WI Kenosha Petrifying Springs Park Trails
Petrifying Springs County Park Trails- Kenosha, Wisconsin
Petrifying Springs Park (also known as Petrified Springs or just "Pets") is part of the Kenosha County Park System. The Park has a variety of trails suitable for Hiking, Mountain Biking*, and Cross Country Skiing. The scenic park follows the winding Pike River (actually more of a stream than a river) resulting in some interesting trails. The trails cover areas in the main park, the golf course, and on some adjacent land owned by the University of Wisconsin - Parkside. This section of the Pike River is extremely shallow most of the time so don't bother bringing your canoe or kayak unless you like paddling gravel (I have heard that some whitewater kayakers run this section during rare high water conditions).
- Terrain / Scenery: Scenic park with wooded ravine running along the Pike River.
- Fees / Permits: None
- Trail Conditions: Rugged, natural surfaced hiking trails. Click Discussion Tab to view post updated trail conditions.
- Trail Markings: Unmarked
- Official Web Page: None
- Getting There: Petrifying Springs Park is located between the cities of Kenosha and Racine, just East of Highway 31 (Green Bay Road) with park entrances on either County Road A or County Road JR. There are signs at the entrances. Google Maps link to Petrifying Springs Park. You can also get to Pets via the new (as of 2008) paved bike path (brown on the map below) that runs east to the North Shore Bike Trailand within blocks of the Lakefront Bike Trails.
The trails can be accessed from numerous locations throughout the park. The majority of the hiking and biking trails follow along both sides of the Pike River. The primary ski trails follow routes around the golf course. These trails are not marked and there are no maps in the park. Some of the trails contain some very steep hills.
Park Road Closure Notes: When the Pike River water level is high, you should expect that part of the park road running through the park will be closed.
You can hike any of the trails in the park. There is no hiking allowed on the golf course but there are several trails that run right along the perimeter of the golf course that can be hiked. The main hiking trails (shown Red on the map) follow the Pike River and can be rather rugged in areas with some short steep sections. In many places along the river you may find several trails running parallel to each other.
The trails in the Northeast section of the park (this is actually land belonging to UW Parkside) follow the river and a series of small ravines north of the river. These trails can be very confusing since there are many intersections and side trails that crisscross this area. Though I've spent quite a bit of time trying to get most of the trails mapped, you will find additional unmapped trails here and there. Your safest bet here is to follow the trail that runs along the river and use this as your starting point to explore the other trails. A compass or GPS may be useful to keep you from walking around in circles in the web of trails here. This group of trails is popular with area mountain bikers so be prepared for mixed trail use. There are no footbridges crossing the Pike River in this section of the park and the places where the trail crosses the many small creeks may or may not have crude bridges in place (use at your own risk, these bridges are placed here by some trail users and often get run off after a significant rain).
Note: a short section of the trail located along the southeast border of the golf course has been closed (this is the area where the golf course runs right up against the river not allowing enough room for a separate hiking/biking trail).
The main trails North of County Road A (shown in Yellow on the map) are wider and covered with wood chips. These are easy trails designed as horse trails, but they do not get much horse traffic since they are rather short in distance (actually I've never seen horses on these trails). There are also some narrower hiking trails (shown in Red on the map)north of CR A that can be hiked in combination with the wider trails.
Below is another version of the map with an old topographic map as the background. This should give you a better idea of the topography here.
Update 2020:The status of mountain biking here seems to be changing. There are now trails within the main park that don't permit bikes and are marked accordingly. The Parkside portion of the trail system still seems to tolerate mountain biking. So you may be able to ride some of the trails on the map, but not all of them. There are legal trails at Beulah Park in Zion and Silver Lake in western Kenosha County.
