Wisconsin is a nature lover's paradise, offering rural landscapes complete with bluffs, lakes, forests, and prairies that change with the full spectrum of seasons. So grab your boots, or snowshoes for winter hiking, and check out these five hikes we've highlighted based on recommendations from Trails.com and the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources – happy trails!
Ice Age National Scenic Trail
The longest trail in Wisconsin (and the only National Scenic Trail contained within a single state) is the 1,200-mile Ice Age National Scenic Trail, which runs through 31 counties from Potawatomi State Park in Sturgeon Bay to Interstate State Park in St. Croix Falls. This spectacular hiking trail follows the terminal moraine of the last glacier to recede across the state, and it showcases some of the world's best examples of landscapes sculpted by glacial ice.
John Muir Trail System
Five hiking trails varying in length and difficulty traverse nearly 30 miles of the Southern Unit of the Kettle Moraine State Forest. Known as the John Muir Trail System (the legendary environmentalist wasn't just a man of the West), these dirt trails are among the most popular in Wisconsin and offer views of rolling glacial hills, pine and hardwood forests, kettles, lakes, and restored prairies.
Hidden Lakes Trail
The 13-mile Hidden Lakes Trail takes hikers through the beautiful Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest as it loops around 10 scenic lakes, including Butternut Lake. Hidden Lakes Trail offers scenic views of old hemlock trees and the north branch of the Pine River, but take note that since this is a long-distance trek, you should plan on a long day hike or to camp somewhere along the way.
Elroy-Sparta State Trail
The country's first rail-to-trail path is the Elroy-Sparta State Trail, which runs for 32.5 miles through five small towns in an Amish settlement area. The Elroy-Sparta State Trail boasts three abandoned railroad tunnels that are more than 100 years old, and it passes through farmlands, prairies, wetlands, and areas once covered by glaciers.
Glacial Drumlin State Trail
The Glacial Drumlin State Trail runs for 52 miles from Cottage Grove to the Fox River Sanctuary in Waukesha over a variety of terrains, including marshes, riverlands, and glacial hills. Hikers undertake five easy stream crossings and get to see a glacial lake, an ancient Native American village at Aztalan State Park, and if they're lucky, a herd of bison.