Wisconsin Hiking: Nordic Trails

Recently, I had the pleasure of hiking 9 miles of the Nordic Trails with my wife and best friend. We spent the day laughing and swapping snacks, while walking. We were blessed with gorgeous weather, a challenging hike, and a fantastic post-hike meal at img_9430The Picnic Basket. I couldn’t have asked for a better Sunday!

The Nordic Trails feature extra wide, grassy paths lined with tall, skinny pine trees and plenty of easy-to-read signage. Wooden benches are dotted along the trail, and at the trailhead you’ll find a large parking lot and bathrooms with vault toilets and hand sanitizer.

img_9419Difficulty

The DNR website says that the 9.5 blue loop is an intermediate-level hiking trail. I would definitely agree. This has been the one of the hilliest, and most difficult trails I’ve been on in Wisconsin, second only to the John Muir Trail (which is right across the street!), and some parts of the Ice Age Trail.

If you are a beginner, enter this trail with warning. There are a lot of hills, so expect a challenge. Seasoned hikers, this trail doesn’t compare to the intensity of the hiking you might do out East, or in the West, but it takes full advantage of the uneven landscape of Wisconsin’s kettles (the result of glaciers that have melted long ago).

Nordic Trail Loops

Easy Trails: img_9439

Brown – .7 miles

Purple – 1.7 miles

White – 3.2 miles

Intermediate Trails:

Red – 2.1 miles

Orange – 2.7miles

Green – 3.9 milesimg_9408

Blue – 9.5 miles

Activities

Hiking and cross country skiing and sledding

Limitations

No Bikes

Nearby Trails

I was so excited to find out that that the John Muir Trailhead is located right across the street. There, you can bike or hike, but don’t expect to have any alone time. It is one of the most popular trails in Wisconsin!

Directions to Nordic Trailhead:

  1. Drive South on US-41
  2. Take exit 4 onto I-43
  3. Drive 22 miles and take exit 38A onto WI-20
  4. Drive .3 miles and turn right onto state road 20
  5. Drive 7.8 miles and turn left onto state road 20
  6. Drive 1.6 miles and take a slight right turn onto US Highway 12
  7. Drive 2.0 miles and turn right onto county road H
  8. Drive 1.6 miles to the destination on your right

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Address

N9084 Cty Tk H

Whitewater, WI 53190

Fees

Entrance to this (and every) Wisconsin State Park will require a day parking pass or img_9423an annual parking pass. You can find information about sticker prices on Wisconsin’s Department of Natural Resources website.

Leave no trace

Recently, Wisconsin’s state park tax budget has been decreased to zero. This means that park entrance and camping fees will go up. The possibility of some parks workers losing their jobs or having their salaries slashed, is a real possibility.

This means that it is time for the volunteers and the visitors to step up. Please respect these beautiful parks! If you come in with trash, leave with the same amount of trash. If you see trash, consider picking it up and walking out with it. Practice the “leave no trace” policy. Basically, respect the park by being courteous to the plants, animals, and fellow humans.

Further Readingimg_9444

Trailville.com

 

Travelwisconsin.com

Nordicskiclub.org

 

I would like to pay tribute to the volunteers and park workers who put in hours upon hours to maintain these trails, for little or no money. Your efforts are appreciated by me and hopefully by anyone who uses the trails!

Thank you, thank you to my readers! I welcome you to return, anytime!

If you need me, I’m Two Tents Down!

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Wisconsin Hiking: A Hike of Fireworks and Ice

Fourth of July on the Ice Age Trail

Fireworks? Definitely. Ice? Not so much. We started the Loew Lake segment of the Ice Age Trail in the early afternoon. By the end of mile one, I was glistening as a result of hard work on a hot day—in other words, I was a full-on sweaty mess!

Let me paint a prettier picture. We were hiking the Ice Age Trail in the Pike Lake Unit of Wisconsin’s gorgeous Kettle Moraine State Forest. The Oconomowoc River flowed parallel to the trail for the first mile, or so. Tall grass and cat tails decorated the river banks, and bullfrog-inhabited, green, bubbly swamp patches separated the river and the trail. The frogs generously sang us a song as we passed through the area, so we snapped a few photos and kept on walking.

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We hiked to a lovely soundtrack. Among the many voices were the calls of bullfrogs, the chirps of birds, the pattering of chip monk feet, and the random bang of fireworks in the distance.

