At roughly 70 miles of bridle trails, Brown County State Park boasts more horse trails than hiking and mountain biking trails combined in the park’s extensive back country. If you don’t mind the occasional odd glances and dodging horse apples, the trails are some of the most beautiful in the state.
Download map GPX file
Strahl Lake Spur to Horse Trails A-J trailhead. From the north entrance, take Brown County State Park Rd for two miles and follow the signs for Strahl Lake. Bear left at the fork to Horseman Camp Rd and follow for another 1.5 miles, then bear left again and continue 1.2 miles. Parking for Strahl Lake will be on the right (west) side of the road, and the trailhead begins near the bathrooms. Overflow parking is available along the road past the parking lot if it is full.
2.5 – 3 hours
$7/vehicle (in-state), $9/vehicle (out-of-state)
Technically allowed, but don’t
Dense tree canopy
Copperheads, timber rattlers, ticks
Hiking Strahl Lake Spur to Horse Trails A-J
There is an easier way to access Horse Trail A than the spur we’re going to suggest, but this route dials up the adventure a bit more and ties in with the Trail 6 Strahl Lake network.
From the Strahl Lake parking lot, head toward the restrooms where Trail 6 begins. Yes, you’re actually going to be crossing the road and heading in the opposite direction, but this makes it easier to find the spur trail.
Climb the stairs up to the eastern side of Jimmie Strahl Lake where you’ll see Trail 6 to the left and a small access trail to the right. It’s the access trail you want to take, which will lead up the hill to Horseman Camp Road and an apparent dead end.
This next part is a little tricky. Cross Horseman Camp Road and head slightly downhill along the road. The spur trail will not be obvious, so be on the lookout for a slight depression line on the ground and any signs of disturbed leaves on the forest floor.
The faint trail descends to a creek bed and climbs straight up the facing hill. You will begin to veer left as the trail follows a northeasterly route through the woods. Stay alert for newer trail markers tied to tree branches and flags placed in the ground as well as older metal blazes nailed to trees.
Mind you, this isn’t an official trail, but the fact that it is marked seems to indicate it isn’t exactly off limits either. Although the DNR does restrict access to some areas in the park, hikers are usually allowed free reign of state parks as long as they tread lightly and leave no trace. Please keep that in mind, and we encourage you to pick up any trash you might find on this spur trail as a sort of penance for your presence.
At about a half mile the trail enters a clearing with newer growth, and the route becomes less clear. Here, continue ahead until you see a small frog pond on the right. The trail loops around it and plunges back into the old growth forest in a southeast direction.
Heading down the hill to the valley below, the trail once again becomes less obvious, but you are close. Even if you lose the trail here, continuing straight will eventually lead you to intersect Horse Trail A. You’ll know you’ve made it when you see the tell-tale hoof prints in the dirt at about three quarters of a mile.
The rest of the hike is easy and completely free of bushwhacking.
Head north (left) on Horse Trail A for the next mile. You’ll pass Horse Trail 5 on the right (a narrower loop-back trail) before seeing a wide unnamed gravel trail ahead on the left. If interested, taking that half mile trail to the left will lead you to the fire tower at Weed Patch Hill and Trail 10.
Otherwise, turn east and hike the next mile and a quarter to Five Points, which is aptly named as it sits at the intersection of five trails. From Five Points you have the option of extending your hike, but otherwise you are going to want to stay on Trail A for another tenth of a mile before heading to Horseman’s Campground on Trail J.
After a little more than a half mile, Horse Trail J splits. Although both routes will take you to the campground, the western route is shorter and will take you to the northern side of the grounds.
Once back at the campgrounds, you can choose to get back on Trail A and loop to the spur trail that began the hike, or you can do what we did and follow Horseman Camp Road back to the Strahl Lake parking lot.
We chose the latter route because we weren’t 100% confident that we’d find the spur trail coming from Trail A. Although there is a metal blaze nailed to a tree where the spur trail picks up, it’s on the north-facing side of the tree along the west side of Trail A and is not very obvious. Plus, we were pooped.
If you want to add a couple miles to this hike, try starting from the Brown County State Park Nature Center. Alternatively, there are a number of ways to shorten the hike with narrower cut-through horse trails #4 and #3, although trail A-1 doesn’t appear to shorten the distance considerably.
Although this route is about 5 and a half miles, it feels shorter because the terrain is much easier to hike. Just be sure to give a wide berth to any horses you encounter, and follow directions from any riders should you receive them. The last thing you want to do is a spook a horse out here.
Use map for real-time navigation
Load this web page on your phone before heading to the trail. Once there, be sure to put your device in airplane mode in order to save battery life.
Simply tap the map marker icon on the map to show your current location and follow along.
Tap the layers icon to switch between topographic, satellite and other helpful map layers. Be sure to check out the Heatmap overlay to see where others have gone before you!