WI Kettle Moraine State Forest
Kettle Moraine State Forest Trails
The Kettle Moraine State Forest in Southeastern Wisconsin is truly a trail user's dream with many miles of trails for hiking, mountain biking, and cross-country skiing as well as some nice roads for bike touring. What makes the "Kettles" special is the topography created during the last Ice Age. The kettles are actually large depressions created when large chunks of ice (the size of buildings) were buried in the moraine (piles of gravel and debris) deposited by the glaciers. When the ice eventually melted, you had big holes in the ground. What this means for trail users is hills, hills, and more hills (a rarity in southeastern Wisconsin). And, since it is a state forest, you also have trees, trees, and more trees. The vast size of the forest means that not only do you have nice scenic, hilly trails, but also that you have many miles of many different trails to choose from.
- Terrain / Scenery: Depends on specific trail, but most trails are rugged trails in a mix of forest and prairie areas with a mix of gentle grades, rolling hills, and steep hills.
- Fees / Permits: Wisconsin Park Sticker required for parking in lots, Trail Pass required for cross country skiing and mountain biking.
- Facilities: Depends on trailhead
- Official Web Page(s):
- Getting There: See map information on this page.
The Kettle Moraine State Forest is split into two large main areas (the Northern Unit and the Southern Unit Units) plus the smaller Lapham Peak Unit. See Map on this page for general locations of the various units.
If you're planning on visiting the Kettle Moraine State Forest, I strongly suggest you get a copy of the forest map published by Milwaukee Map Service. The Map is available online at Milwaukee Map Store or Trail Resources.com. This large folding map (a topographic map) shows all roads and trails as well as various points of interest within the state forest. You can also download smaller, less detailed overview maps of the northern and southern units of the Kettle Moraine State Forest from the DNR site (see links at the bottom of this page).
I've created some Google Maps pages that show some of the main trailheads.
- Google Maps of Trailheads in Kettle Moraine State Forest Southern Unit
- Google Maps of Trailheads in the Kettle Moraine State Forest Northern Unit
I've created separate pages for each of the major trail systems within the forest. Click the link to the specific trail to view maps and more detail. There are many more smaller nature trails throughout the state forest that do not have dedicated pages on this site. Once again, I recommend getting the forest map previously mentioned to get a better idea of all the trails and their locations.
- Nordic Trails - Kettle Moraine State Forest - Southern Unit Skiing and Hiking Trails.
- John Muir Trails and Emma Carlin Trails - Kettle Moraine State Forest - Southern Unit - Mountain Biking Trails
- Scuppernong Trails - Kettle Moraine State Forest - Southern Unit Skiing and Hiking Trails
- Stute Springs and Homestead - Kettle Moraine State Forest - Southern Unit Self Guided Nature Trail
Lapham Peak Unit
- Lapham Peak Unit - Kettle Moraine State Forest Skiing and Hiking Trails
- Greenbush Trails - Kettle Moraine State Forest - Northern Unit Skiing, Hiking, Biking Trails
- Zillmer Trails - Kettle Moraine State Forest - Northern Unit Skiing and Hiking Trails
Ice Age Trail
- Ice Age Trail Thru-hiking trail that runs through all sections of the Kettle Moraine State Forest
- Ice Age Trail: Kettle Moraine State Forest Separate page on the Ice Age Trail within the Kettle Moraine State Forest.
- For Mountain Bikers, the John Muir and Emma Carlin Trail System in the Southern Unit should not be missed. With over 30 miles of mostly single-track trails, you're not going to find a better trail system in southeast Wisconsin. You can also mountain bike the Greenbush Ski Trails in the Northern Unit.
- For Cross-Country Skiers, there are numerous very good groomed cross country ski trails in the Kettle Moraine State Forest. The Greenbush Trails at the far north end of the Northern Unit is an outstanding trail system for intermediate skiers. The Nordic Trails at the south end of the Southern Unit is probably one of the best designed trail systems around with many miles of intermediate trail but also many miles of easy trail (easy loops are separate from the intermediate loops with very little overlap). The Lapham Peak Unit located between Milwaukee and Madison is a very popular trail system and probably has the longest downhill (and uphill) in southern Wisconsin. In addition there is more skiing at Scuppernong Trails and McMiller Trails in the Southern Unit and Zillmer Trails in the Northern Unit.
- For Hikers, there are almost endless choices for hiking Kettle Moraine State Forest. In addition to all the ski trails (you can hike all ski trails when there is no snow) already mentioned, there are numerous smaller hiking trails and nature trails (get the forest map) located throughout the forest. But of greatest interest to hikers is the Ice Age Trail which runs through all three units of the forest and offers the types of secluded, scenic, and rugged, hikers-only trails that hikers love. I've created a separate page for the Ice Age Trail in the Kettle Moraine State Forest.
Be aware that hunting is allowed in the Kettle Moraine State Forest and it's not unusual to encounter hunters on or near the trails. Most of the hunting starts in mid September. It's a good idea to wear something that doesn't look like fur or feathers during the fall hunting seasons. For more information on hunting seasons check http://www.dnr.state.wi.us/ORG/land/wildlife/HUNT/seasdate.htm
- DNR's Kettle Moraine Southern Unit Page
- DNR's Kettle Moraine Northern Unit Page
- DNR's Kettle Moraine Lapham Peak Unit Page
- Ice Age Park & Trail Foundation website
- Scenic video of XC skiing in the Kettle Moraine State Forest
This page is authored and maintained by Dave Piasecki