WI Kettle Moraine State Forest Ice Age Trail
Ice Age Trail - Kettle Moraine State Forest
The Ice Age Trail is a scenic thru-hiking trail that follows the end moraine (piles of rock and gravel) from the last glaciers that covered the state of Wisconsin. This page is focused on the section of the Ice Age Trail that runs through the Kettle Moraine State Forest located in Southeast Wisconsin. For more general information on the Ice Age Trail go to the Ice Age Trail main page .
- Terrain / Scenery: Rugged narrow trail in a mix of forest and prairie areas with a mix of gentle grades, rolling hills, and steep hills.
- Fees / Permits: None for hiking, I'm not sure about camping. Parking in lots requires Wisconsin Park Sticker
- Trail Conditions: Southern Kettle Moraine Hotline: (262) 594-6202.
- Trail Markings: Yellow Blaze markers on trees and posts.
- Facilities: Depends on trailhead
- Official Web Page(s):
- Getting There: See map information on this page.
Ice Age Trail Maps
- Large Folding Map If hiking the Ice Age Trail (or any other trail) in the Kettle Moraine State Forest I suggest you start by purchasing a copy of the forest map published by Milwaukee Map Service. This large folding map (a topographic map) shows all roads and trails (the Ice Age Trails and many others) as well as various points of interest within the state forest. The Map is available online at Mapservice, REI , or Trail Resources.com.
- DNR Mapview: In addition, you can create your own detailed topographic maps of specific sections of the ice age trail by using the interactive Wisconsin DNR Mapview program. It's not real easy to use, but you can produce good topo maps with it. See the main Ice Age Trail page for a link to the Mapview site along with some instructions on using the program to produce a topographic map of sections of the Ice Age Trail.
- Maps of intersecting trails You can also check out some of my maps of other trails in the Kettle Moraine State Forest that intersect or run near the Ice Age Trail. These would include the Greenbush Trails, Lapham Peak Unit Trails, Scuppernong Trails , and John Muir and Emma Carlin Trail System (The John Muir/Emma Carlin Maps include a detailed map of a portion of the Ice Age Trail). The trailheads for Greenbush, Lapham Peak, Scuppernong, and Emma Carlin all provide parking and access to the Ice Age Trail. Here is a link to Google Maps of Trailheads in Kettle Moraine State Forest Southern Unit page I created. Note: not all trailheads on this Google Maps page provide access to the Ice Age Trail.
- Overview Maps: But wait, there's more. I created an overview map (shown below) of the section of the Ice Age Trail that runs through the Southern Unit of the Kettle Moraine State Forest. This is just a rough map to show the various access points and the general location of the trail along with a few points of interest. I have not hiked this entire section nor have I actually checked out each access point, so I'm not guaranteeing the accuracy of the map. You can also download overview maps from the DNR site.
As I've already mentioned, I have only hiked portions of the Ice Age Trail in the Kettle Moraine State forest, so I can't provide detailed descriptions of the entire trail, but since I've hiked or at least crossed quite a few sections of the trail in various parts of the Northern and Southern Units of the forest (as well as Lapham Peak), I think my comments are a fair representation of the trail.
The trail is well marked with Yellow Blazes on trees (and occasionally posts in prairie areas) and is pretty easy to follow once you get on it. The trickier part is actually finding the trail from some of the access points that are shared trailheads. For example, the Emma Carlin Trail trailhead parking area also provides access to the Ice Age Trail, but there is no sign or map there showing you which trail leads to the Ice Age Trail (in the case of Emma Carlin, it is the small trail heading off the northwest corner of the parking area). I have encountered similar situations at some of the other trailheads as well. If you are accessing the trail from the Greenbush Trails, Lapham Peak Unit Trails, Scuppernong Trails, or Emma Carlin Trail, check those pages for more detailed maps of the trailhead and intersections.
The Ice Age Trail is a narrow natural surfaced hiking trail and can be rather rugged with steep hills and plenty of protruding rocks and roots. This is strictly a hikers trail (bikes and horses are not allowed on the Ice Age Trail in the Kettle Moraine State Forest) though the trail does occasionally intersect with the mountain bike, horse, and ski trails in the forest. As a thru-hiking trail, it is designed for point-to-point hiking (requiring some sort of shuttle arrangement) or out-and-back hiking, however, you can use some of the ski trail systems (not during ski season) that intersect with the hiking trail to create some hiking loops.