Important Note: The status of mountain biking on these properties is complicated. First, these trails are on two different properties, Petrifying Springs County Park (part of Kenosha County Park system) and University of Wisconsin Parkiside. Second, mountain biking is not officially promoted as a legal activity on either of these systems. It was in the past on the UWP land, but that has changed. At this point, mountain biking seems to be "tolerated" on these properties, but my understanding is that Kenosha County and UWP would rather people didn't ride here. People, including myself, have been riding out here for decades. Unfortunately, every once in a while a person or person(s) decide they have the right to "improve" the trails. I intentionally put "improve" in quotes, because just because they think it is an improvement, doesn't mean other trail users think it is and improvement, and more importantly, the land managers really don't like it when people make illegal changes to the land they manage. I've been riding, hiking, and skiing out here for decades, so I've seen a lot in that time. Most of it has been little things here and there, but occasionally someone takes their unreasonable sense of entitlement to a whole new level. Between 2014-ish and 2017 someone started hauling hundreds of board feet of lumber onto the UWP land and building bridges and even a boardwalk. Also in 2017 a group of people (I'm assuming it was at least a small group based on the amount of material moved) built some jumps on the Petrifing Springs land north of Hwy A, and dug/moved a significant amount of dirt in the process. Both of these things were far beyond anything I had seen out there in the past, and not surprisingly drew the attention of the land managers who now have to figure out what to do about their "mountain biker" problem. So to keep thing simple, YOU DON'T HAVE THE RIGHT TO BUILD ON THESE PROPERTIES, THERE ARE PENALTIES IF YOU ARE CAUGHT BUILDING OUT HERE, and all the other people that use these trails will be really pissed at you if you are the one that ends up being the final straw that gets these trails closed.
Also, this is from UWP : “Bicycle riding is prohibited on university lands when and where the intent is to perform tricks or stunts and those tricks or stunts may result in injury to any person or cause damage to property.”
These trails are used for mountain biking but were not "designed" for mountain biking and subsequently you may find some of the natural features are beyond the skill level of casual mountain bikers. There is no one "best route" through these trails, you really need to just invest some time and ride everything. You'll find that there is something interesting to ride in virtually every little corner of this trail system.
The large trail area east of the golf course (this is actually land belonging to UW Parkside) is very popular with mountain bikers. There are no footbridges crossing the Pike River in this section of the park and the places where the trail crosses the many small creeks and gullies may or may not have crude bridges in place (use at your own risk, these bridges are placed here by some trail users and often get run off after a significant rain). These trails tend hold water longer than most and some small sections are always wet due to the many springs in the area. Please avoid biking these trails during wet periods. During mid to late summer, some sections of trail can become overgrown with some really nasty flesh eating plants. This is only on small sections of trails (mainly low-lying areas), but it can be rather painful if you're not prepared.
These trails can be very confusing since there are many intersections and side trails that crisscross this area. Though I've spent quite a bit of time trying to get most of the trails mapped, you will find additional unmapped trails here and there. However, since there are not that many total miles of trails here you will eventually find your way around. Most of the unmapped trails are either parallel runs that break off the trail and then later reconnect, shortcuts between sections of trail, or small loops that take advantage of the ravines. There is a continuous trail along the riverbank that is pretty easy to follow (and is a relatively easy ride except for a creek crossing here and there). The other trails can all be accessed from the river trail. As long as you know where you are in reference to the river (or the road or the golf course), you should be OK. It wouldn't be a bad idea to carry a compass or GPS though.
The trails just west of the golf course (between the golf course and the river) have a lot of technical sections. The golf course is the high ground here and there is a ridgeline (actually the top of a very wide section of ravine) that runs along the edge of the golf course. The trail runs along the top of this ridgeline (right along a fence in some sections) and has numerous connected trails running down the side of the ravine. There are also numerous gullies created by water draining off of the golf course that cross the trail.
The trails in the main (western) portion of the park that run along the southwest side of the river are also worth a ride though you can expect to run into quite a few pedestrians on these trails. Most of these trails are pretty easy, but there are some technical sections and some really steep stuff that are not actually part of the trail (they're more of collapsed sections of the ravine, or places where hikers climb up the side of the ravine).
