WI Racine Cliffside Park
Racine County, Wisconsin
With "cliffs" overlooking Lake Michigan, prairies, wooded areas, and a small rugged ravine running along a creek through the woods, this Racine county park has a little bit of everything. Main activity would be hiking.
- Terrain / Scenery: Mix of prairie, bluffs, beach, woods, and ravine running along small creek.
- Fees / Permits: None
- Trail Conditions: Mix of wide prairie trails and narrower hiking trails in woods.
- Trail Markings: Unmarked
- Facilities: There is a campground in the park.
- Official Web Page: http://pw.racineco.com/Parks/Index.aspx Campground reservations at http://pw.racineco.com/camp/index.aspx
- Getting There: Park is located north of Racine, Wisconsin just north of 6-Mile Road along the Lake Michigan shoreline. From 6-Mile Road just east of Highways 31 and 32, go north on Michna Road to park entrance on east side of road. Here is a Google Maps link to Cliffside Park
Cliffs? If you're expecting a steep rock face, you're not going to see it here. The "cliffs" at Cliffside Park are actually highly eroded 20 to 30 foot tall earthen bluffs along the shore of Lake Michigan. With the exception of the manmade cliffs at area quarries, this is the closest thing to a natural cliff we have in this area so we'll call them cliffs if we want. Also, if you are expecting to just drive up to Cliffside Park and view the cliffs, that ain't going to happen either. The cliffs are only accessible via a couple of points along the hiking trails in the park (see map below). Obviously you can view the cliffs from a boat on Lake Michigan, and there is a small city park (Chapla Park) just southeast of Cliffside Park that provides access to the beach below the cliffs.
Map Notes: I don't get up here all that often so it's likely there area some additional trails here that I've missed, but this map should give you a pretty good idea of where the main trails are.
There are no maps or trail markers in the park, but these trails are pretty easy to navigate (especially with my map). The trails shown Yellow on my map are mainly wide, very flat, mowed grass trails through the prairie area. The trails shown in Red on my map are narrower trails running through the woods. The smaller trails running along the creek and near the lake are a little rugged with some small but steep sections with roots and rocks. The best place to access the trails is from the large parking area by the baseball diamonds (I believe this is "Picnic Area #3). Head north out of the parking area through the small playground area to the main trailhead. You can also access the trails from the campground or from the smaller parking are (Picnic Area #2).
I didn't measure specific trail lengths, but my best guess is there is a total of maybe four to five miles of trails here. If were to hike the trails along the creek, hit the two overlooks along the lake, and then come back through the prairie trails, you will probably cover a little over two miles. .
The overlook at the north end of the park is a fairly large area atop the bluff that provides some pretty good views. The other overlook accessed from the narrow hiking trail in the woods is smaller but pretty cool since the trail kind of just comes up over the edge of the bluff. I didn't notice any specific warning signs or restrictions in the park about what you can and can't do on the bluffs (that doesn't mean they aren't there), but you should be aware that these bluffs are under very active erosion, so don't get to confident that the bluff edge is anything near stable.
The trails along the creek are classic narrow rugged hiking trails. They mainly run along the top of ravine and there are a few small side trails that go into the ravine (I didn't map them). There isn't a whole lot of this type of trail here, but what is here is quality stuff.
The beach at the base of the bluffs also provides a nice place to hike when the lake is fairly calm. During periods of bigger waves, you're probably not going to be able to hike the beach.
- Hiking: The rugged trails along the creek combined with the two bluff overlooks make for some pretty nice hiking here. The prairie trails are less interesting but provide diversity and some additional miles.
- Mounting Biking: I didn't see any signs prohibiting mountain bikes from the park so I assume you can ride here. The rugged trails along the creek are prime technical singletrack. Unfortunately, there's very little of it in total (probably less than a mile). The wider trails in the prairie and some of the trails in the woods are pretty flat and uninteresting for mountain biking.
- Cross-country skiing: If you live near the park, it might make for a place to do a little skiing, but the wide prairie trails are extremely straight and flat (not a lot of fun), and some of the trails in the woods are probably too narrow and rugged for most skiers. I haven't been up here in the winter, so I don't even know if the park is open (though most parks in this area do stay open in the winter).
Note: Dogs are not allowed in any Racine County Parks.
This page is authored and maintained by Dave Piasecki