With more than 2,500 miles of official hiking trails throughout Wisconsin, the challenge isn’t even the trek itself. The question is, where to begin?
From historic lighthouses to glacially carved valleys, rushing waterfalls and caves, Wisconsin’s national and state parks and forests hold countless options for hikes.
Walk for a half-mile or go backpacking for 40 miles. Trek along sandy beaches or on Lake Superior’s islands. Tackle an urban park hike or rugged mountaineering-rated climb. Whatever your inclination or fitness level, Wisconsin has a hike for you.
From segments of the Ice Age Trail, to sections of the North Country National Scenic Trail, to stand-alone hikes in Wisconsin’s many picturesque state parks, the hiking is fantastic in these parts.
These trails are good choices for warm-weather hiking in the summer and early fall. They are also fantastic for snowshoeing and cross-country skiing in the wintery months.
What Are Some of the Best Hiking Trails in Wisconsin?
The mother of all hiking trails in Wisconsin is the Ice Age National Scenic Trail (one of just 11 National Scenic Trails in the country). It extends more than 1,000 miles from Interstate State Park on the Minnesota border to Potawatomi State Park on Lake Michigan.
The surrounding landscape was created by receding glacial ice more than 12,000 years ago. Along this horseshoe-shaped trail, there are myriad trails for all timeframes and fitness levels. We’ve outlined several of the segments below.
The North Country National Scenic Trail also passes through the state, in addition to seven other northern states. The trail connects natural, historic and cultural areas, cities and small towns, and much more.
With more than 200 miles of the NCT in the state, hikers have access to Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest, Copper Falls State Park, Pattison State Park, Rainbow Lake Wilderness, Porcupine Lake Wilderness, the Bad River, Bois Brule River and more.
See a reintroduced elk herd near Clam Lake and, in western Wisconsin, don’t miss the Douglas County Wildlife Area, where prairie flowers and grasses are particularly beautiful in the late summer and fall.
The Chequamegon portion of the NCT is known for its dense forest and small lakes, as well as two federally designated Wilderness Areas: Porcupine Lake Wilderness and Rainbow Lake Wilderness.
Finally, the eastern Wisconsin portion of the North Country National Scenic Trail offers waterfalls and ancient rocky outcrops in the Penokee Mountain Range.
1. North Country National Scenic Trail – Copper Falls
A section of the famous North Country Scenic Trail weaves its way through Wisconsin and this hike gives you the chance to experience some of its beauty. The Copper Falls section is located in Copper Falls State Park in the northern part of the state near the town of Mellen.
The falls themselves (Copper Falls and Brownstone Falls) stem from the intersection of the Tyler Forks River and Bad River in a narrow, rocky gorge. Doughboy’s Trail takes you to both cascades.
This self-guided nature loop trail takes you around the Bad River Gorge and along the Tyler Forks River. Stop at the various observation decks and overlooks for dramatic views. Learn more about the geological history of the river, the falls and the rock formations you’ll see.
Between the overlooks and decks, the mostly flat trail passes through pine forest. When you reach the large Devil’s Gate rock formation, there are stone steps that lead from the top of the gorge to the riverbed.
Distance: 1.7 Miles
Elevation Gain: <500 feet
2. The Circle Trail, Chippewa Moraine Ice Age Reserve
On US 53 in Auburn, take Exit 118 East onto County M. Continue east on County M for 8.6 miles to the park entrance.
It’s not everyday you can go hiking in an Ice Age National Scientific Reserve. This 3,800-acre state recreation area is just north of Chippewa Falls in northwest Wisconsin and is home to the popular Circle Trail.
Geology buffs will enjoy the opportunity to hike through a landscape formed by glacial activity from thousands of years ago.
Today, there are more than 70 lakes and ponds, open prairie blanketed in tall grasses and colorful wildflowers, rolling hillside, and forests of oak, maple, aspen and pine. The 4.7-mile Circle Trail runs through this varied landscape.
