WI Kettle Moraine North Greenbush Trails

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Greenbush Trails - Kettle Moraine State Forest - Northern Unit

Greenbush Trails
Greenbush Trails

The Greenbush cross country ski trail system is located in the Northern Unit of the Kettle Moraine State Forest and offers some of the best cross-country skiing in Eastern Wisconsin. Hiking and Mountain Biking are allowed on the trail system (not during ski season) and there is access to the Ice Age Hiking Trail from this system.

  • Terrain / Scenery: Very hilly, heavily wooded scenic trails.
  • Fees / Permits: A Wisconsin Park Sticker and Trail Pass are required for parking in the park and skiing or biking on the trails. In addition, donations are accepted (and recommended) for cross-country ski trail grooming (donations can be placed in a lock box just outside of the warming shelter)
  • Trail Conditions: A recorded trail conditions message is available by calling the Greenbush trail condition hotline at (920) 467-2099. You can also check The Trail Reports page at Skinnyski.com and Trail Report at Greenbush USA. In addition 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: Warming shelter, pit toilets.
  • Official Web Page:http://www.dnr.state.wi.us/org/land/parks/specific/kmn/trails.html Also see The Northern Kettle Moraine Nordic Ski Club
  • Getting There: The Greenbush Trails are located about 20 miles west of Sheboygan, WI and a couple miles south of State Highway 23 (near the town of Greenbush, WI). These roads are a little tricky, so I suggest bringing a detailed map of the area {You can download an overview map from DNR Kettle Moraine Northern Unit Website, click on the link that says Ice Age Trail). From Highway 23 go South on County Road A , go straight through the first intersection (you are now on County Road T), then go left at the first fork in the road (to Kettle Moraine Scenic Drive) and left again at the next fork. You'll see a sign for the "Group Camp"on the right (west) side of the road, this is the main trailhead parking area.There is an alternate trailhead with a small parking area a little further south on Kettle Moraine Scenic Drive.

Map WI Kettle Moraine North Greenbush Trails.png

Cross-Country Skiing: Plenty of hills and excellent grooming makes this an outstanding trail system. Though there is one (rather short) easy trail, the vast majority of this system is for intermediate skiers. The trails are frequently groomed for both skating and classic by The Northern Kettle Moraine Nordic Ski Club. I just can't say enough good things about the grooming here which is comparable to grooming at some of the better private trail systems. I only ski here a few times a year (its a 100 mile drive for me each way), but I have yet to see anything other than freshly groomed trail here. Though it's a little unusual to be asked for a grooming donation on a trail system that already requires you to have a Wisconsin State Park parking sticker and trail pass, you have to realize that the grooming here far exceeds (mainly in frequency) the grooming you see on other trails in the Kettle Moraine State Forest. This comment isn't meant to be critical of the grooming done on the other systems by the state, which is very good. It's just that the budgets for the other trails don't allow for kind of frequent grooming you get at Greenbush. Also, because the Greenbush trail system is heavily wooded, it tends to hold snow longer than other trails in the area.

The one-mile Brown Trail (accessed from the main trailhead off of the Group Camp parking area)is the only easy trail in this system, and, although it is a rather short trail (even for beginners) it actually is a pretty good learning trail for beginners since it is very wide and has some moderate hills that should make it easy for beginners to practice their snow-plowing and turning. However, once they are comfortable with the Brown Trail, they are probably not yet ready to step up to the other trails in this system so they may have to go elsewhere to put in some more miles.

The rest of the trails are all for intermediate or better skiers. Though the Purple and Red trails are officially listed as "more difficult" and the Green and Pink trails are listed as "most difficult", I don't really see much of a difference in difficulty on the trails other than the Green trail has a lot more hills (though not necessarily more difficult) than the others. The unusual part of this trail system is the short two-way section of the Purple trail that provides access from the main parking area to and from the other trails. While it's not unusual to have a two-way connector trail in a system like this, it is rather unusual to have big hills on the two-way section. If you survive the combination of hills and traffic on this section, you should do fine on any of the other trails here (with the possible exception of "Howl Hill" discussed later).

The Purple Trail is the longest loop at 5 miles and has a lot of easy miles in between the hilly sections. In addition to the hilly area on the two-way connector section, there is also a nice long winding downhill at the far south section of the trail. The last couple of miles of the purple trail are relatively flat and you will see a couple of connector trails to the Green Trail. After joining up with a section of the Brown Trail, you will encounter one moderate uphill and see another connector trail with a steep uphill on the Left. The trail is marked "Howl Hill Expert Skiers Only" for good reason; Howl Hill is a downhill that starts out steep with a slight curve and then gets REALLY STEEP for a short section. This is one of those downhills that every time you go back to ski it you say "man that's steep" as though it were the first time you've seen it. This isn't one I'd try in icy conditions.

The 3.6 mile Green Trail shares it's first mile or so with the Purple trail before splitting off to the Right. The second half of the Green Trail is one hill after another after another after another. About 3 miles into the loop you'll encounter a connector trail to the Right that goes to the Red Trail and another to the Left that connects with the Purple Trail. The connector to the Purple Trail is a rather nice roller-coaster downhill and puts you on the Purple Trail in time to then catch the Howl Hill connector back to Green (if you want to catch all the hills).

The 1.5 mile Red Trail has some nice hills, though not near as many as Green. There is a short connector with the Purple Trail at the far end of Red, and a short connector with the Green Trail about 3/4 of the way around Red.

The 0.7 mile Pink trail starts with a long winding downhill then its just a mix of flats and uphills before merging back with the other trails. This trail is a little narrower than the others and generally doesn't have a classic track set in it, but it's so short it really doesn't matter.

Its a bit unusual for cross-country trail systems to have loops as short as the Pink and Red loops that actually have some decent hills. It sometimes makes it hard to finish your skiing for the day because there always seems to be enough left in you for one more Pink or Red loop.

Hiking: These heavily wooded trails make for some scenic hiking. At the far end of the Purple Loop there is a small lake/pond and a wetlands area (though you are in the woods just on the edge of the wetlands the entire time). Since these are cross-country ski trails, they are wider than a standard hiking trail. You will also likely encounter mountain bikers on these trails. For a quieter, more authentic hiking trail you can access the Ice Age Hiking Trail from either trailhead parking area (or from the ski trails). The Ice Age Trail is a narrower, more natural hiking trail and you can expect a more peaceful hike since mountain biking is not allowed on this section of the Ice Age Trail.

Mountain Biking: The ski trails are available to mountain biking during the summer and fall, though there are some restrictions. The Howl Hill connector is off limits due to erosion control and portions of the Purple loop are closed during hunting season. Pay attention to "No Bike" signs for further restrictions. There are plenty of good hills here but you won't find any technical single track. Mountain bikes are not allowed on the Ice Age Hiking Trail. Mountain Biking Update: According to posts on other web sites, they have been adding some singletrack mountain bike trails at Greenbush during the 2007 summer and will continue in 2008. I haven't been there this summer, so I can't provide any first-hand knowledge of the new trail, but the terrain there certainly provides some great opportunities for some great singletrack.

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This page is authored and maintained by Dave Piasecki