Best Hikes Near Milwaukee  by Kevin Revolinski

Best Hikes Near Milwaukee Guide Book

by Kevin Revolinski (Falcon Guides)
Best Hikes Near Milwaukee  by Kevin Revolinski
The terrain is incredibly diverse—from the rising dunes along Lake Michigan to the 32,000 acres of Horicon Marsh—including patches of rolling prairie full of wildflowers, wetlands, woodlands, bogs and fens, rivers and creeks, oak savanna and pine plantation. Milwaukee has green space right down through the city’s river valleys and straight on out to Kettle Moraine State Forest. This book will show you how to get there.

© 2015 Kevin Revolinski/Falcon Guides. All Rights Reserved.

Trails from the "Best Hikes Near Milwaukee" Guide Book
Displaying trails 20 of 40.

Displaying trails 1 to 20 of 40.

This hike takes you to the dunes and swales along Lake Michigan. Spend a bit of time on the beach, if you like, but then follow the trail amid the grassy dunes heading south toward the appropriately named Dead River, which is cut off from the lake periodically by sandbars. On it's return the trail follows along the edge of this wetlands area, offering a completely different environment such a short distance from the lake and the dunes. The loop doesn’t take long, and inside the loop are other trail segments straddling the line between the two ecosystems. Expect good bird watching along the river and lakeshore, and great views of the bright blue waters.
Zion, IL - Hiking - Trail Length: 2
Set along the banks of the slow-moving Crawfish River, Aztalan is a lovely spot to enjoy a summer day, so it’s not really a surprise that people settled here over 1,000 years ago. A northern community in a much larger empire, this site is now both a state park and an active archaeological site. The trails are wide, mowed paths following the river and taking a turn along Native American earth mounds. Mowing patterns may change from time to time to accommodate projects or ecological wear and tear, but the small size of the park and the clear view of the lay of the land are such that it doesn’t matter. Interpretive signs and an audio tour tell the story—what we know of it—of a people who were long gone even before Wisconsin’s current resident native cultures.
Lake Mills , WI - Cross-Country Skiing,Hiking - Trail Length: 1.8
Explore the 197 acres of this heavily wooded county park, which encompass four different habitats: upland forest, bottomland forest, oak savanna, and wetlands. The trail network allows you to extend the hike, crisscrossing throughout. Birds and other wildlife are plentiful. Pay a visit to the Pringle Nature Center and learn to identify the many species of trees and other plants along the route.
Kenosha, WI - Hiking - Trail Length: 2.5
CamRock Park is unconventional in that it is spread out over three areas and connected by a 2.4-mile paved trail between Cambridge and Rockdale (thus the name CamRock). Area 2 has the longest of the hikes. The trail has a small prairie portion at the center of the park, but the rest is through hardwood forest and along the edge of that forest where you find wetlands and Koshkonong Creek.
Madison, WI - Hiking - Trail Length: 2.2
The Fox River flows along the edge of the park, and the first of the three loops in this hike passes right along its banks before crossing through wetlands and prairie to a higher path along prairie grass and savanna bluffs with nice views out over the park. The third loop takes a turn through the woods and brings you back across those hills again.
Spring Grove, IL - Hiking - Trail Length: 4.6
It’s difficult to imagine but this 21-mile lakeshore path along one of southeastern Wisconsin’s most beautiful and touristy lakes remains a public-access trail despite being primarily through the backyards of some rather well-to-do properties. This 7-mile segment shows off some of the best of the homes and, in most places, follows a nicely paved pathway with no shortage of flowers and gardens.
Lake Geneva, WI - Hiking - Trail Length: 7
Laid out in a series of loops, part of the trail system is also the northern portion of the West Bend Segment of the Ice Age Trail. The loop trails pass through rough and rolling glacial terrain on a clearly marked hiking trail, but a network of mountain biking trails also crisscrosses the northern loop. Both loops start near the central parking area. The southern half, off-limits to bikers, is most scenic as it follows the back of an esker and circles a wet kettle before making the turn to head back to the parking lot.
Cross Plains, WI - Hiking - Trail Length: 3.5
This 3,410-acre preserve and its visitor center are a true treasure for nature lovers: Within the park are glacial formations, varied habitats, a canoe trail, and over 8 miles of trails. In a short distance this hike passes through bog, marsh, prairie, sedge meadow, and oak savanna and across the backs of a couple of glacial kames, offering nice views and great wildlife spotting along an interpretive trail. The trail starts off crossing a prairie full of wildfl owers, but in only 0.1 mile arrives at the first trail juncture. The trail to the left is a 0.2 mile trek out to Wiedrich Barn and an alternate trailhead, but you go right on Deerpath Trail, entering oak savanna. The trail shows some cedar chips but is mostly packed dirt and grass.
