Located near Merrimac, about an hour northwest of Madison, the Gibraltar Rock State Natural Area is a 1.4-mile loop trail that takes you to the top of a flat butte, offering panoramic views of Lake Wisconsin and the Wisconsin River Valley. According to All Trails, Gibraltar Rock is a “moderately challenging” hike that ascends 298 ft. in elevation.
We were huffing and puffing the first 10 minutes into the hike. Truthfully, we are a bit out of shape. But we ran into other people who seemed in better shape but were still struggling. However, once you get to the top of the butte, the views are definitely worth the hike.
The Gibraltar Rock hike might not be for you if you get weak in the knees at high elevations. Once you’re near the top, there are some sharp dropoffs near the trail with no safety handrails that can be kind of scary, especially for those who don’t like heights. A tree full of turkey vultures seemingly waiting for someone to fall doesn’t help. The first time I did this hike was on a New Year’s Day, and the trail was covered with packed snow, which made it a little more treacherous. But, while it may look scary, it’s pretty safe as long as you don’t walk out on any rock ledges.
If you are looking for a longer hike, check out the Gibraltar Rock Segment of the Ice Age Trail, a 4.8-mile hike from the Merrimac Ferry south ramp to the top of Gibraltar Rock.
Hiking Gibraltar Rock – The Details
Length: 1.4 miles
Highlights: The views of the Wisconsin River Valley and Lake Wisconsin are amazing. We hiked the Rock during the first week of October, and everything was still pretty green. To catch the fall colors, try to go toward the end of October.
Things to know: Dogs are allowed on the trail, and many people bring their puppers. Rock climbing is prohibited.
Find it: Gibraltar Rock Road, off of Columbia County Highway V. There is another parking lot at the intersection of Hwy. V and Hwy. J.