20 Best Hiking Trails in Wisconsin
The 20 best hiking trails in Wisconsin are tough to narrow down. There are more than 2,500 miles of official hiking trails (and those are just the official ones!) in Wisconsin. Where do you begin?
Thousands of people travel far and wide to visit The Cheese State, and with good reason. For a state with such a small population, there’s an overwhelming abundance of trails to hike, bike and ski in every corner of Wisconsin. Time it right and you could have them all to yourself. Indeed, winter in Wisconsin and fall in Wisconsin are great times of the year to visit the Dairy State.
Everybody visits for a different reason. Some people visit for the famous Ice Age Trail, while others want to check out the natural glacial landscapes. Others may choose to visit for the bluffs, the outstanding scenery, gorgeous views, and lakeside fun. Whatever you’re looking for on your Wisconsin hiking trails, you’re guaranteed to find it.
In this article, I´m going to talk you through 20 of the best hiking trails in all of Wisconsin. I’ve got trails for people in the city, and people off-the-grid. There are trails for long-distance hikers, tourists backpacking in Wisconsin, and even for locals who don’t know the treasures on their doorstep. These trails suit every type of walker on every possible terrain.
As well as talking you through the best places to hike in Wisconsin, I’ll tell you how to get there and what to expect from your trail of choice too.
Useful Travel Information for Wisconsin
Book holiday and vacation rentals in Wisconsin with Flipkey – Wisconsin
Find the best Hotel Deals in Wisconsin with TripAdvisor Hotels – Wisconsin
Best tours and activities in Wisconsin with Viator
Rent a car with the best discounts at RentalCars.com
The best discounted Outdoor Gear at REI.com – Outlet
✎ Never leave without travel insurance. I get mine at WorldNomads
⚘ Get a travel guide in order to prepare your trip. I recommend Lonely Planet Guides (get -10% off with code “PAULINA10”)
What is the best time for hiking in Wisconsin?
Depending on your attitude and equipment, there’s no bad time for hiking in Wisconsin! Many of the trails are open during the winter season, but you’ll need snowmobiles or ski equipment to navigate them.
Otherwise, there are certainly less demanding seasons for hiking in Wisconsin. I highly recommend spring, when the flowers begin to blossom and the temperatures are mild. During summertime, some trails will become crowded and in fall, mosquitoes and ticks are at their worst.
Best Hiking Trails in Northern Wisconsin
1. Devil’s Lake Loop
Length: 4.7 miles
I’ll start with one of Northern Wisconsin’s most famous hiking areas: the Devil’s Lake Loop. This is the first of many hikes I’ll discuss which takes in just some of the challenging Ice Age Trail.
This loop takes you into the heart of the popular Devil’s Lake Skate Park. A straightforward circuit makes its way around the length of the shimmering 360-acre lake, and you’ll have the chance to spot some local birds while taking in some of the great views.
This walk begins on the northern shore of the lake, which is easily reached from Baraboo. The East Bluff and West Bluff sections of Devil’s Lake are more serious undertakings, but I’ll get to them later.
2. Ice Age Trail – Devil’s Lake
Length: 10.7 miles
As I’ve already mentioned, part of the infamous 1,000-mile long Ice Age Trail crosses several paths with Devil’s Lake. While this trail won’t get you anywhere close to completing the 1,000-mile stretch, it allows you to take in some of the most impressive scenery on the whole Ice Age Trail. In fact, the scenery on this walk is some of the finest in all of Wisconsin.
This trail, also accessible from tourist-friendly Baraboo, begins in the North-East area of Devil’s Lake State Park. You’ll hike along the rocky ranges on the Western and Southern sides of the lake before heading back into the forest.
Expect some amazing rock formations around the lake itself, beautiful Baraboo range forest and plenty of wildlife. It’s one of the best hiking trails in Wisconsin.
Notably, this hike also includes some incline for walkers looking for that uphill challenge.
3. North Country National Scenic Trail – Copper Falls
Length: 1.7 miles
Now, you’re really heading North, all the way up to Copper Falls State Park. This is where you’ll find some of the wildest and most remote parts of Wisconsin’s share of the North Country National Scenic Trail. The opportunity to hike some of the North Country Trail (NCT) is one of the biggest appeals of visiting the area.
The Doughboy’s Trail is a simple 1.7-mile walk that allows you to see two of the area’s highlights: Copper Falls and Brownstone Falls. Follow the NCT along Bad River before turning off near Brownstone Falls to finish the loop. For such a short walk, you’ve hiked an impressive stretch of the NCT and seen two awesome waterfalls too!