There are also some fun trails located in the wooded area in the center of the golf course. You can access these from the paved bike path that runs through the golf course. Just make sure you don't ride onto the golf course.
If you ride every section of trail (marked red or yellow on my map)in the park (this will require that some trails are ridden more than once to access other sections)you can maybe put on a total of around 10 or 12 miles.
Bikes are absolutely not allowed on the golf course and there are sections of the trail that run right along the edge of the golf course. The section of trail located along the Southeast edge of the Golf course may be closed. This is the section that ran right on the edge of the golf course since the river eroded away the old trail. Looks like the parks department intentionally piled a whole lot of brush and logs there to block access. You may also encounter side trails that run very near or right up to the golf course; always be very careful when you are riding near the golf course and avoid doing anything stupid that would give the park's dept. a reason to close these trails.
Bikes are also NOT permitted on the Parkside Cross Country trails on the South side of County Road JR (for any of you poachers out there that would be tempted to ride these trails, be aware that they are wide cross-country running/ski trails and would not be of interest to serious mountain bikers anyway).
Though this isn't an enormous trail system and is a bit tricky to navigate, these trails make for some interesting riding. Please avoid biking on these trails in muddy conditions, try to not annoy other trail users, and stay off the golf course, and hopefully we will be able to keep these trails open to bikes.
Local mountain bikers may also want to check out Beulah Park in Zion (about 15 miles south). It's a smaller trail system than Pets, but has plenty of fun features (jumps, drops, skinnies). Or check out Silver Lake Trails for some less technical, but fun flowy trails.
Paved Bike Path:
In 2011 they completed a paved bike path through the park, and converted some old park roads to paved paths in the following years. The park paved path connects with a new (as of 2008)paved connector trail that runs East to the North Shore Bike Trail and within blocks of the Lakefront Bike Trails. The new paved trail also replaces the old park road North of Highway A. These trails are shown Brown on this map. There is a new Bridge/boardwalk at the Northwest end of the park where the asphalt trail continues all the way to Racine.
The Parks Dept used to regularly groom trails in the park, then budget cuts forced them to stop. As of winter 2011/2012, some limited grooming is happening on the Golf Course. This is a result of an agreement between the Parks Dept and the volunteers that groom Parkside Cross Country Ski Trails. I do not believe they will be grooming anywhere near as many miles as the Parks Dept used to groom. Unfortunately, the 2011/2012 ski season was the worst ski season ever, so we'll have to wait to see just how this works out.
The primary cross country ski trails (shown in Orange on map) are on the golf course; skiers continue to ski in roughly the same path as was previously groomed so you can usually just follow the tracks of other skiers. This is mostly gently rolling terrain, but there are a few hills. These trails connect up with the North trails (shown in Yellow on map) which are also popular with skiers. You will also see ski tracks along the edge of the main park road (I don't show these on the map but you can figure it out easy enough). If you're more adventurous you can also ski on the hiking trails (shown in Red on the map) but be aware some of these trails are very narrow and have steep sections with large roots that can be difficult to ski even under good snow conditions (which we rarely have). You'll also encounter downed trees and creek crossings in the eastern hiking trails.
Lighted Trail the main part of the agreement to get some grooming back at Pets involves the short lighted loop to provide some night (late afternoon) skiing opportunities. I added white dots on the orange trail where I believe the lighted loop is, though I have yet to get out here at night to confirm.
The Parkside Cross Country Ski Trails on the other side of County Road JR are groomed by volunteers and make for some good skiing. When you combine the ungroomed Petrifying Springs trails with the groomed Parkside trails, you get quite a few miles of diverse skiing for a local trail system. See Parkside Cross Country Ski Trails Page for more information on the Parkside trails ski trails.
- Beulah Park More technical singletrack about 15 miles south of Pets.
- Silver Lake Trails Mountain bike trails in Western Kenosha County.
This page is authored and maintained by Dave Piasecki