First, stop by the Ice Age Interpretive Center to learn more about the geology and natural history of the region. From here, enter the trail and travel counterclockwise. Go left at the first trail junction, hiking through stands of maple, oak, basswood and ash.
Within the first half-mile, you’ll come to the first of many kettle lakes in the area. At 0.2 miles, continue straight onto the combined Circle Trail/Ice Age Trail. At 0.4 miles, take a sharp right onto an abandoned logging road. You’ll see more kettle lakes, marshes and forested hillsides.
Cross a wooden footbridge at 0.7 miles, then just a bit farther on, take a left to stay on the Circle Trail. Pass the Weeks Lake area (look for the heron rookery). At about 1.3 miles, you’ll be able to spot Jenstow Lake through the trees.
Continue along forest hills and through stands of red and white pine, past South Shattuk Lake, and then finally completing the loop back at the Ice Age Interpretive Center.
Distance: 4.7 Miles
Elevation Gain: 690 Feet
3. Ice Age Trail – Devil’s Lake Segment
Access the Devil’s Lake Segment of the Ice Age Trail on Highway 113.
Eleven miles of the Ice Age National Scenic Trail are contained within Devil’s Lake State Park. This segment begins on the Uplands Trail on Highway 113, veering toward the Steinke Basin, where it meets the Johnson Moraine Trail.
The trail then navigates through roads in the Ice Age Campgrounds, then continues into the North Shore Picnic Area. Climb the West Bluff Trail, wrapping around the South Shore to meet the Balanced Rock Trail.
Take a hard right onto the East Bluff Trail, meet up with the Upland Trail, then continue onto the Roznos Meadow Trail. You’ll see yellow rectangle blazes along the way to mark that you are on the Ice Age Trail.
This is one of the most popular sections of the Ice Age Trail. It offers challenging climbs, the gorgeous lake, views of the Baraboo Range, interesting rock formations and camping opportunities.
There are some flat sections, but be prepared for steep and sustained climbs, particularly where the trail crosses the West Bluff and Balanced Rock Trail.
Elsewhere in Devil’s Lake State Park, you’ll find a total of 30 miles of hiking trails, lakeshore picnic sites, swimming beaches, naturalist programs and more.
Stop by the Nature Center to become acquainted with the park’s trails, its unique geology and natural history and to ask any questions of the friendly staff.
Distance: 10.8 Miles
Elevation Gain: 638 Feet
4. Uplands Trail
Access the Uplands Trail on Highway 113.
For anyone who hikes with their dog, the Uplands Trail is a clear winner. There are off-leash swim areas at each of the lakes you pass and several designated pet picnic areas.
The quiet trail is set in Governor Dodge State Park, within Wisconsin’s Driftless Area. It is named this way because this area was bypassed by the last continental glacier. There is a lack of glacial drift and the resulting silt, gravel and rock typically left behind by retreating glaciers.
The long, winding trail rises 325 feet from the Steinke Basin parking area, following a bluff with great views before descending again into the basin. Hikers share the trail with cyclists, so be attentive, especially around blind corners.
If you want more hiking when you’re done with Uplands, no problem. The park offers 5,000 acres of hills, valleys and 40 miles of hiking trails. It’s particularly beautiful in the fall, when the forest erupts in a kaleidoscope of red, yellow, gold and orange leaves.
Distance: 2.5 Miles
Elevation Gain: 325 Feet
5. Ice Age Trail – St. Croix Falls Segment
From St. Croix Falls at the intersection of USH-8 and STH-35, take STH-35 south for 0.6 miles. Turn right to enter Interstate State Park and follow park roads 1.5 miles to the Pothole Trail parking area. Walk clockwise on the Pothole Trail to reach the western terminus marker.
Additional parking is available at the Interpretive Center, the Polk County Visitor Information Center at STH-35 and USH-8, the East Georgia Street parking area near its intersection with Vincent Street, Riegel Park on Louisiana Street (you can access a spur trail that leads to the Ice Age Trail), roadside on Oregon Street, Ray Zillmer Park on Day Road, the Wert Family Nature Preserve on the east side of STH-87 and Lions Park on STH-87.