This loop can easily be extended to include many more trails in the area, such as the CCC 692 with plenty of camping options too. Ashland is the closest community, roughly a half-hour drive north of Copper Falls.
4. Bayview Trail – Madeline Island
Length: 3.4 miles
For the hikers willing to head offshore, Madeleine Island has some lovely walking and makes for a great day out from Bayfield. You can get the ferry across to La Pointe in the morning, walk all of the trails the island offers and still make it back to the mainland on the last ferry!
Once you’re on the island, you’ll be heading towards the Big Bay State Park. The Bayview Trail is a simple out-and-back trail that walks along the shore the whole way. This trail suits walkers of every ability and the relaxed day out offers stunning views with some bird-watching too. This trail is also a great option for those who consider backpacking Wisconsin.
This can easily be combined with the Bay View and Woods Trail Loop for walkers looking for an extra challenge. It’s an extra 2.9 miles which take in even more of Madeleine Island’s coast. It’s definitely a great Wisconsin vacation idea.
5. Timm’s Hill Trail
Length: 10 miles
Timm’s Hill Trail, which crosses the North-East border of Taylor County and the South-East border of Price County, takes you to Wisconsin’s highest natural point, Timm Hill itself (1,951 feet above sea level).
This hike is unique in that it links the highest natural point in Wisconsin with the spectacular Ice Age Trail. Much of the Ice Age Trail follows a landscape left behind by ancient glaciers in Wisconsin. The non-motorized trail is constructed on entirely private land, and the hill itself is the showpiece of the 220-acre park by the same name.
Tiny Ogema, in the center of Wisconsin, is the closest settlement to Timm’s Hill Country Park. Expect to see glacial lakes, the “Highway to Heaven”, thick stands of sugar maple and plenty of interesting rock formations. The trail is also accessible in winter.
6. Ice-Age Trail – Eau Claire Dells Segment
Length: 6 miles
So, I’ve already spoken about the 1,000-mile Ice Age Trail. This is just another section of the colossal trek worth mentioning. But I mention it for a reason: the 3-mile stretch which follows the Eau Claire River is one of the prettiest on the whole trail.
The Dells of Eau Claire is a country park found not too far from Timm’s Hill Country Park. Many people come to visit this short stretch of the Ice Age Trail because of the beautiful hiking near Wisconsin Dells. Small, trickling waterfalls and rocky riverbeds make for great photo opportunities and a refreshing swim on a hot summer day.
Spending some time hiking at the famous Wisconsin Dells breaks up the walk and makes for a fitting reward. Easily accessible (just 20 minutes) from Wausau.
7. Bearskin State Trail – Minocqua
Length: 21.5 miles
The Bearskin State Trail begins in the popular lakeside resort of Minocqua. The trail follows Bearskin Creek the whole way and winds through heavily forested areas. As well as getting to see some of Northern Wisconsin’s woods, you’ll see countless glacial lakes along the way too.
The easy-to-navigate path, which is a former railroad corridor, is flat and compact with level stretches that suit every type of walker. Day trippers, campers, and vacation-goers can all enjoy the area.
For those that don’t want to walk the full length of the trail, there are plenty of attractions and campsites. There are also restaurants, restrooms and picnic areas for visitors.
8. Brady Bluff – Perrot State Park
Length: 5/7 miles
Perrot State Park, right on the Michigan border, shows hikers some pretty breathtaking views. Just upriver from Trempealeau, you’ll find a beautiful park filled with color, wildflower, and rugged trails.
Once you see the view from Brady’s Bluff, don’t expect to shrug it off. This are some of the best hiking trails and one of the best viewing platforms in Wisconsin. It will live long in the memory.
You’ve got two options. The Brady’s Bluff Trail East is slightly longer than 7 miles. It’s steep and narrow, but you’ll be able to count more than 100 types of native Wisconsin plants. The slightly-shorter Trail West is 5 miles and skirts the Mississippi River and follows some impressive rock walls.
9. Eagle Trail – Peninsula State Park
Length: 2.5 miles
There are quite literally hundreds of hikes to choose from in Door County. There are plenty within Peninsula State Park alone, but none of them offer what Eagle Trail does.
Fish Creek will be your base. On this short hike, you’ll begin at the bluff before descending a whopping 200 ft. From there, you’ll follow the mesmerizing Niagara Escarpment all the way back to the trailhead.
