Wisconsin walking guide
Note: The contents of this guide were checked for accuracy when this article was updated on Sept. 10, 2013 at 2:35 p.m. We continually update the thousands of articles on OnMilwaukee.com, but it's possible some details, specials and offers may have changed. As always, we recommend you call first if you have specific questions for the businesses mentioned in the guide.
In a beautiful state like Wisconsin, there is an almost endless array of pleasing places for a short stroll, a long walk or a hike.
With that in mind, here are a few of our favorite places and links to some others. This is by no means a complete guide to hiking or walking in southeastern Wisconsin, of course. But, it's a good place to start.
Wear comfortable shoes, bring some bug repellent and sunblock in summer, take your trash home with you and add your favorite places to this story by using the Talkback feature at the bottom.
Now get out there and enjoy Wisconsin walks.
Cherney Maribel Caves Park
County R and I-43, Manitowoc County
Covering 75 acres along the West Twin River, Cherney Maribel has a hiking trail that snakes through interesting geological formations, a serene woodland, wildflowers and irregular dolomite cliffs carved by glaciers. The main selling point here is the caves, the smallest of which are little more than wee holes. There are bigger ones; however, only qualified cavers can get permission from the county to go spelunking in them.
Harrington Beach State Park
531 Hwy. D, Belgium, (262) 285-3015
If the lovely walk around Devil's Lake is too far away for a stroll around a body of water, visit Harrington Beach, a convenient 40-minute drive north of Downtown Milwaukee in Ozaukee County. There, you can walk along the beach or on paths around some marshy ponds. There's also a path that clings to the rocks around a former limestone quarry that is now a deep, wide pool of water attracting fishermen. The abundance of water and woods makes Harrington Beach a great place to watch birds or encounter deer and small animals. If history's more your thing, also check out the path that passes the foundations of buildings remaining from the old mining town. Numerous placards detail the park's past as a quarry and a magnet for immigrant laborers.
1210 N. Palmatory, St., Horicon, (920) 387-7860
Horicon Marsh, 57 miles from Milwaukee, is a big draw for bird watchers and nature lovers, who are especially drawn to this natural wonder of Wisconsin in spring (May) and autumn (mid-October to about mid-November). They come to see the migrating birds – nearly 300 varieties have been spotted over the years – who stop off to rest their weary feathers at the largest freshwater cattail marsh in the United States.
With 32,000 acres, Horicon Marsh – which includes a national wildlife refuge and a state wildlife area – is also a great site for a nature walk or hike. The Wild Goose State Trail, which traverses Dodge and Fond du Lac Counties, also passes along the marsh.
Kettle Moraine State Forest-Northern Unit
N1765 Hwy. G, Campbellsport, (920) 626-2116, 533-8322
This 29,000-acre forest is a glacial panorama with rolling wooded hills flecked with serene lakes. There is a wide range of recreational activities, including 133 miles of trails for hiking, biking, horseback riding and more. The Zillmer Hiking & Skiing Trails range in length from easy (less than a mile) to over five miles and pass through stands of pine, prairies and wetlands. The Ice Age Visitor Center is open daily.
Kettle Moraine State Forest-Southern Unit
S91 W39091 Hwy. 59 Eagle, (262) 594-6200/6201
Southwest of Milwaukee is the southern unit of the Kettle Moraine State Forest with 21,000 acres of glacial hills and lakes. The variety of path lengths and natural scenery make it – like its northern brother – a place you'll want to keep coming back to.
Kohler-Andrae State Park
1020 Beach Park Lane, Sheboygan, (920) 451-4080
This 1,000-acre park on Lake Michigan offers a peaceful respite from the city with two miles of sandy beach. On the "dunes cordwalk" – just north and south of the nature center – hikers walk on a 2.5-mile plank and rope walkway through the dunes with lookout points and benches overlooking Lake Michigan and a rare interdunal marsh area. This is one of the most unique areas in the state and makes for a really fun walk. But, of course, be prepared to empty the sand from your shoes.
The 2.5-mile "Black River Trail" – in the northwest section of the park just off County Highway V – winds through open prairie, mixed woodlands and a red pine plantation. Be careful, this trail is open to horses and mountain bikes, too.
Lion's Den Gorge Nature Reserve
511 High Bluff Drive, Grafton, 262-238-8257
Lion's Den George Nature Reserve offers 73 acres of hiking trails, boardwalks, wetlands, forest and beachfront along the shore of Lake Michigan in northern Grafton, just a 25-minute drive from downtown Milwaukee. The preserve is one of the last stretches of undeveloped lakefront property between Mequon and Port Washington, and is adjacent to a 44-acre complex dedicated to enhancing populations of migratory birds and other wildlife
Lizard Mound Park
County A, 1 mile east of Highway 144, (262) 335-4445
The snaking trail at Lizard Mound Park – open from April through Nov. 14 – skirts around two dozen effigy mounds constructed by Native Americans between 500-1200 A.D. The mounds are shaped like panthers, lizards, birds and other animals and make for a truly fascinating hike in an area listed on the National Register of Historic Places. One of the mounds used to have a viewing window which allowed visitors to see into a burial mound, but that has been removed. The bulk of the path rolls through woods filled with basswood, oak, beech and sugar maple trees, making it a shady walk perfect for very hot days.
Ozaukee Interurban Trail
Not hiking, technically, since it's an asphalt-paved, 30-mile long trail. But the scenery is beautiful and it's ideal for walking, running, biking, in-line skating and cross-country skiiing in winter time. The trail runs north from Milwaukee country through Meqon, Cedarburg, Grafton, Port Washington, Belgium and up to the Sheboygan county line. Based on a historic interurban railway that connected Milwaukee, Ozaukee and Sheboygan counties, the trail winds through rural vistas and urban landscapes. It opened for public use in 2002.
Highway 31 and County A, Kenosha County, (262) 857-1869
This 360-acre park – the oldest in the Kenosha parks system – is named for the bubbly geological feature at its southern end – the contact springs, which are a result of rainwater gurgling up through rock. The water leaves behind a rocky-looking substance that isn't actually stone (hence the "petrifying" part of the name). Petrifying Springs is an arborphiles' paradise with the largest stand of white cedar in the county as well as the largest basswood, maple and black walnut trees in Kenosha County. The trail wiggles alongside the Pike River and offers views of the contact springs.
If you prefer to walk closer to home, Milwaukee County Parks offer many pleasing places to do so, especially in Grant Park in South Milwaukee, Whitnall Park – home of the Boerner Botanical Gardens and the Wehr Nature Center – and the lovely Frederick Law Olmsted-designed paths of Lake Park. The Cudahy Nature Preserve, just south of the airport on College Avenue (east of Howell Avenue), Riveredge Nature Center and the Schlitz Audubon Nature Center offer good opportunities to commune with flora and fauna in the metro Milwaukee area.
To read a story about the Bong Recreation Area in Racine County, click here. For an article about state parks in the region, click here. The area around Holy Hill offers some of the most lovely settings for spring, summer and autumn walks. Click here for a story on Holy Hill.
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