The 10 Best Hikes in Wisconsin

Here the high-speed traffic on the Beltline Highway, which runs parallel to the trail, is out of sight but not out of earshot. Scuppernong Creek and a trout pond still exist, fed by McKeawn Springs to which you can follow a trail spur. The pines give way to oaks and other deciduous forest before winding down to the Grady Oak Savanna, some open prairie, and wetter areas. One of the more fascinating stops for walkers is the acre Milwaukee Soldiers Home , a national historic landmark, just west of Miller Park and north of the Clement J. Reply comment Cancel reply.

2. Gibraltar Rock State Natural Area

1. Devil’s Lake

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However, most folks start their hikes to the clifftops from the north or south shore of the lake itself. John and Ellen Morgan, in the second edition of their book 50 Hikes in Wisconsin , smartly advise starting at an adjunct trailhead parking area on County Highway DL, on the edge of the park, which also serves area mountain bike and cross-country ski trails.

The trails can be packed, too. On Memorial Day Weekend, for instance, lines of tourists backup as they wait to take turns climbing and descending the steep and narrow rock steps.

Some can be heard expressing regret for taking on the sometimes frightening and vertigo inducing scramble through the talus field with little to hold on to for balance.

The route back down can be even more taxing. The knees take the brunt of the impact from dropping from one high step to another hundreds of times. The Morgans recommend an excellent 7. Serious rock climbers tend to migrate to the West Bluff, where there are as many as 2, established climbing routes. Hikers, with hands on their knees and eyes set on the path beneath their feet, have ample time to appreciate these trails. A mind-blowing majority of the stonework—including the chiseling, moving, and setting of each massive stone—was done by hand and without motorized equipment more than 80 years ago by young men in the Civilian Conservation Corps and in keeping with National Park Service guidelines.

They planted no shade trees as a respite for hikers. Much of the trails on the bluffs are narrow strips of asphalt that guide hikers a safe distance from the cliff edges.

A handful of segments of the Ice Age Trail can be found near Lodi, a small community 23 miles north of Madison. The local gem is a wooded climb to the cliffs of Gibraltar Rock and the expansive overlooks of the farmland and forest of the Wisconsin River Valley. The cliffs frame views that stretch to the Baraboo Hills and Lake Wisconsin to the north. Linking two parking lots, which are less than a mile apart on County Road V, is 2.

The trail through pine, red oak, and cedar curves up toward the foot sandstone cliffs. Raptors frequently swoop and glide in the thermals off the cliff face.

While no guardrails keep hikers from the edge, rock climbing is prohibited. Several hikers have fallen to their deaths here since Gibraltar Rock was designated a state natural area in That hike is enough for most folks. The following two miles is a more level mix of deciduous forest and prairie leading to Ferry Wayside Park.

From there, the Merrimac Ferry smoothly and frequently takes cars, cyclists, and hikers across the convergence of the Wisconsin River and Lake Wisconsin to and from the small community of Merrimac. A two-mile road section precedes the 3. At the northern end of the Southern Kettles is the Scuppernong Trail area. Hikers have a couple nice options here. They can either follow the 5.

For a ski trail, the outer Scuppernong loop is narrow, rocky, and sandy in spots, and is shaded by hardwood and pines for most of its course. It crosses the Ice Age Trail twice before reaching an overlook. Return on the orange loop to cut your hike to 4. The Pine Woods Campground, complete with toilets and running water, serves as a good base for exploring the ski trail or the IAT—both of which offer gently rolling hills.

On the latter, the vista from Spy Glass Hill is of a flat plain left after a glacial lake drained away. Scuppernong Creek and a trout pond still exist, fed by McKeawn Springs to which you can follow a trail spur. Established in , the park is replete with trail infrastructure built by the Civilian Conservation Corps during the Great Depression.

The NCT follows the Bad River and showcases two waterfalls before it currently dead ends in the woods. Camp at the state park to give yourself time to hike the NCT and other trails there. The trail loops back to the main parking area. There, the Driftless Area mesa known as Lone Rock, is the foot-high, two-mile-long destination for hikers.

Although flat, the two-track logging road is a 9-mile round trip through a wild area sans amenities. And from the top of Lone Rock, where rock climbing is prohibited, no trace of human habitation can be seen amidst the wooded ridges and wetlands in any direction. Quincy Bluff is unique in that it includes both oak and pine barrens. The 6,acre state property was designated a state natural area in In , the Nature Conservancy donated its remaining 1, acres of Quincy Bluff and set up a permanent endowment for management of the preserve.

A respite from urban and campus life is the University of Wisconsin-Madison Arboretum. Once farmland, much of the 1, acres was purchased during the Great Depression and continues to be the site of ecological restoration and research. A web of some 20 miles of hiking and Nordic skiing trails thread through the Arb, but three trails in particular showcase the tall grass prairie, savannas, and various forest types best.

First, the southernmost Green Prairie is explored via a packed dirt trail covered in pine needles. Here the high-speed traffic on the Beltline Highway, which runs parallel to the trail, is out of sight but not out of earshot.