WI Ice Age Trail
Wisconsin's Ice Age Hiking Trail
When completed, the Ice Age Trail will be over 1,000 miles in length. Currently there are approximately 600 miles of trails according to the Ice Age Park & Trail Foundation website. The trail follows the end moraine (piles of rock and gravel) from the last glaciers that covered the state of Wisconsin. This results in some rather rugged and scenic terrain.
The trail runs through both public and private lands, and, as previously mentioned, is not yet completed. Since I have only hiked a very small portion (in comparison to the total trail) of the trail, I can't exactly give a detailed description other than to say that the sections I've encountered (most of them in the Kettle Moraine State Forest, see Ice Age Trail in the Kettle Moraine State Forest) have all been narrow natural surfaced trail running through hilly forested or prairie areas. The Ice Age Trail is primarily a hiking trail but some sections may allow other uses (bikes, horses, etc).
The map on this page shows a rough estimate of the location of the trail (when completed). It's important to note that about half of the trail shown does not exist yet and that this map is not meant for navigation purposes (duh!).
Instead of trying to act like I know more about the Ice Age Trail than I actually do, I thought I would just provide some direction on getting additional information about the sections you may be interested in. Unfortunately, this can be more difficult than you might guess. Unlike more well known thru-hiking trails like the Appalachian Trail, the Ice Age Trail is not all that well documented.
The primary place for information on the trail is the Ice Age Park & Trail Foundation website. Sadly, their website has been in a bit of disarray for quite some time now. There are supposed to be maps available here, but the PDFs won't download. I believe they use to sell some trail guides here as well, but I can no longer find any reference to them on their site. Now I have no problem with them taking the free PDFs off of their site if they want to sell maps instead (with the proceeds going to support the trail), but there are no maps of any kind available from their site. Despite the lack of maps, their site still does have some useful information so feel free to browse. Update: Looks like they are in the process of updating the Ice Age Park & Trail Foundation websiteand may have some maps and additional resources available.
Now back to maps. I do have some good news and some bad news. The good news is the Wisconsin DNR has a site with an online interactive mapping program that has the Ice Age Trail included in it and can be used to produce some very detailed maps. The bad news is the mapping program is a bit tedious to use (but I'm not complaining). Below is a link to the mapping site along with some instructions I put together to help get you started:
Here are some instructions to view a specific section of the Ice Age Trail.
- Click on the "Layers" tab in the top left corner of the page. You'll see a series of folders. Click the folder titled "Recreation & Trails" then click the check box next to "Ice Age Trail". The map will now load the completed sections of the Ice Age Trail.
- Now click the "Zoom In" button above the map and then click and hold down the mouse button while you drag diagonally across the section of trail you are interested in. You can do this multiple times (zooming in further each time) to narrow down the area.
- To add more detail, click the "Transportation" folder and then click the check boxes next to "Local Roads", "Major Highways", and "Railroads". Then click the "Inland Water Resources" folder and click the check box next to "Rivers and Streams". If any of these check boxes are unavailable, it is because you have not zoomed in far enough yet to use them.
- Now you can use the "Zoom In", "Zoom Out", and "Move" buttons to more precisely view the area you are interested in. When zooming out, you click the button then click the area on the map that you want to be the center of your map. Move works pretty much the same way, click the move button then click a spot on the map that you want moved to the center of your screen.
- Here comes the really cool stuff. Click the "Imagery & Basemaps" folder then click the check box by either "Digital Air Photos", or "Digital Topographic Maps, or "Ortho 24K Topo Merge". These will place aerial photos or topographic maps below your map as the background. The quality of the aerial photos varies based on the area you are viewing, some areas have very clear photos, while others have rather low resolution images. To switch between aerial photos and topo maps, uncheck the check box of the layer you are using then check the check box of the one you want to see.
- You can continue to zoom in, zoom out, and move around the map.
- When you get a map you like, click the "Print" button to create a PDF of your map. You'll get some print options, click OK then click "open map". The map will open in your PDF viewer (or your browser), you can then click File>Save As to save your map to your computer.
See, that wasn't so hard was it? There are quite a few other options in this program so feel free to play with it. I just provided instructions on the key features for creating maps of the Ice Age Trail.
Other Sources of Ice Age Trail Information
- I've created a separate page for the Ice Age Trail in the Kettle Moraine State Forest where I've provided more detail on these portions of the trail (primarily the trail in the southern unit).
- Here are some links I found to local chapters of the Ice Age Park and Trail Foundation. Some of the local chapter pages provide some useful details on local sections of the trail. More chapter information available at Ice Age Park and Trail Chapters.
- National Park Service Ice Age Trail Pages have updated their Ice Age Trail information and now have some maps available for download at http://www.nps.gov/iatr/planyourvisit/maps.htm . The maps are not really designed for navigation, but they are interesting to look at.
Feel free to post additional trail resources by clicking on the "Discussion" tab at the top of this page.
This page is authored and maintained by Dave Piasecki