In the winter, you can snowshoe or hike the trail (many sections are usually packed enough from other snowshoes or hikers to allow for some fairly easy hiking). Because there are some steep hills along the trail, it's a good idea to bring a hiking pole or ski pole along for winter hikes. Do Not hike or snowshoe on the groomed ski trails that intersect with the Ice Age Trail when there is snow on the ground.
Points of Interest
I think I'm pretty safe in saying that you will find nice scenery and an enjoyable hike on any section of the Ice Age Trail within the Kettle Moraine State Forest. There are some special points of interest that you may want to check out though. I only have a few listed because I spend most of my time out here mountain biking or skiing so subsequently am not as familiar with the hiking trails. I show the locations of Bald Bluff, The Stone Elephant, Oleson Cabin, and the Pioneer Lime Kiln in more detail on my maps on the John Muir and Emma Carlin Trail System
- Bald Bluff Located on Kettle Moraine Drive just north of Young Road in the Southern Unit is a small parking area for the "Kettle Moraine Oak Opening Bald Bluff Unit State Natural Area" (well that's what the sign says) that also provides access to the Ice Age Trail. Google Maps Link to Bald Bluff Trailhead Bald Bluff is actually more of an open hilltop that provides some nice views of the farmland east of the state forest. The hike from the parking area is only about quarter to third of a mile but it is all uphill.
- The Stone Elephant Conveniently located a little over a mile north of Bald Bluff (see above), the Stone Elephant is an [Erratic] (a large rock left from the glacier) that has a resemblance to an elephant. As erratics go, this isn't a particularly large one and when I first saw it I was hard pressed to see an elephant. Fortunately, I took some photos and when I got home and checked them out on the computer, vualah an elephant. Now I could include a photo here pointing out the elephant, but that takes all the fun out of it. There is a sign on the Ice Age Trail pointing to the Stone Elephant. Strangely there is a short log fence across the trail heading to the elephant, which generally means they don't want you to use the trail. However, since there is an obvious trail and there is an interpretive sign right next to the elephant I have to assume it is OK to hike down to the elephant (it's only 30 feet or so from the main trail).
- Oleson Log Cabin About 2 miles south of Bald Bluff you'll see a sign pointing the way (west)to the Oleson Log Cabin. This is one of several restored log cabins located in the state forest. You can also access the cabin from the road (Duffin Road) and may be able to use this as an entrance point to the Ice Age Trail. There is no parking lot here, but there is a mowed grassy area along the road that looks like it is set up as an area for parking. To access the Ice Age Trail from Oleson Cabin, you'll see a trail with a sign pointing to the Pioneer Lime Kiln. Follow this trail about a quarter mile to intersect with the Ice Age Trail (Note: you will first cross the horse trail, just keep going until you see the Ice Age Trail.)
- Pioneer Lime Kiln Right by the Oleson Log Cabin, about 2 miles south of Bald Bluff you'll see a sign pointing the way (east) to the Pioneer Lime Kiln. The Kiln is good half mile off of the main trail (1 mile round trip)and is located in the middle of the John Muir Mountain Biking Trail System. You'll see several more signs pointing the way as you intersect with and then leave the mountain bike trails. I first checked out the Pioneer Lime Kiln many years ago when I was mountain biking and all I remembered seeing was a pile of rocks. Recently I hiked in from the Ice Age Trail and . . .well . . . still looked like a pile of rocks to me, but now there was also an interpretive sign there. To be fair, it's not just a pile of rocks. It's more of a hole in the ground at the top of a hill that is lined with large rocks; sort of a cross between an old foundation and a large old well. To quote the first line on the interpretive sign, "A crude, circular lime kiln was constructed by digging into this ridge and lining the pit with granite boulders."
- Ice Age Trail main page Additional information and instructions on using DNR's Mapview Program for creating topographic maps of the Ice Age Trail
- More Kettle Moraine State Forest Trails
This page is authored and maintained by Dave Piasecki