Hayward Lakes Area is a Hiker’s Dream

By: Matt Ostrander

I was a hard-core trail runner for over forty years.  Now, in my sixties, I’m less hard-core about it.  Three major differences are… 1) I no longer time myself;  2) I stop whenever I want to look at something;  and 3) I bring snacks.  Plainly, I’m transitioning from runner to hiker, and that’s not only OK—in our area, it’s a dream.  Here’s a brief look at some of the wonders I’ve been speeding by for the past forty years.

Two miles east of Hayward on Hwy. 77 there’s a little gem called Hatchery Creek County Park.  It features a cold, sparkling creek, a pavilion, toilets, drinking water, three miles of hiking/skiing trails in the park, ten miles of singletrack for biking or hiking, and access to the thirty-mile long Birkie Trail.  It’s gorgeous any time of year.

Two miles west of Hayward on County Hill Rd. is the little-known Town of Hayward Recreational Forest.  It offers four miles of trails for hiking or skiing, plus another three miles of singletrack for snowshoeing or hiking.  There’s a pavilion, a bathroom, a sledding hill, and two parking lots (one is right next to the sledding hiill—great place for grandparents to sit and keep the vehicle warm and the cocoa hot).

A long-time favorite of mine has been the Rock Lake Ski Area, maintained by the US Forest Service.  This large area is nine miles east of Cable on Co. Rd. M; it contains about fifteen miles of hiking/skiing trails (classic skiing only), plus another fifteen or so miles of CAMBA singletrack.  (Helpful tip:  If you become an annual member of CAMBA at www.cambatrails.org, you never have to feel guilty about using the bike trails to run, hike, or snowshoe.)  The Rock Lake area is beautiful, with a mix of hardwoods, conifers, and meadows, sprinkled over rolling terrain of glacial kettles and eskers, dotted by several cold, spring-fed lakes.

You can’t get more convenient than the ingenious trails of the Hayward Area Memorial Hospital grounds, on the north side of Hayward.  I call them ingenious because there are four miles of snowshoe trails, eight miles of hiking/skiing trails, and six miles of singletrack biking trails, all laid out within about one square mile, and no matter where you are in the trails you feel like you’re in the middle of the woods.  My favorite parts are walking through the holy pine plantation, hiking the Christmas-ornament-decorated snowshoe trail, and enjoying the bench on the Lakeview Loop.  You’ll fall in love with the Hospital Trails!

I was told to keep this under 500 words, so I can’t describe all of the one thousand miles of hiking, skiing, biking, snowshoeing, snowmobiling, and ATV trails in our area.  If you want to know more, just call me at the Hayward Information Center, 715-634-4801.  See you out on the trails!