A lovely hike with plenty of great views especially along the lake where you can easily spot the lake through the young woods year round. Fall is particularly spectacular. This is also a good winter trail as much of it is level enough to hike with good shoes.
There are several small foot bridges crossing creeks and streams with no rails. If heading past Muddy Creek toward the park road, the trail is closed on the other side. There are what appear to be long-term signs posted "Trail Closed" and the trail appears overgrown. Instead, follow the trail to the left at the fork before going by the Muddy Creek section, and that will follow the border of the lake, and take you past the dam.
Catch the trailhead from the bike rental parking lot. It begins fairly level with soft limestone, passing an optional diversion (highly recommended) on the Butterfly Loop Trail
in the first mile.
The Butterfly Loop Trail
is marked and is a short, scenic grass trail that ends back on the main trail. It is a nice photo-op spot year round. There is a small man-made pond stocked with coy and a artistic curved bridge. The natural tall grasses, goldenrod, local trees, and summer flowers are worth the stop.
After crossing the road that leads to McDanels Boat Launch, the trail turns to dirt, grass, and gravel. It is a little challenging on the ankles with wash outs and larger rocks in a few places, but most of the trail is a solid narrow path for one to hike. The trail is marked by blue blazes, but they have not been updated and are fading in places, so pay attention in the fall and winter when the path disappears under the leaves and snow.
The trail is closed on the other side of the park access road and with no knowledge of if or when this will change as of 11/16. The "trail closed" signs looked rather long term, and the trail appeared overgrown. Double back to follow the trail past Muddy Creek; you'll see the water on the right of the path and come to a reverse fork. Head to the right up a slight hill through young trees and then down a steep 20-foot section to a metal foot bridge over the water. Follow the trail around the lake, and find a couple stops to view the dam.
Go through or around a small parking lot for maintenance vehicles, and the trail surface becomes more grass and dirt into the wooded area along the lake. Watch for the blue blazes, as it's easy to lose the path through the young trees especially in the fall. The trail follows fairly close to the lake, and there are a couple nice spots to take pictures of the dam. You can hear the waterfall at the dam as you approach, and there is a bench to take a break.
Once past the dam, follow the tree line along the open grass to a small gravel road. Stay off the road and follow the marked trail. It heads again into the woods along the lake. Watch for the blue blazes as it's easy to lose the path through the young trees especially in the fall. There are several small foot bridges over the streams and small gullies that are in good shape. Between the trail and the lake, there are several cement structures (looks like a paintball maze?), and the trail makes a turn still following along the lake. This is a good landmark to watch for where the blue blazes are tough to see at times.
Once you pass the cement structures, if you go only a little further, you can turn back and head straight for the bike rental parking lot to complete approximately 3 miles. The trail does go much further for miles to the west for longer hikes (to be explored in the future!)
Great blue and green herons, belted kingfishers, loons (spring), bluejays, robins, osprey, deer, goldenrod, prairie grasses and wildflowers, young deciduous trees.