After exiting the area along the river, the trail opened up to a spectacular field of tall grass, dotted with rainbows of wildflowers. To our right were patches of berries. There were quickly ripening raspberries low to the ground, and bushes of bright red round berries above them. To the left was a great field with a big, white farmhouse in the distance, and a line of old trees behind it. Way beyond them, was the beautiful Basilica of Holy Hill.

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Trail Difficulty

Easy/moderate for a few hilly spots

Trail Fees

  • No trail fees
  • Vehicle sticker not required

Pros

  • Variety of scenic views (Oconomowoc River, Holy Hill, etc.)
  • Good level of trail maintenance
  • Low traffic on trail
  • Beautiful, donated wooden benches located in scenic viewing areas

 

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Cons

  • Horrible mosquito pockets

Location & Directions

GPS Coordinates

006

Address

6186 County Line Rd

Hartland, WI

53029

Detailed driving directions:

  1. Take I-45 North
  2. Take County Line Road/HWY Q Exit
  3. Turn left (West) and follow HWY Q for 11.2 miles
  4. Turn right onto County Road K (Kettle Moraine Scenic Drive) and enter Pike Lake Unit parking lot

002

Reference Materials:

Every Trail

Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources

Ice Age Trail Alliance

Wikipedia

Discover Wisconsin

Which Ice Age Trail sections have you hiked?

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As always, thank you so much for reading!

Please direct questions, comments, or concerns to the comment section or to my email address: twotentsdown@yahoo.com.

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If you need me, I’m just Two Tents Down!

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Wisconsin Hiking: Kettle Moraine State Forest – Emma Carlin Trails

Another weekend, another hike! What a pleasure it was to be back out in nature after completing another 40-hour work week. The sun was shining, the bees were buzzing, the birds were chirping, and we were marching down the orange loop of the Emma Carlin Trail section in Kettle Moraine State Park-South.

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I would like to start by commenting on the impressive natural beauty this section of the forest boasts. Last weekend, the area was lush and gorgeous – thick with greens of all shades and trees of all species! Many moments along this trail took my breath away, leaving me speechless (which is not an easy feat, when it comes to this gobby hiker).

Trail DifficultyIMG_8866

We hiked the orange loop. This trail is six miles long, and considered “moderate to hard” on Wisconsin’s Department of Natural Resources website. I’d semi-agree with that description, as there were several hills that a beginner might struggle with, but I’d probably lean more toward a “moderate” difficulty rating. I found the hike only slightly vigorous, though I did discover a few new muscle aches the following day!

Emma Carlin Loops:

  • Brown (3.5 miles, moderate)
  • Orange (6 miles, moderate/hard)
  • Green (8 miles hard)

Fees

All state parks require a daily or annual admission sticker on each vehicle in the lot. You can find information about sticker prices on Wisconsin’s Department of Natural Resources website.

There are multiple ways to purchase your sticker, but I think it’s easiest to do it right at the park, at a park office. There is no park office located in the Emma Carlin entrance area, but the Kettle Moraine State Forest-South Headquarters is just down the road.

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When the park office is closed, you can still purchase a sticker by filling out an order form and putting money into an envelope located on the premises. You’ll usually find a little tube at the park entrance to each trail section, where you can deposit your envelope. This type of payment is based on the honor system. DSCN2753

As I have said before, the conditions of the state parks are great, and the beauty you will find within them is immense. These aspects alone will hopefully be inspiration enough to support the parks by honoring the system.

Pros

  • Trails are surrounded by thick green forest.
  • Orange loops was more difficult than many other trails in the area
  • Multiple loops with varying lengths and levels of difficulty

Cons

  • Pesticide application: As I was hiking into the forest, I spotted signs warning hikers about pesticide img_8855application in the area. The worst part was that the pesticides were sprayed on the day of my hike, putting me (and other hikers and bikers) in danger of being exposed to those pesticides. I found myself very disappointed in the state park system at that moment. This is one preserved portion of land, I had hoped would be, well… preserved.
  • Shared trails: The issue is not that I have a problem with sharing, it’s that the paths are narrow in many areas and groups of mountain bikers whipping around corners and flying at you is not exactly my favorite thing to deal with on a hike. The energy of the partakers in these two activities is much different – the opposite, in my opinion. My hikes tend to be easy going, relaxing, and inspirational. An intense, high level of adrenaline seems to come with mountain biking. Both activities are great, but when the two crash together, it’s not as fun for either party.
  • High traffic: This trail is popular. The parking lot was full when we came in, and a little less than full when we left. We encountered dozens of other people on the trail, from toddlers to senior citizens. If you are looking for a nice quiet walk, I’d recommend heading to the Northern Unit of Kettle Moraine State Park, which I’ve found to be less busy.

