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One of the best parts of visiting Natural Bridge State Park in Sauk County is the scenic drive required to get there. No matter which direction you are coming from, you値l find yourself on some of the prettiest back roads in southwestern Wisconsin. The occasional sharp curves in the road will make you slow down and enjoy the scenery while coasting over rolling hillsides dotted with quaint farms and miniature limestone bluffs.

When you arrive at Natural Bridge State Park, you値l find a small parking lot and some very rustic bathroom facilities, but just a short 10-minute hike up the path, Wisconsin痴 largest natural sandstone arch greets you with grandeur.

At 35 feet tall, the arch was carved by wind, water and natural erosion over time and it痴 a beautiful sight to behold.

Suddenly you値l be face-to-face with this enormous bridge that causes you to stand back, tip your head up and absorb its natural beauty. Bird song echoes throughout the woods and off the limestone walls giving a jungle-like feel, especially with all the new plants and flowers growing along the forest floor this time of year.

More on hiking: Hiking news from around the state | Your hiking photos | Create a map for your next hiking trip

Typically, this park is seldom used and most days you can have the place to yourself, but since we were visiting on Memorial Day, I expected a few more people to be there.

My dog, Charlie, and I were meeting some new friends to hike with today another girl-and-dog duo who are tackling the Ice Age Trail in segments just like us! Surprisingly, several other people that we passed on the trail that day also had their dogs along for the hike, making this a very dog-friendly destination.

The park contains 4 miles of hiking trails with additional hiking across the road, but since it was a hot and humid day and we didn稚 want the dogs to get overheated, we decided to cut the hike short after reaching the bridge and headed back to the parking area.

While this day use park is rather small without a lot of amenities, the area is rich with history, scenic views and good hiking trails.

On holiday weekends, Natural Bridge State Park is not as busy as nearby Devil痴 Lake State Park, making it a great alternative if you want to beat the crowds. Make sure to bring water along for you and your pet since there is no water source available at the park.

After leaving the park, we drove back toward Leland and took another winding side road to Hemlock Draw, a Nature Conservancy area I had heard about through a friend. Unfortunately dogs are not allowed on the trail so if you池e curious about checking out this area, make sure it痴 a cool enough day to leave your dog in the car or come back another day without your canine companion.

Next time you have a free afternoon, take yourself on a little road trip and explore some back roads in your neck of the woods. Turn onto roads you致e never explored before, let your foot off the gas pedal just a little and let life slow down for a minute. Open the windows and let your hair blow in the wind. See where the adventure takes you!

Read more posts from Heather Burt.

Heather Burt documents the ongoing journey with her dog as they play, hike and road-trip around Wisconsin in her blog www.HikingWithHeather.blogspot.com. Burt hopes to bring awareness to our state's bountiful natural beauty while encouraging people to enjoy nature.

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