Governor Nelson State Park is located on County Hwy M in Waunakee, Wisconsin along Lake Mendota. The park features 8.4 miles (13.5 km) of hiking trails meandering through prairie, oak savanna, woodland ecosystems. The trails form a series of connected loops, and it is easy to join some or all of the short trails to make a longer hike. These trails are easy in most areas, but moderate where the terrain is hilly.
The trails are wide, grassy (or, ahem, snowy), and well maintained. Hiking is not allowed when trails are groomed for cross country skiing. To date the snow cover hasn’t been thick enough, leaving the trails available for hiking. In terms of wildlife, I enjoyed the cacophony of migrating swans, geese, and ducks as well as surprising a fox on the trail.
Governor Nelson State Park is a stone's throw from downtown Madison, which can be seen across Lake Mendota. The highway is heard and seen from the trails, as are a number of surrounding homes. On the other hand, hunting is not allowed this time of year in the park making it a short drive and a safe hiking spot near Madison. Why did I chose this hike? It is high hunting season, and the rolling hills and well groomed trails of this park offer a nice hike without the risk.
A vehicle admission sticker is required for visiting Wisconsin State Parks. The sticker may be purchased annually, or for short visits a short term sticker may be purchased. Visit the Wisconsin DNR’s website for park information including maps of this and other hiking trails.