10 Best Hiking Trails in Wisconsin

10 Best Hiking Trails in Wisconsin

Posted by Paul Miller on Feb 24th 2018

If you’re from either coast and don’t know much about the Midwest, you might assume that there aren’t too many great hiking spots between the Rockies and Appalachians. However, Wisconsin is there to prove you wrong. Rolling hills, rocky bluffs, and deep lakes left over from the last ice age make the Badger State a great place for your next outdoor adventure. This list will focus on some of the most popular and picturesque hikes in Wisconsin and will be sure to have something for every level of hiker.

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1) Devil’s Lake East and West Bluff Trails – Devil’s Lake State Park

Devil’s Lake is one of the most popular destinations for hikers and rock climbers in all of Wisconsin. There are almost 30 miles of trails in and around the state park, but the two most popular, and difficult, are the bluff trails. The East Bluff Trail is a moderate hike that brings you to the top of a 500-foot tall bluff overlooking the lake. Along the 4.5-mile trail, expect to get a workout climbing up to the bluffs and over glacially-deposited boulders. The East Bluff Trail takes you past Devil’s Doorway and Balanced Rock, two of the most famous rock formations in the park.

Your other option for great views over the lake is to take the West Bluff Trail. This trail is a 3-mile loop, but don’t let the short distance fool you. The path takes you alongside sheer cliffs on your way up the bluffs and is quite steep. If you are a fan of rock climbing, the West Bluff has some of the best climbing in the state and thousands of different routes to take. For a full day of hiking, walk around the entire lake and do both the East and West Bluff Trail to experience all the highlights of the area.

2) Timm’s Hill Trail – Ogema

Right in the middle of Wisconsin is the state’s high point, Timm’s Hill. Even though it is only 1,951 feet high, getting to the top is a great hike. Diverse terrain, including meadows, marshes, and thick forests, keeps the 5-mile, out and back trail interesting. Once you reach the top, climb the observation tower and marvel at the endless see of forest, dotted with dark blue lakes, in every direction. Also, keep your eyes peeled for one of the many bald eagles that nest in the area.

3) Scuppernong Trail – Kettle Moraine State Forest

Kettle Moraine State Forest is conveniently located less than an hour outside of both Madison and Milwaukee and a popular destination to get some fresh air and a dose of wilderness. The Scuppernong Trail is located in the southern unit of the forest and is a series of loop trails, making it a great option for hikers looking for either a long or short hike, with most of the trails being around 5 miles. The loops meander through forests and marshes and up and down rolling hills. There are some nice overlooks along the way to soak up some great views of the area. During the winter, this is a great place to do some snowshoeing and cross-country skiing.

4) Hidden Lakes Trail - Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest

For a long day hike or as an overnight trip, the 13-mile Hidden Lakes Trail loop is a great option. Pass by no less than 10 secluded lakes on the hike, most of which can only be accessed on foot. There are a few campsites along the way but feel free to set up on the shore of any of the pristine lakes you pass. While this trail doesn’t have any waterfalls or craggy bluffs, the serene forests and blue lakes make the hike more than worthwhile. And, as an added bonus, your dog is welcome to join you as long as they stay on leash.

5) Meyers Beach Sea Caves Trail – Apostle Islands National Lakeshore

For something a little more off-the-beaten-track, head to the shores of Lake Superior and spend an easy afternoon on the Sea Caves Trail. The out and back trail is a little over 2 miles, each direction, and is mostly through dense forests and up and down narrow ravines. There are a few creek crossings, so you might get your boots wet after recent rain. The real treat lies at the end of the trail when you peer down into a series of caves along the lakeshore. During the winter, if the ice on Lake Superior is strong enough, you can even walk out to the caves and explore them on foot.

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These caves were formed in the sandstone cliffs along the lake through millennia of wave action and freezing and thawing cycles. These unique features are a popular spot for kayakers as well. During the summer. Jump into a kayak on Meyers Beach and paddle a mile or so to the caves and experience them from a different perspective.

6) Eagle Bluff Trail – Peninsula State Park

Despite the Eagle Bluff Trail only being a 2-mile loop, it is pretty difficult. The rocky, root-filled trail begins with a steep downhill trot along the face of the bluff to the shores of Green Bay, where white cliffs some 150-feet tall tower overhead. On the shoreline, explore the shallow caves that have been carved from the waves and ice. Hike back up the bluffs and through a forest before arriving a great viewpoint overlooking Lake Michigan and Horseshoe Island.

7) Hank Aaron State Trail – Milwaukee

If trekking in the woods, up and down rocky bluffs, isn’t your idea of a fun hike, then the Hank Aaron State Trail is perfect for you. This 12-mile trail goes through the heart of Milwaukee and passes by dozens of cultural and historical points of interest. Starting on the shores of Lake Michigan and heading west, pass by the Milwaukee Art Museum, Harley-Davidson Museum and Miller Field, where the Brewers play. For a bit of history, stop by the Milwaukee Soldiers Home, a hospital and home set up by Abraham Lincoln in 1865 for returning Civil War soldiers. So, even if you are more of a city-dweller than an outdoorsman, find the time to take a hike in even the most urban of areas.

8) Willow Falls Trail – Willow River State Park

Out west, right next to the border of Minnesota, Willow River State Park is a popular destination for many different kinds of recreation, including hiking. While there are a few miles of trails in the park, one that shouldn’t be missed is the Willow Falls Trail. This 3-mile loop brings you along impressive bluffs, next to Little Falls Lake, and beside the awesome Willow Falls as its cascades through a 200-foot deep gorge. Besides hiking, there is rock climbing on the bluffs and swimming in the lake and river during the summer.

9) Copper Falls Trail – Copper Falls State Park

For another waterfall hike with more seclusion than Willow Falls, head to Copper Falls State Park. The Copper Falls Trail passes over three bridges with great views of two separate waterfalls, Copper Falls and Brownstone Falls. The trail first takes you to Copper Falls and then through a narrow gorge created by the powerful Bad River. Continue on the trail to Brownstone Falls, a 30-foot torrent that pours over rocky ledges.

Since the loop is only 2 miles, this is a great hike for the whole family. For a longer day or weekend in the state park, there are campsites available and do a piece of the North Country National Scenic Trail, a massively long trail that runs from New York to North Dakota, which has about 10 miles inside Copper Falls State Park.

10) Ice Age Trail

For a serious adventure through all of Wisconsin, the Ice Age Trail is a mammoth of an undertaking. At more than 1,000 miles long, the trail traverses 31 different counties and follows the southern edge of the glaciers from the last ice age. This hike is for geology buffs as well as distance hikers, as most of the trail has great examples of the unique landscapes left behind by the receding glaciers. Kettle lakes, rock potholes, and erratic boulders are just a few of the landforms you will encounter along the trail.

The trail begins in the northeast of Wisconsin and works its way south to the border of Illinois and then back up through the center of the state, before finally finishing at Interstate State Park, on the border of Minnesota. The current record for finishing the entire thing is just 22 days, but even the most experienced hikers take about 2 months to finish it. As with all long-distance trails, if you don’t want to do the whole thing, day hikes along the most beautiful parts in any of the state parks mentioned on this list are always possible.

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