WI Kettle Moraine Lapham Peak Unit
Lapham Peak Unit - Kettle Moraine State Forest - Delafield, Wisconsin
Lapham Peak is part of the Kettle Moraine State Forest and has an extremely popular cross country ski trail system (including a lighted trail and snowmaking capabilities). It also provides many miles of hiking trails including a portion of the Ice Age Trail. There is also a smaller trail system designated for mountain biking, horseback riding and snowshoeing.
- Terrain / Scenery: Mix of prairie and woodlands. Wooded areas have many large 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: A recorded trail conditions message is available by calling the Lapham Peak trail condition hotline at (262) 646-4421. You can also check Friends of Lapham Peak websiteor The Trail Reports page at Skinnyski.com In addition you can post or view trail information by clicking theDiscussion tab
- Trail Markings: Color coded trails with maps at key intersections.
- Facilities: Warming shelter at trailhead with toilets and water.
- Official Web Page:The Lapham Peak Unit official web page is located at http://dnr.wi.gov/topic/parks/name/lapham/. Also see Friends of Lapham Peak website.
- Getting There: Lapham Peak is located 25 miles West of Milwaukee on County Highway C just off of Interstate 94. From I94, take the Highway C exit and go south about half a mile to the Lapham Peak park entrance on the East side of the road. The entrance is well marked. After passing the gatehouse, take the first right to the main trailhead parking area or go straight to the alternate trailheads. Google Maps link to Lapham Peak.
See my video of Lapham Peak at http://youtu.be/XHEUSOs3z-g
I've included a standard trail map as well as a separate topographic version to better show the topography of the trail system. My placement of the trails on the topographic map is estimated, therefore the map is suited more for informational purposes than navigational purposes.
You can also click the following link to get the official map from the Lapham Peak Unit Official Map page. I suggesting downloading the PDF version.
Standard version of Lapham Peak Ski Trail Map
Topographic version of Lapham Peak Ski Trail Map
Placement of the trails on the topographic map is estimated, therefore the map is suited more for informational purposes than navigational purposes.
When there's good snow on Lapham Peak, this is possibly the most popular cross-country ski trail system in the state (I'm just guessing here, I don't really have any numbers to support this). There are many reasons for this including the trail system's close proximity to Milwaukee and Madison (and even Chicago), quick access off of I94, great grooming, and - oh yeah-a hell of a good trail system. If that's not enough, they have a two mile lighted trail for night skiing and recently started experimenting with snowmaking.
There are a lot of great cross-country ski trails in the Kettle Moraine State Forest, but what sets Lapham Peak apart from the others is the larger elevation gain which provides for some rather long downhills (by Midwest standards). The trail system is groomed for both classic and skating and though it has a couple of easy loops, it is primarily an intermediate to advanced trail system. Their website claims 17.2 miles of cross-country trails but I think they must be including the Ice Age hiking trail and the snowshoe trail in these numbers or counting the blue and black loops as separate trails because I count only about 10 miles of groomed cross-country trails.
The ski trails at Lapham Peak are well marked with trail maps located at most intersections.
The easy loops are the Meadow Trail (Green trail) and the Kame Terrace Trail (Purple trail). The two-mile Meadow Trail is accessed from the main trailhead and, as it's name would imply, is relatively flat and uninteresting. This wide trail is the lighted loop (for night skiing). provides two classic tracks alongside a wide skating lane. This is also the area in which they are experimenting with snow making (see Friends of Lapham Peak website for more info on snowmaking at Lapham).
The Kame Terrace Trail (Purple trail) accessed from a separate parking area/trailhead is also two miles of easy trail (though a little more interesting than the green trail). There is no way to connect the two easy loops without using the more difficult trails (or getting in your car an driving to the other trailhead).
The more difficult loops are the 5.8 mile Kettle View Trail (Blue Trail) listed as intermediate and the 7.0 mile Moraine Ridge Trail (Black Trail) listed as advanced. The black trail is actually just a small extension of the blue trail (the two trails are the same for about 5 miles which includes most of the 2 mile Meadow Trail) and I don't really see that it is any more difficult than the blue trail (though "The Luge" can be scary fast). These trails can be accessed from either the Meadow Trail (Green Trail) or the Kame Terrace Trail (Purple Trail). My preference is to access from the Green Trail from the main trailhead. Starting on the green trail, you have about a mile of easy skiing then you will start going uphill, and you will keep going uphill for almost a half mile. This will definitely warm you up but you will soon be rewarded with a series of winding downhills. You'll notice a hairpin downhill merging from the left. This is a short (and tricky) connector back from the return section blue/black trail that you may want to use later. Next you'll come across a short split where the black trail goes to the left. This is a series of steep uphills and downhills (the uphills are steeper than the downhills) but is not really that difficult . The two trails come back together and merge for a short section with the purple trail. Another short section and the black trail splits to the right from the blue trail. I recommend taking the black trail to catch a few more hills. You'll eventually (at about the half-way point of the black loop) come across a short alternate section of the black trail where there is a small sign that says "steep hill bypass." The "steep hill" is the uphill that's looking you right in the face. At the top of the steep hill you immediately go into a long fast (not really steep) downhill that quickly brings you back to the main trail. It would be a shame to come all this way and skip this section. Soon afterwards you'll come to the alternate trailhead and parking area and merge back with the purple trail. After one uphill and a long flat (slightly downhill) section, the purple trail will split off to the left and you'll quickly be back in the hills. After a series of hills you'll come across a connector trail on the left that starts with a steep uphill. This is the same trail that ends in a hairpin downhill you came across earlier. You can take this if you want to do another half-loop of the black trail, otherwise go straight to continue with the trail. Continuing past the connector trail, as you crest the hill you'll see a sign that says "Big Slide". If you remember that really long uphill at the beginning of this loop, this is the downhill version. This is a good time to zip that jacket up as far as it goes and maybe consider covering your face because you're gonna be making some wind here. There are no really steep sections here but you will pick up a lot of speed on this long downhill (actually 2 long downhills with a short flat area connecting them). This section of the trail tends to undulate a bit, which, while hardly noticeable at slower speeds, can really rattle your cage when you're going fast. Be aware you are likely to encounter quite a few skier-impact potholes on the way down. Also watch on the left, as there is a short connector trail that people sometimes pop out of without having the sense to look uphill first. This brings you back to the green trail, but don't despair. The blue trail will shortly separate from the green trail one more time for a short section of two uphills that run into another nice gradual downhill (not as long or fast as the one you just finished, but still pretty nice). Another short section of the green trail and you're back at the trailhead.
Ok, so I've never been out here without my skis but I would expect the ski trails are pretty good for hiking or trail running especially if you like hills (hiking is not allowed when snow is on the ground). If you don't like hiking on the wide skiing trails, you have a portion of the Ice Age Trail passing through the Lapham Peak Unit (shown on maps above). Unlike most hiking trails found in Wisconsin parks which tend to be heavily used, well-worn, moderately wide loops, the Ice Age Trail is a lightly used narrow, winding, rugged trail that just keeps going. Click on Ice Age Trail for more information.
The mountain bike trails are located across (West) county road C. I haven't ridden these trails so I can't really comment on them other than to say that they are not in the main part of the park and it doesn't look like the the terrain is as hilly. They are listed as multi-use (biking and horse trails) which leads me to believe they are probably not technical singletrack. I'll have to give them a try some day. A map of the mountain bike trails is available at Lapham Peak Unit Official Map page. I suggesting downloading the PDF version.
There is additional information about the mountain bike trails provided by a site visitor on the Lapham Peak Discussion Page
This page is authored and maintained by Dave Piasecki