The lower portion of Skillet Falls in June 2012. (This photo makes the falls appear larger than they actually are.)
I am headed to a workshop in southern Wisconsin, and I was wondering if there were any waterfalls in the even remote vicinity. Most searches come up with waterfalls that aren’t really nearby the Madison region in Wisconsin, but if you look hard enough, you’ll find out more about Skillet Falls.
The first searches that I found seemed to indicate that there were waterfalls on Skillet Creek, but further reading seemed to suggest that visiting the falls required a hike up a stream bed for a significant distance, which I wasn’t really interested in doing. It also seemed to suggest that those falls might be on private property…so I’m guessing there might falls further upstream/downstream that exist, but you might not want to visit.
Luckily, there is a much easier option. It’s a natural area known as Pewit’s Nest. Hidden in the gorge, there are two smaller waterfalls that can be easily visited (that is, without having to wade through a stream). Now, the falls themselves are beautiful, but not very large. Skillet Falls, though, reveals something about waterfalls…sometimes, even small waterfalls can be impressive. In this case, it’s really the cliffs surrounding the falls that give them their character. It’s also one of those falls that you could actually wade to and swim in, and the water looked fairly clean. In the scenario I present, the wading is minimal.
So what should you bring…a bathing suit if you want, and towels. And good shoes…you can hike to the edge of the of cliffs, and there isn’t always a whole lot of room between you and the drop below. It can also be sandy and slippery in places. Still, it’s not terribly difficult to visit. Only the last tenth of a mile or so actually requires any uphill climbing, and that’s if you want to get a better view of the falls from above (which I would suggest).
1) From Baraboo (or somewhere near there), head south on US-12. On US-12, look for a Walmart. If you’re headed north, the Walmart will be on your left.
2) Turn left toward the Walmart. The road is County Road W.
3) Head about 1.5 miles on County Road W to a parking area for Pewit’s Nest, which will be on your left. There is parking available for about 8 cars. In the middle of the day on the weekends, this is likely to get very busy and the parking lot full quickly, so show up early or during the weekdays.
4) From the parking area, follow the relatively flat trail. If in doubt, just follow the trail that seems the widest. At some point, there’s really no wrong choice as the trails branch because each of them leads to a different view of the gorge and the falls.
Accessibility: 7/10 (only the last, small portion of the hike requires any uphill climb)
Where in the World is Skillet Falls?: map
The upper portion of Skillet Falls