Hike from the western terminus of the Ice Age National Trail, a rocky ledge that overlooks the St. Croix National Scenic River.
This valley was formed when the glacial lobe in the area retreat and meltwater formed Glacial Lake Duluth. Giant floods later drained the lake and cut a valley through billion-year-old volcanic basalt bedrock.
You’ll find the official terminus marker attached to a glacial erratic on a basalt cliff above the 100-foot-deep Dalles gorge on the St. Croix River.
If you look upriver, you can make out the famous rock face, “Ol’ Man of the Dalles.” Downriver, you can see the basalt rock protrusion that contributing to the world’s largest log jam in 1886.
After snapping a few photos of the gorgeous scenery, start the nearly 8-mile trail that takes you through Interstate State Park and through the forested hillsides around the City of St. Croix Falls. There are several hill climbs and some stream crossing (rock hopping) along the way.
Distance: 7.8 Miles
Elevation Gain: n/a
6. Apostle Islands Lakeshore Trail
Start your hike from Meyers Beach off Highway 13, cutting along the top of the red sandstone bluffs and the sculpted-rock shoreline. Along the trail, there are access points to several of the Apostle Islands Sea Caves.
\While you’re on the bluffs, however, the vegetation is dense and doesn’t allow for far-reaching views. The trail is broken into three sections.
The first goes from Meyers Beach to the Crevasse. The second travels above the mainland sea caves. The third passes through the forest.
The first 0.7 miles are along boardwalk, while the remaining first section is on a well-worn trail through steep ravines, over narrow bridges and roots, and across slippery spots. When the trail levels out, you’ll be able to see the Crevasse and the sea caves – you may even see kayakers in the Crevasse below.
The second section leads to sea cave overlooks and through red pines. Listen for the “cave wave chorus,” the loud popping and booming you’ll hear when the waves crash into the caves. Near the end of this section, you’ll come to the Bowl, where from each end you get a great view of the caves.
Finally, you’ll head inland through mixed hardwood and cedar forest before arriving at Mainland Campsite #1.
Consider a stop at the Bayfield Headquarters before your hike on the Lakeshore Trail. Grab trail maps, watch a park film and learn about the park’s history, geology and recreational opportunities.
Distance: 5 Miles
Elevation Gain: XX Feet
7. Eagle Trail, Peninsula State Park
To reach Peninsula State Park from Green Bay, take State Highway 57 north toward Sturgeon Bay. If coming from Manitowoc, take State Highway 42 north toward Sturgeon Bay.
Highways 57 and 42 merge before Sturgeon Bay. Stay on State Highway 42 north to Fish Creek, where the highway turns east (right). Go 0.5 mile farther on Highway 42. The park entrance is on the north (left).
With the 75-foot-high Eagle lookout tower as a highlight, the Eagle Trail is known for its views of Eagle Harbor, the maritime village of Ephraim and Green Bay.
A Door County favorite, the trail takes you down 200 feet from Eagle Bluff, down the Niagara Escarpment, to the shoreline. The surface is uneven, due to tree roots and loose rock, so watch your step.
The Eagle Terrace was originally a quarrying site of the Eagle Bluff Stone Co. The terrace was built by the Civilian Conservation Corps in the 1930s.
As you descent from the bluff to the terrace, you’ll pass through cedar trees, trillium and thimbleberry and alongside the exposed karst and outcroppings of the Niagara Escarpment.
On the other side, you’ll have peek-a-boo views of the harbor’s blue water. The bluff and terrace were so named for the bald eagles that were once known to nest here.
While the eagle population declined to just 103 pairs in the 1970s, the bird has experienced a long comeback, with 1,504 nesting pairs counted in 2016.
Distance: 2.5 Miles
Elevation Gain: 183 Feet
8. Dunes Cordwalk, Kohler Andrae State Park
From Milwaukee, drive north on Interstate 43 towards Sheboygan. Take the exit for County Road V, turn right, then turn right again. Follow this road straight into the park.