You’ll see all sorts of land, bluff and water views as you walk. And, if you’re lucky, you may even spot a nesting bald eagle! The trail also passes through thick cedar forest but do take care; the path is uneven and far from easy-going!
Best Hiking Trails in Central Wisconsin
10. Willow Falls in Willow River State Park
Length: 3 miles
I’ve finished my section on the best hiking trails in Northern Wisconsin, but there are still so many to explore! First up is the gorgeous Willow Falls Trail.
This trail is much more Central, and Willow River State Park is just 10 miles north-east of Hudson. This easy-to-follow loop shows off the best views of Willow River and Little Falls Lake. Oh, and let’s not forget the dazzling, cascading waterfalls at the end!
Willow Falls are 100 ft wide, multi-layered and up to 45 ft high. Spending some time taking in the views and splashing in the water is well worth the hike alone. That being said, if you’re walking in spring, you’ll be blown away by the colors of the local fauna on the way there and back.
11. Lion’s Den Trail – Lion’s Den Gorge
Length: 1.8 miles
This trail’s all about the stunning views of Lake Michigan and again, it’s not a long walk. In less than 2 miles, you’ll catch some amazing panoramas of the Lake, check out 100-foot bluffs and interact with the local wildlife (that includes the colorful butterflies!).
One of the biggest appeals of Lion’s Den Gorge Nature Reserve is that it’s just a half-hour drive north of Milwaukee. This makes it one of the best day trips from Milwaukee. Unlike much of the coast, this section is undeveloped and natural. However, that doesn’t mean it’s tough-going: the path features wooden segments and a solid path throughout.
Begin in Grafton to make the most of the sand dunes, bluffs, lake views and trails.
12. Ice Age Trail – Kettle Moraine State Forest
Length: 33-45 miles (optional)
The Ice Age Trail really is huge, isn’t it? I discussed parts of it all the way up on the Northern Wisconsin shore. Now , I´m talking about sections much closer to Milwaukee.
A stunning 30-mile stretch of this famous trail cuts all the way through Kettle Moraine State Forest, taking you along the spectacular, towering moraine (glacial ridge). If that (and the 3.300 ft ascent!) sounds like a lot though, you can actually break that down into many smaller, more manageable sections and enjoy them in isolation.
Take your time with the trail, and you’ll be able to explore every aspect of the fascinating glacial landscape left behind. Expect kettles (water-filled depressions), lakes, a colossal moraine, and of course, bluff viewpoints. And all of it just 37 miles from Milwaukee.
13. Grass and Forest Loop Trail – Nashotah Park
Length: 5.6 miles
Nashotah Park, again close to Milwaukee, covers a huge 444 acres. This area of natural beauty was also created by the last glacial retreat. Between the woodlands, wetlands, forests, and hills, you’ll find two cute and captivating lakes: Grass Lake and Forest Lake.
And as it so happens, this easy trail takes you on a loop around both of them! A combination of the purple, yellow, green/blue and pink loops makes for a great day out. It’s impossible to get lost and you’ll find plenty of natural wonder along the way.
This trail suits every type of walker and with so many different natural formations to take in, it’s a rewarding day out.
14. Quincy Bluff and Wetlands State Natural Area – Wisconsin Dells
Length: 3 miles
You’ll find the Quincy Bluff and Wetlands State Natural Area around 20 miles north of the famous Wisconsin Dells. There’s a good range of hiking trails in the area and many of them focus on obvious highlight that is Lone Rock.
Instead of circling the 200 ft rock formation, this trail takes you into some of the most remote parts of the area. It’s a gentler alternative to the Lone Rock trail and a wonderful opportunity to explore wild, desolate terrain. Wisconsin Dells’ hiking trails will make you fall in love with the unique nature.
Unlike the other hikes I’ve mentioned, you won’t find campsites, restrooms or restaurants here. Instead, you’re much more likely to come across rare wildlife like wolves, while making your way between atmospheric oak and white pine forests.
15. Quarry Trail, Hixon Forest, La Crosse
Length: 1.9 miles
Hixon Forest is next on the list, and it’s a paradise for those looking for bike trails in Wisconsin. But that’s not to say that there aren’t great hiking trails too! You’ll find the majority of the hiking in Lower Hixon, while Upper Hixon hosts the majority of the mountain biking.
The Forest is just a few kilometers from the popular La Crosse area. The beginning of the trail takes you very gently uphill and you’ll be walking along the ridge before you know it. The incredible views of the Mississippi River may catch you by surprise.
