WI Kettle Moraine South Nordic Trails
Nordic Trails - Kettle Moraine State Forest - Southern Unit
The Nordic Trail System is located in the Southern Unit of the Kettle Moraine State Forest and offers many miles of cross country ski trails for skiers (and hikers when there is no snow). The mix of prairie and hilly woodlands provides something for everyone.
- Terrain / Scenery: Mix of prairie and woodlands with a mix of gentle grades, rolling hills, and steep hills.
- Fees / Permits: A Wisconsin Park Sticker and Trail Pass are required for parking in the park and skiing or biking on the trails.
- Trail Conditions: Call the Southern Kettle Moraine Ski Hotline at (262) 594-6202. You can also try The Trail Reports page at Skinnyski.com or you can post or view trail reports on this site by clicking the Discussion tab
- Trail Markings: Color coded trails with maps at key intersections.
- Facilities: Pit toilets and Warming Shelter.
- Official Web Page: http://www.dnr.state.wi.us/org/land/parks/specific/kms/trails.html Downloadable map is available.
- Getting There: The Nordic Trailhead is located just north of the town of LaGrange, WI on County Road H (Kettle Moraine Drive). Take State Highway 12 to County Road H (Kettle Moraine Drive). Go North on H about a mile and a half to the trailhead on the East side of the road. There is a large sign designating the entrance.
- Video: Very Scenic Day Cross Country Skiing Kettle Moraine State Forest
Cross-Country Skiing: The Nordic Trails are groomed for both classic skiing and skating though its not very often that we get enough snow here for a nice classic track. Actually the groomers here are experts at grooming with very little snow. How they manage to groom a base of only an inch or so without digging up a lot of dirt and debris on the hills is a true mystery. With three easy loops ranging from 0.7 miles to 3.2 miles and four intermediate loops ranging from 2.1 miles to 9.5 miles, there are plenty of miles here for both beginners and intermediate skiers. In my opinion, this is one of the best designed cross-country trail systems in the state (or it at least use to be, recent changes to the system have be rethinking this).
The 0.7 mile Brown Trail 1.7 mile Purple Trail and 3.2 mile White Trail are the easy trails and all start by heading south from the big wooden map at the trailhead. Brown and Purple are very easy mostly flat trails that pass through wooded areas, while the longer and slightly hillier White Trail (shown Light Gray on my map) is a mix of wooded areas and prairie. And though the White trail is still an easy trail, it is not as easy as the Brown or Purple trails. Also keep in mind that there is a big difference in both the size and steepness of the hills on the intermediate trails (covered next) versus those on the easy trails. So just because you feel comfortable with the hills on the White trail, you should not assume you are ready to move up to the intermediate trails.
The 2.1 mile Red Trail, 2.7 mile Orange Trail, 3.9 mile Green Trail, and 9.5 mile Blue Trail are all intermediate trails and all start by heading Northwest from the big wooden map at the trailhead. The mileage for these trails is estimated to account for recent rerouting of some trails (that's why it differs from listed mileage on park maps). You'll immediately start hitting some rolling terrain with a couple of small hills and then one big straight downhill. After going uphill you will hit a straight flat section and then the first intersection where the Blue Trail splits off to the left. This section of the Blue Trail heads into the pines with a long gentle downhill but is mostly flat. This Blue section is optional since it circles right back to this spot (the one-way trail straight ahead). All other trails go right at this point.
Note: There were some significant changes to this trail system in 2007, and several nice hills were eliminated through reroutes of the trail. I'm leaving the old trail description in place in red text to maintain documentation of the changes, and to help those familiar with the trail understand the changes. So basically, anything in red text no longer exists. You can read my rant on the Discussion Page for more of my complaining about the recent trail reroutes.
After The Blue trail joins back with the Green, Orange, and Red trails you encounter a big double-dip hill. The first part of the hill is a moderate downhill that then flattens out just for a second before dropping off for the second short but very steep section. You can't actually see the trail on the steep section until you are right upon it (and going rather fast) so you may want to pay attention as you are approaching the first section to get an idea if anyone has gone just before you so you don't risk getting going really fast only to suddenly see a body laying across the bottom section. Also, in poor snow conditions, the second steep section sometimes has some dirt and rocks coming through.
Shortly after the hill you'll encounter another split in the trail where Blue goes straight and everything else goes to the right. This is another short optional section of Blue since it will rejoin Green and Orange latter. This Blue section is mainly flat and I recommend going right on the Orange/Green/Red trail to catch a nice winding downhill.
Note: this text is a continuation from the text prior to the red text. You will see a sign on the trail showing Orange, Red, and Green trails going to the right, and the blue trail splitting off to the left. This sign is in advance of the actual trail split, since the trail splits on a downhill so be prepared. This is part of the recent trail changes, and I have to admit it is kind of interesting. Going left on Blue brings you through a winding downhill then a long uphill. The long uphill is actually the old nice winding downhill many of you may remember, this section of trail has had the direction reversed as part of the 2007 reroutes. After the long uphill, the rest of this section of blue trail is rather flat until it meets up with green again. If you went right onto Green/Orange/Red you will quickly come to an intersection where Red splits from the others. There used to be another nice hill on the Red Trail but they rerouted around it quite a few years ago (damn them) so if you take Red back to the trailhead, the remainder is basically flat. Continuing on Green/Orange, you'll go through some rolling terrain and soon come to the next intersection where Blue rejoins Green, and Orange splits off and returns to the trailhead. Though it's been a while since I've taken this section of Orange, I don't recall that there is anything more than maybe a gradual downhill on this section.
Next you come to another intersection where Blue splits from Green one last time. The Green trail back to the trailhead is mainly flat. The next section of the Blue Trail is listed as "Most Difficult" and you will see the little jagged black symbol at the intersection. Though this is a very hilly section, over the years they have rerouted the trail eliminating the toughest hills (there used to be a really scary hill here) and I don't see that there are any hills here that are any more difficult than what you may find in other intermediate trail systems. If you enjoy hills and the snow conditions are good, you won't want to miss this section.
After the hilly section, the Blue trail connects with the White and Purple trails. Previously (before they added the Purple trail a few years back) if you wanted to ski the "most difficult" section of the Blue Trail you had no choice but to finish on the White trail with several miles of flat prairie skiing (or cheat and ski the wrong way down a section of the White Trail). But now you can take the Purple Trail back to the trailhead cutting a couple of flat miles off the length of the 9.5 mile blue loop and maybe give you a shot at going another round through the hills.
I've included a separate map with my recommendation for a "Hill Route" (Highlighted in Yellow) that hits all the best hills in the least amount of flat terrain. I once again have to mention that the "Hill Route" is not quite the hilly route it use to be before the reroutes. The route is a little less than five miles and is mainly the Green loop with the addition of the very hilly section of the Blue loop and a return to the trailhead using the Purple trail. I would also suggest trying a slight variation on what I show as the hill route. Early in the route, where the blue trail splits off on that downhill, I will alternate between going left on the Blue trail to catch that winding downhill or going right on the other trails for some rolling hills.
Hiking: There are a lot of miles here that go through a nice mix of woodlands and prairies. The White Trail will give you the most prairie miles while the Blue, Green, Orange, and Red Trails will give you a mostly wooded mix of woods and prairie with plenty hills. Hiking is not allowed on the ski trails when there is snow on the ground.
Additional hiking is available at the nearby Ice Age Trail.
Mountain Biking: Mountain biking is not allowed on the Nordic Trails. You can mountain bike across the road at the John Muir Trail system
- Related Links:
This page is authored and maintained by Dave Piasecki