This unusual trail is located in the Kohler-Andrae beach destination and reveals one of the state’s most eye-catching landscapes. The cordwalk is made of a string of cord-wood planks that are pinned into the sand dunes.
It winds through the Kohler Dunes State Natural Area in Sheboygan, through wind-sculpted landforms that almost look like another planet.
The boards are strung together by a long steel cable that is staked in the sand, instead of nailed together and cemented into the ground. The unique design allows for the cordwalk to shift as necessary in the wind- and rain-swept sandscape.
Distance: 1.3 Miles
Elevation Gain: n/a
9. Ice Age Trail – Eau Claire Dells Segment
Let your inner child come out to play on the rock ledges of Eau Claire Dells. The water pours through the rocks at the water’s edge, creating natural playgrounds and inviting areas to cool off on a hot summer day.
Distance: 2.6 Miles
Elevation Gain: 88 Feet
10. Morgan Falls and St. Peters Dome
From Cable, drive north on State Highway 63 about 22 miles to County Highway E. Turn right (east) on E and drive 6 miles to Ashland-Bayfield Road. Turn right (south) on Ashland-Bayfield Road and drive 4.2 miles to the parking lot.
From Mellen, drive north 9.6 miles on State Highway 13. Turn left (west) on County Highway C and drive 5.8 miles to a “T” intersection with Ashland-Bayfield Road. Turn left (south) and drive 3.8 miles to the parking lot.
Go off the beaten path on this rustic trail through Chequamegon National Forest to St. Peters Dome. The footpath is wide, with bridges and boardwalks that lead to 70-foot-tall Morgan Falls.
The next section of single-track trail gets your heart pumping as it climbs steadily to a rocky promontory named “Old Baldy.” This is the highest point in the national forest.
From here, you’ll have uninterrupted views down to the Lake Superior shoreline, as well as Ashland and the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore.
Distance: 4.2 Miles
Elevation Gain: n/a
11. Brady’s Bluff, Perrot State Park
Lace up your sturdy hiking boots for this double loop trail that takes on two mountaineering-rated climbs. The payoff is worth it – Perrot Ridge and Brady’s Bluff overlook the Trempeauleau and Mississippi rivers. Even on a cloudy day, the views are impressive.
Brady’s Bluff East starts from the Mounds parking lot near the park headquarters. This prairie climb follows a steep Mississippi River bluff that lands you about 460 feet above the water.
Look around and notice some of the 100+ species of native Wisconsin flora, rare wildlife, butterflies and the state-threatened wing snaggletooth land snail.
Brady’s Bluff Trail West starts at the parking lot above the boat landing. The winding trail takes you through prairie land to the top of the bluffs, up rock steps and along walls built by the Civilian Conservation Corps in the mid-1930s. Near the top, you’ll start to see Trempealeau Mountain and Trempealeau Bay.
Distance: 3.5 Miles
Elevation Gain: n/a
12. Old Settlers Trail, Wildcat Mountain
With its heart-pounding climbs and one level-5 mountaineering-rated ascent, the Old Settlers Trail is a must for the avid hiker.
This route was established by early European settlers in the Kickapoo River Valley and heart of southwestern Wisconsin’s Driftless Area.
Stop and catch your breath at Taylor’s Hollow Overlook, from which you can see sculpted sandstone formations and, in the fall, vibrant foliage.
The area surrounding the trail, including Wildcat State Park and the Kickapoo River, offers 10,000 acres of pristine nature and outdoor activities. This includes everything from hiking and camping, to biking and horseback riding.
Distance: 2.5 Miles
Elevation Gain: 390 Feet
13. Billings Creek Trail, Kickapoo Valley Reserve
To access the trail, turn east on Winchell Valley Road from State Highway 131. After crossing Bridge 8, park along south side the road. Walk east along the road and look for the trail starting on your left (about 500 feet from bridge).