Ringwood, IL - Cross-Country Skiing,Hiking,Walking - Trail Length:
An often overlooked state park not far from the city, Harrington Beach offers the beauty of a one-mile, undeveloped sandy beach on the shores of Lake Michigan, a quarry lake, a cedar lowland forest, and historical landmarks from an old mining community. Harrington Beach is just a short drive north of Milwaukee and offers a mile of sandy beach along Lake Michigan. It’s especially popular during the hottest times of summer when cool lake breezes bring relief. The park’s campground offers 69 sites, 31 of them with electrical hookups, as well as 5 hike-in sites and an accessible cabin. The hiking trail is mostly shaded and makes a loop of the park and Quarry Lake.
Belgium, WI - Hiking - Trail Length: 3
This hike gives several perspectives on the marsh, starting with a boardwalk along cattails and near open water, crossing an island popular for nesting birds, and climbing a hill with a view out over the entire marsh. While there are some forested segments here, much of the hike is level with the water on crushed-rock paths circling impoundments where waterfowl gather. Any hike should start with a visit to the Horicon Marsh Education and Visitor Center. Two floors of exhibits explain the origins of the marsh, its importance, and its residents (and migrants). The center overlooks the marsh and has a gift shop and an abundance of free information, such as birding checklists and park maps. You can get to the trails right out the back door.
Horicon, WI - Hiking - Trail Length: 4.7
One of Wisconsin’s “Seven Natural Wonders” and an internationally recognized Ramsar site (Wetlands of International Importance), Horicon Marsh is 32,000 acres of protected wetlands, attracting hundreds of thousands of birds each year during migration. This hike follows two loops amid grasses and woods before ending along a boardwalk at the edge of the massive marsh. This hike spends less time along the edge of the waters than does the trek through the state-managed section in this book. But both are quite extraordinary, especially for bird watchers.
Mayville, WI - Birding,Hiking - Trail Length: 4.3
Bald Bluff may seem a misnomer, as much of this hike is through rich forest. The nature trail and area (registered as a state natural area) are under the jurisdiction of the Southern Unit of the Kettle Moraine State Forest, which offers a narrative guidebook you can borrow at the trailhead, but this trail is also part of the Blue Spring Lake Segment of the Ice Age National Scenic Trail. The terrain is rugged, and loose rock and sand can make the steep portions a bit challenging. But a scenic overlook at the top of the bluff and a quirky granite erratic known as the Stone Elephant add to the attraction. The proper name on the sign is Kettle Moraine Oak Opening Bald Bluff Unit State Natural Area, but anyone you ask is going to say Bald Bluff. This nicely forested section of the state forest offers a pleasant thru-hike on the Ice Age Trail if you prefer, but the out-and-back to an erratic is a better option to avoid needing a second vehicle. The trailhead is actually on a spur trail to the Ice Age Trail and thus is marked with blue blazes rather than the usual yellow blazes that designate the national scenic trail.
Eagle, WI - Hiking - Trail Length: 3.4
This hike is along the Polk Kames, and thanks to a white-blazed alternate segment on the other side of the kames, this segment of the Ice Age Trail can be hiked round-trip without repeating too much ground. A couple of short stretches pass through rolling farmland, but most of it is in thick forest of oak, maple, and beech and follows the glacial formations. The trail loops around on the west side of the kames, passing a central pond before returning the way it came. The trail heads south on a two-track along the edge of a field, but by 500 feet you are in the trees. Watch for a narrow, rustic footpath on the right marked with the yellow blaze of the Ice Age National Scenic Trail. Take this trail into the woods over gently rolling terrain through tall, stately hardwoods with sparse understory. A footbridge at 0.2 mile traverses a low, soggy spot at the edge of a small, marshy area on your left. The roll of the terrain starts to become a bit more strenuous, but never more than moderately so.
Cross Plains, WI - Hiking - Trail Length: 3.8
Hike a portion of the Ice Age National Scenic Trail as it passes through forest and prairie over moraines and kames. Then have a look at the Holy Hill Basilica on top of a 1,335-foot kame. From the top you can see all the way to Milwaukee. A National Shrine of Mary, Holy Hill Basilica is built atop a glacial formation called a kame, formed by debris deposited by a stream that once rushed straight down from the thick sheet of ice above. This segment of the Ice Age Trail approaches from the north, passes around the kame, and heads south. Parking at the trail’s southern end on Donegal Road is not permitted, but there is a small parking lot on Shannon Road just west of the northern trailhead.
