The Park: This 3000 acre park is centered around the man-made Lake Hayes. In many ways it feels like your typical north woods wilderness park. The heavily forested park offers habitat for bear, moose, deer, martin, as well as a variety of smaller animals. It is pleasant and is a great resource for people living in the area, but if you are looking for a great northwoods park, I would probably check out Scenic or McCarthy Beach first. I did venture off the hiking club trail at this park in search of a supposed fire tower somewhere in the northern part. Climbing fire towers is one of my favorite things to do at parks that have them, so I was supremely disappointed that after walking nearly an hour out of my way, I wasn't allowed to climb the tower! About a quarter of the way up the rickety ladder welded to the side of the tower, I began to realize why it was supposed to be off limits and climbed down again. If you make it out to the fire tower, take some time to look around the ruins of an old river town in the area as well.
The Trail: The 2 mile hiking club trail follows Pine Ridge Trail on the north side of Lake Hayes from the main picnic area to the campgrounds. Most of the trail is interpretive, meaning there are signs describing what you are seeing periodically along the way. You'll pass through red pine and spruce forests, get great views of the lake, and see the more developed points of the park like the swimming beach and boat launch. If you have time, which I unfortunately didn't, you could continue onto a trail called the bog trail - probably worth it - before returning to your car. This was an easy hike, but the trails were very flooded and I felt like I was walking through water as much as dry ground - so try to visit during a dryer season.
The Drive: Hayes Lake is in the middle of nowhere. Farms and shrubby parkland and long straight roads. It could conceivably be a pleasant drive - put some music on and drive at completely unreasonable speeds because let's be honest, the closet state trooper's a hundred miles away (this blog in no way condones illegal driving activity nor claims the author participated in such) - but my drive was interrupted by constantly having to pull over and remove ticks from the nooks and crannies of my clothes and body. For the most part I don't really remember this drive, so there probably wasn't anything memorable about it.