Another popular hike in the Wisconsin Driftless area’s Kickapoo Valley Reserve, the Billings Creek Trail is a 4.5-mile trail with a creek crossing, several small hills, prairie and hardwood forest. Long pants are recommended; the trail can be brushy.
The creek crossing will require a little rock hopping. The trail starts off steep, but then follows a wooded ridge at a sustained elevation. After you pass a relatively open section of trail, you’ll be able to peer down at the Kickapoo River.
If you’re really feeling rustic, canoe the Kickapoo River to one of the campsites along the trail.
Distance: 4.5 Miles
Elevation Gain: 650 Feet
14. Sentinel Ridge Trail, Waylusing
This is an excellent, and challenging, choice in the impressive Wyalusing State Park, where the Wisconsin and Mississippi rivers meet.
The Sentinel Ridge Trail can be completed as a 12-mile loop or a 6-mile out-and-bike trek. Most hike from the boat launch up to Treasure Cave.
The trail climbs steadily from the boat landing, allowing for natural resting points, first at the conical Indigenous mounds that are more than 12,000 years old. Follow a narrow limestone ridge, then continue climbing through oak savanna.
Descend into a picnic area, which features a famed monument to the last Wisconsin Passenger Pigeon, then climb again for fantastic views of the Wisconsin and Mississippi rivers. If you’d like, follow the trail to the left to Treasure Cave.
Once you arrive at the cave, take the steep stairs into the opening. Once inside, if you’re brave enough, you can crawl about 20 yards farther through a narrow passageway to a wider chamber.
After the Treasure Cave, take the wooden stairs to the stone stairs and then pass beneath a natural stone archway.
Distance: 6 Miles
Elevation Gain: 1,189 Feet
15. Military Ridge State Trail
The eastern end of the trail starts at the southeast corner of County Highway PD and Highway 18/151. Parking and trail access are available at the Quarry Ridge Recreation Area on Fitchrona Road. Take County Highway PD west from 18/151, then turn left on Nesbitt Road.
Next, turn left on Fitchrona Road. Go about 0.3 miles. The park is on the left side of the road at 2740 Fitchrona Road. Follow the paved walkway by the shelter to the Military Ridge Trail.
Another long one – and easily broken up into segments – the Military Ridge State Trail dates back to the Black Hawk War in 1832.
What was once a military route now passes through state parks, woods and wetlands, prairie land and farmland. There are several observation platforms from which you can view the local wildlife.
Distance: 40 Miles
Elevation Gain: n/a
16. University of Wisconsin-Madison Arboretum Trails
See some of Wisconsin’s myriad landscapes – from savannas and forests to prairies and wetlands – at the Arboretum, covering 1,200 acres and offering more than 17 miles of hiking trails.
Check out various ecosystems and see flowers, plants, butterflies, horticultural gardens, wildflowers, wild turkeys, birds and more.
The trails include footpaths, boardwalks and fire lanes, which can be uneven, muddy, icy or even flooded, depending on the season. The trail map is available online or in trail boxes throughout the Arboretum and in the Visitor Center.
Distance: 17 Miles
Elevation Gain: n/a
17. Cherokee Marsh Conservation Park
Follow WI-113 out of Madison. Turn right onto North Sherman Avenue. After 2.5 miles, turn left to stay on North Sherman Avenue. The park entrance is on the right.
Visit this vast park’s North or South unit for a variety of short, easy loops and more extensive trails, most of which can be used year-round.
Birders can grab a checklist at the visitors center and track the 187 resident species, including sandhill cranes, bald eagles and osprey.
The park encompasses restored prairie, oak savanna and woodland, and from the observation decks, you can see parts of the Upper Yahara River and sedge meadow.
Distance: 4.1 Miles
Elevation Gain: n/a
18. Lake Geneva Shore Path
Walk the twisting, turning Lake Geneva Shore Path for its history (the Potawatomi people originally created this footpath), its gorgeous lake and estate views (like the Rockefellers and Wrigleys) and its leaf-peeping in the fall.
Most walk the path in sections, using the public access points in Lake Geneva, Fontana, Williams Bay and Big Foot Beach State Park.
