two trails - the Pine Cliff trail or the Uplands trail. Best during fall colors.
On Leash Only
A Wisconsin State Parks vehicle admission sticker is required. A day pass is $8 for vehicles with WI plates ($11 for out of state) or $28 for the entire year ($38 for out of state).
Governor Dodge State Park is a quick 50 minute drive west of Madison with the largest state owned wealth of hiking trails in Wisconsin. While most of the Midwest was covered by glaciers during the last Ice Age, the park sits in the middle of the Wisconsin Driftless Area. This area hasn't seen a glacier in over 600,000 years, leading to large stone cliffs and steep elevation changes, unique when compared to the rolling hills in the rest of the state.
Governor Dodge is a well developed park with two man made lakes and 40 miles of hiking trails. Though it is one of the most visited parks in Wisconsin, Governor Dodge feels more secluded than parks like Devil's Lake. If you choose your trails wisely, you may only see ten other hikers in an afternoon.
What Makes It Great
Governor Dodge is arguably the best state park in the southern part of the state, and it attracts visitors for good reason. There are several diverse trails that will give hikers plenty to do for a long weekend. Most trails are well graded and multi-use - watch for horses and bikers. Watch out for beaver and turtles near the two lakes and deer and turkey on most trails. You should also watch out for mosquitoes and ticks - plan for a full tick check when you get off the trail, especially from early May to late June. If the mosquitoes aren't too bad, walking among the fireflies after dusk in mid July is a magical experience.
Because of the park's unique geologic history, there are slopes and some fairly impressive views from trails within the park. The trees in the park are new growth, with farming taking place from about the 1800s to the establishment of the park in 1948, and lead mining and fur trading common in the area before that. Though young, the trees lead to great fall colors in September and October.
In June of 2014, two large tornadoes swept through the southeastern portion of the park, including the Mill Creek, Pine Cliff, and Lake View Trails. Though the Lake View and Pine Cliff Trails have recovered well with lots of help from volunteers, the Mill Creek Trail is lined with ash trees, which have nearly completely succumbed to the Emerald Ash Borer. Between these two issues, skipping the Mill Creek Trail will make for a more interesting day for most hikers.
The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources allows geocaching on public lands, and there are a variety of geocaches located along the trails of Governor Dodge.
Who is Going to Love It
Families and hikers out for an afternoon can't do much better than a loop of the Stephen's Falls trail and Lost Canyon Trail (2.7 miles, about 1.5 hours). These trails take you by a spring fed waterfall and along the stream on the valley floor. Dogs and small children are permanent fixtures of this shaded area, so expect company.
More seasoned hikers will enjoy the five mile Meadow Valley Trail with the option to add the one mile Cave Trail on. This loop takes hikers over rolling hills and near one of Governor Dodge's Lakes and gives excellent views of the sandstone bluffs.
Finally, those looking for a challenging day should consider the Outer Horse Loop trail. Connecting to the Military Ridge State Trail, you will wind through 15.3 miles of the most secluded areas of the park.
Directions, Parking, & Regulations
Take US Highway 18/151 West to Dodgeville. Take exit 47 for US 18 West. Take a right on Highway 23, and the park is about three miles further on the right. The park is open to non-campers with a Wisconsin State Parks vehicle admission sticker from 6 AM to 11 PM. Plan to be off all trails and leaving the park by 10 PM, when quiet hours begin for campers.