Cross Plains, WI - Hiking - Trail Length: 5.6
This segment of the Ice Age National Scenic Trail passes through the Carl Schurz Forest over glacial moraines and then descends into wetlands and lowland forest to follow the Oconomowoc River. The hike is even more impressive when fall colors hit their peak. This trail segment connects the Loew Lake (to the north) and Merton (to the south) Segments of the Ice Age Trail. The northern portion of this segment of the Ice Age Trail is primarily up and down moraines through the forest dedicated to Wisconsin conservationist Carl Schurz. The southern portion follows along the marshy edge of the Oconomowoc River, which drains marshland here in the Kettle Moraine area. If you see yellow blazes on the trees, you are on the official Ice Age Trail. Blue blazes indicate spur trails, while unmarked trails lead elsewhere. Remember that the trail passes over private land. Respect the privilege of its use by staying on the path and leaving nothing behind but footprints. You can hike this route one-way with a pickup at the other end, or do it as an out-and-back. The trail is mostly shaded and uneven with rocks and tree roots. Mosquitoes can be an issue closer to the river. Footbridge planks can be slippery like ice when wet.
Cross Plains, WI - Hiking - Trail Length: 3.2
While the hike ends at Whitewater Lake, the dominating features are the abundant kettles along the way. Hike it in either direction, one-way or round-trip; fans speak highly of it in any season, even winter. Old oak forest, pine plantation, overlooks, and a footpath along the backs of glacial hills—this is classic Ice Age Trail terrain. At the lake end is a recreation area for camping and more hiking. The trailhead is marked clearly with an Ice Age Trail mammoth emblem and begins straight through a gate. The wider path going straight and another going left are part of the Moraine Ridge Trail, a state horse and snowmobile trail. You take the rustic footpath that angles away on the right. The Ice Age Trail is marked with yellow blazes on posts and trees. Climb the ridge on broken rock and packed dirt; the path starts to turn to the southwest. In a clearing stop at a bench and enjoy the scenic overlook. What lies before you is a glacial outwash plain. Much of the tree cover is aspen here but oaks soon take over.
Cross Plains, WI - Hiking - Trail Length: 8.9
Hike over glacial terrain amid hardwood forests in this extensive trail system, part of the Kettle Moraine State Forest. Don’t miss the Butterfly Garden at the center of the loop, and the 45-foot observation tower at the center of the park. Lapham Peak is named for Wisconsin’s first great scientist and naturalist, Increase Lapham. The “peak” is a glacial formation known as a kame. Meltwaters flowed straight down a hole in the 1-mile-thick ice sheet, carrying debris and depositing it in a cone shape. The kame terrace was created by a large glacial river flowing past the kame. Within the park’s 1,000 acres is some fascinating and rugged topography—and over 17 miles of trails to explore it. Plus, the Ice Age Trail passes through the park.
Delafield, WI - Hiking - Trail Length: 2
Just as much meadow as it is forest, this trail gives a taste of what you might find at the venerable Lapham Peak Park and shows some signs of Native American culture—the unusually bent marker trees believed to indicate trails or water sources. Lapham Peak is a regular hiking mecca. Trails are color coded and can be mixed and matched. The park signage clearly shows the colors as does the trail map, which even lists step-by-step trail difficulty if you want to avoid the leg burners. The two trails included in this guide tend toward easier hikes, and the Meadow Trail is coded green. From the trailhead enter the meadow and take the trail going right. At 0.2 mile the trail goes slightly uphill out of the open meadow, passing a cutoff trail.
Delafield, WI - Hiking - Trail Length: 2
Despite the name of the trail, much of this trek is spent on the back and slopes of Parnell Esker in the forest south of the lake. For 1.3 miles of its length, the park’s trail actually joins the Ice Age Trail, both heading out and on the final return, while passing a water-filled kettle and ending with a nice view of the namesake lake from the top of a moraine. What spans this park and the hike itself might appear to be a moraine, but the long, narrow mound of glacial till you see here heading southwest is actually an esker, part of the 4-mile Parnell Esker, to be exact.
Cambellsport, WI - Hiking - Trail Length: 3.1
This collection of skiing/hiking trails offers a wide range of courses. The outside loop offers a variety of scenery including hardwood forest, pine plantation, some rolling glacial terrain, and wetlands. Unlike some ski trails the outside loop does not have the relentless short but steep up-and-down climbs; it tends to be either level or more gradual with the climbs—except for the first 0.5 mile. As the trail turns back to the trailhead, Bear Lake and its marshes are visible. Watch for kettles and expect some moraines as the forest opens up more along the second half of the hike.
Cambellsport, WI - Hiking - Trail Length: 5.1