Highlights along the trail include the handsome Lake Geneva Public Library, the massive Stone Manor, the historic Hazeldore summer home, the Yerkes Observatory and Cedar Point Park.
The path surfaces vary between grass, cement, brick, wood, stepping stones and gravel. Public restrooms and water fountains are placed are various intervals. Look for them at the VISIT Lake Geneva Information Center, Edgewater Park, Reid Park and Big Foot Beach State Park.
Distance: 21 Miles
Elevation Gain: n/a
19. Lost Creek Falls
From Cornucopia, drive west on Highway 13. Turn left (south) onto Klemik Road (dirt road). Follow this for a mile. You’ll see a yellow-gated trail on the left. This is the trailhead.
This well-marked trail in Cornucopia, winds across two bridges and through wild berry bushes, including raspberries, thimbleberries and blackberries.
The eight-foot falls are delightful and particularly nice for a refreshing dip on a hot summer day. Walk behind the falls if you like, and visit the smaller three-foot cascade downstream of the main waterfall.
Distance: 2.5 Miles
Elevation Gain: n/a
20. Hidden Lake Trail, Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest
From the intersection of Highway 45 and Highway 70 on the east side of Eagle River, continue east on Highway 70 for about 9 miles to Forest Road 2178. Turn south on FR 2178 and continue about 3 miles to Forest Road 2181. Turn south on FR 2181 and continue about 5 miles to the campground.
Access the Hidden Lake Trail from the Franklin Nature Trail. Park in the nature trail parking lot and follow the Franklin Nature Trail about 1/2 mile to the Hidden Lakes trailhead.
Or, access the trail from FR 2008, off FR 2179, on the south side of Butternut Lake. If you take the entire 13-mile loop, you will end at the Franklin Lake boat ramp. To return to the parking lot, walk east down the main campground road to the nature trail parking lot.
Known as a thigh-burner, the Hidden Lake Trail is a 13-mile loop, popular with day hikers seeking extra challenge or for backpackers who want to spend the night in the hemlock forest. There are more than a dozen lakes tucked along the route.
The trail starts midway on the Franklin Nature Trail, in the Franklin Lake Campground. It then loops south around Butternut Lake and passes Luna-White Deer Campground. Continue west and north back to Franklin Lake Campground. White diamond-shaped markers designate the Hidden Lakes Trail.
Distance: 13 Miles
Elevation Gain: 931 Feet
21. Bearskin State Trail
Access either trailhead for the Bearskin State Trail near State Highway 51: the north trailhead is in Minocqua and the south trailhead is near the intersection of County Highway K and Highway 51 in Oneida County.
This easily navigable, mostly crushed-gravel trail in the Northwoods of Wisconsin is set on a former railroad corridor. The corridor was a spur of the Chicago, Milwaukee, St. Paul and Pacific Railroad that was built from New Lisbon to Minocqua in 1887 to transport logs and lumber.
After the timber industry slowed, outdoor enthusiasts would use the rail for weekend pursuits, with catchy train names like Hiawatha and Fishermen’s Special.
It’s wide and flat, making it suitable for every fitness level. The trail, which runs from Minocqua to Tomahawk, was named for the Bearskin Creek it follows.
The trail crosses 16 converted railroad trestles, 8 of which span Bearskin Creek. The longest trestle is 375 feet long and crosses Minocqua Lake.
Be sure to pack food and water, as amenities are scarce. The last town with full services, before the end of the trail, is Hazelhurst, 5.1 miles from the trailhead.
There are interpretive signs along the route, giving insight into the rustic living conditions experienced by railroad workers.
There is a rest stop on Old Highway K at 18 miles, after which the trail goes onto the road for 4.5 miles. The final 2.5-mile stretch starts on Lake Nokomis Road, ending at Heafford Junction, where you join the Hiawatha Trail.
Distance: 21.5 Miles
Elevation Gain: 410 Feet
22. Trail of Myths
St. Croix Falls, on the Minnesota-Wisconsin border, is home to some of Wisconsin’s prettiest hikes. These hikes include the Trail of Myths, a popular starting point for the Ice Age National Scenic Trail.