If you’re up for a challenge, you can also extend this trail to include some impressive bluff viewpoints where you’ll find plenty of pretty Wisconsin fauna too.
Best Hiking Trails in Southern Wisconsin
16. Hank Aaron State Trail – Milwaukee
Length: 14 miles
The Hank Aaron State Trail is a little different from the rest of the trails we’ve discussed, mostly because it’s an urban trail. For instance, the trail is entirely paved, so you won’t need to worry about muddy, flooded terrain like you would on other trails. It’s also a popular spot for bike rides in Wisconsin.
This 14-mile city trail takes you from the border of Milwaukee and Waukesha counties all the way to the shores of Lake Michigan. But just because it’s an urban trail, it doesn’t mean that it’s starved of nature. This makes it a great day trip from Milwaukee.
Rivers, forests and prairies all make up parts of the trail. This trail gives you the best of both worlds by combining calming nature with stops at parks, museums, and even the Milwaukee County Zoo.
17. Wisconsin Arboretum – Madison
Length: 17 miles (total)
There are more than 17 miles of hiking trails at the incredible University of Wisconsin – Madison Arboretum. The Arboretum offers hikers a platform to explore a range of terrains, and their trails take walkers through restored wetlands, prairies, woodland, and even savannas.
The Arboretum has been designed and constructed to help protect the local wildlife and natural landscape. Great care was taken to design footpaths, fire lanes, and boardwalks which don’t interrupt the local ecosystem.
Unwind and enjoy some easy-going hikes through the intriguing terrains. This expertly constructed outdoor area guarantees that you won’t be disappointed with what you find.
18. Green Tree Loop at the Schlitz Audubon Nature Center – Milwaukee
Length: 0.26 miles
Difficulty: Very Easy
At the Schlitz Audubon Nature Center, just a little north of Milwaukee on the shores of Lake Michigan, you’ll find a smart collection of hiking trails, biking trails and more.
Situated within 185 acres of protected natural land, you’ll also find an incredible local bird population. Birding hikes are popular, as are the equally tempting Solitude Hikes and Lake Michigan Hikes. Each of these trails promises unparalleled views and the chance to interact with nature.
The Green Tree Accessible Trail is fully wheelchair accessible and eventually leads to the gorgeous Mystery Lake boardwalk.
19. Seven Bridges Trail – Milwaukee
Length: 0.5 miles
Difficulty: Very Easy
The Seven Bridges Trail is perhaps the best hike in Wisconsin for Milwaukee residents. This mesmerizing walk begins and ends in Grant Park, the county’s second-largest park. Its fall foliage is gorgeous and this makes it one of the best fall activities in Wisconsin.
Here, you’ll discover the perfect way to unwind with nothing but the sound of nature, the smell of woodland and beautiful trail views. As you enter the Seven Bridges Trail, you’ll see the famous sign: “Enter this wild wood and view the haunts of nature.”
It’s a peaceful and relaxing walk which includes, as you guessed, seven bridges, all leading walkers to a delightful Lake Michigan beach. Surely a contender for one of the best state parks, and best metro trails, in all of Wisconsin.
20. Holy Wisdom Nature Trail – Madison
Length: 2 miles (North Prairie Trail)
Difficulty: Very Easy
The Holy Wisdom Monastery, you might be surprised to learn, offers some fantastic hiking in the Madison area. The monastery and its grounds are open to the public so that everybody can enjoy the nature trails they offer.
As well as taking in huge sections of Lake Mendota, you’ll enjoy seeing the city of Madison from a different perspective. While you look over the lake towards the urban center, don’t be surprised to see a pheasant, fox or even a deer nestling nearby. It’s one of the best Wisconsin trails.
Four straightforward trails will help you make the most of your time in the area.
Before You Go: Top Tips for your Trip
- You’ll snap tons of photos and I love to take my GoPro in order to shoot even in extreme situations.
- Make sure to wear comfortable walking shoes and hiking sandals when traveling to warm countries.
- Sunscreen is key! I always take with me my eco-friendly sunscreen by Thinksport. Buy here your eco-friendly sunscreen + free shipping.
- I always carry a light rain jacket, just in case.
- Travel insurance is essential! If you haven’t already obtained travel insurance for your trip, travel protected against all odds with World Nomads.
To make the most of your trip, I recommend Lonely Planet Eastern USA (get -10% off with code “PAULINA10”)