As you wander, look for the American red squirrel, porcupines, red foxes and white-tailed deer. Birders will want to keep an eye out for bald eagles, hooded warblers and ruffled grouse.
Distance: 2.2 Miles
Elevation Gain: 278 Feet
23. Scuppernog Trail
The Scuppernog Trail is 40 minutes west of Milwaukee and 1 hours and 15 minutes east of Madison. The trails are on County Highway ZZ just east of Highway 67, north of the Village of Eagle.
Tackle this section of the Ice Age Trail is you want a short-ish, hilly climb through hardwood forest and pine plantations.
Located in Kettle Moraine State Forest, the trail is particularly lovely in the winter months, when snowshoers enjoy its winter wonderland setting. Look closely and you might see a few small pine trees decorated with Christmas ornaments around the holidays.
Hike the entire loop or shorten or lengthen the trek by using the trails that crisscross the loop. There are three color-coded loop trails, making it easy to vary your hike from 2 to 5 miles.
The Red Loop is 2.3 miles long, a short and narrow trail with short sections of steep terrain. If you like, add on the observation loop at Trail Marker S8, which has nice views of the surrounding Kettles.
The Scuppernog trail area offers convenient parking, water and a vault toilet available.
Distance: 5.3 Miles
Elevation Gain: 285 Feet
24. Seven Bridges Trail
Access the Seven Bridges Trail in Grant Park, about 10 minutes south of downtown Milwaukee. The trailhead is at the Covered Bridge Entrance, accessible off Grand Park Drive and Lake Drive.
Short, but sweet, the Seven Bridges Trail sits along the Lake Michigan shoreline in South Milwaukee. Follow unpaved trails, stone paths, bubbling ravines, small waterfalls, forested staircases and many bridges through a unique, ravine-filled ecological area.
Admire wildflowers in the springtime and brilliant fall foliage every autumn. Extend your route at any time on one of several offshoot trails. Many of the bridges and stairways were built by the WPA almost a century ago.
Distance: 1 Mile
Elevation Gain: n/a
25. Willow Farms and Nelson Farm Trail Loop
- Mount Trail, named for a glacial mound on the east side of the river (park at the Mound parking lot off County Road A or the Rattle Bridge off County Road E)
- Oak Ridge Trail (accessed by the beach parking area), which also shows geologic signs of the glaciers that formed this region
- Hidden Ponds Nature Trail, a paved, accessible, interpretive trail that extends from behind the Nature Center; look for white-tail deer and birds in the oak forest and wetlands.
- Trout Brook Trail, which starts by the beach and follows the lower Willow River through red pine and prairie; watch for blue heron, ducks, deer and snapping turtles.
Distance: 6.1 Miles
Elevation Gain: 347 Feet
Wisconsin Bonus Trails to Hike
Wisconsin overflows with hiking, so here are just a few more of our favorites:
- Kettle Moraine State Trail Lapham Peak Unit, Kettle Moraine State Forest, Delafield: 25 miles west of Milwaukee. Offers wildlife viewing and 17 miles of lighted loop trails. Don’t miss the 45-foot-high observation tower.
- Pattison State Park, Superior: More than 7 miles of trails, the state’s highest waterfalls and the fourth-highest waterfall east of the Rockies. We suggest the 2-mile trail along Interfalls Lake and the short, .5-mile Big Manitou Falls overlook trail.
- LaSalle Falls, Florence: The tallest waterfall in the area at 22 feet high. Hike the 2.2-mile trail through a scenic gorge, all the while hearing the rushing waterfall in the distance.
As always, remember to pack the 10 Essentials for hiking:
- Sun protection
- A personal first-aid kit
- Knife or multitool
- Firestarter such as matches or a lighter
- Emergency shelter
- Extra food
- Extra water
- Extra clothes.
Plus, when you’re hiking in the summer in Wisconsin, be sure to bring insect repellent.