Location & Directions

GPS Coordinates:

Here are the GPS coordinates for the parking area in the Emma Carlin Section of Kettle Moraine State Park.

IMG_8849

Emma Carlin Trail hub Address:

County Road Z

Eagle, Wisconsin

53119

Siri’s driving directions (From Zoo Interchange to Emma Carlin):

  1. Take I-94 West toward Madison.
  2. Drive 19 miles and take exit 285 (County Hwy C) toward Delafield.
  3. Drive .3 miles and turn right onto N Genesee St.
  4. Drive 2.8 miles and turn right onto US Highway 18.
  5. Drive 3.1 miles and turn left onto State Road 67.
  6. Drive 5.0 miles and turn right onto County Road Cl.
  7. Drive 2.3 miles until road ends. Turn right onto County highway ZZ.
  8. Drive 1.4 miles and take a slight right onto County Road N.
  9. Drive 1.1 miles and turn left onto County Road Z.
  10. Drive .9 miles and arrive at Emma Carlin Trail section.

Here are the directions from Alltrails.com.

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Reference materials

State Park Trail info:

For hikers:

 For mountain bikers:

Overall, I enjoyed the hike with an intensity I cannot accurately describe. I find this feeling of elation to be a commonDSCN2756 theme on my hikes, so part of it could be that I’m addicted and incredibly biased in this department.

Thank you to volunteers and state park workers for maintaining the trails. Without you, hikers and bikers could not hike and bike in beautiful areas like these!

And as always, thank you to my readers! Without you, I would have no inspiration to share my adventures! Stick with me for more trail info and adventure stories! If you have questions, comments, or concerns, please feel free to send me an email at twotentsdown@yahoo.com. You can also connect with me on social media through the buttons below.

 

Until next time, I’m just… Two-Tents-Down-Logo-Color-CROPPED

Wisconsin Hiking: Kettle Moraine State Forest – Zillmer Trails

  “In every walk with nature, one receives far more than he seeks.” -John Muir

Hiking the Zillmer Trails

Winter is finally over, and spring has been periodically gracing us with its presence throughout the last few months. I have had the pleasure of going on two hikes during that time – The first hike was weeks ago on Wisconsin’s John Muir Trail, and the second was in the second week of May on the Zillmer Trail.

img_8797These trails are packed with beautiful scenery, dozens of species of birds, and plant life galore! I hiked the yellow segment for the third time last weekend. Each hike has been a little different, with varying levels of traffic on the trail, and an array of wildlife sightings.

DSCN2741 There is one thing that stays the same on all of the Kettle Moraine State Park trails, and that is the fantastic trail maintenance. So here is a gigantic thank you to the volunteers and park workers who have dedicated their time to making our parks so beautiful and welcoming to visitors of all species!  

img_8826Hike Difficulty

The 5.4 mile (8.6 km) yellow loop is the longest hiking/cross country skiing loop in the Zillmer area, but not the most difficult. I would consider it a very low-exertion hike, with comfortably wide paths and gradual slopes.

My favorite part about this hiking area is that you can rely on mile markers to track your progress. This is not a feature I have been able to find on trails in the Southern Unit of Kettle Moraine State Park.

Trail Fees

The Zillmer area is located in the Northern Unit of Kettle Moraine State Park. All state parks require a daily or annual admission sticker on each vehicle in the lot. You can find information about sticker prices on Wisconsin’s Department of Natural Resources website. img_8835

There are multiple ways to purchase your sticker, but I think it’s easiest to do it right at the park, at a park office. When the park office is closed, you can still purchase a sticker by filling out an order form and putting money into an envelope located on the premises. This type of payment is based on the honor system.

As I have said before, the conditions of the state parks are great, and the beauty you will find within them is immense. These aspects alone will hopefully be inspiration enough to support the parks by honoring the system.

Driving directions: I-45 to the Zillmer Hiking Trail Area

Here are the GPS coordinates for the entrance area to the Zillmer trails:IMG_8839

And these are Siri’s directions, with my little tidbits added in:

  1. Go North on I-45.
  2. Highway ends (near Sunburst Ski Hill) and turns into Fon Du Lac Ave.
  3. Continue North on Fon Du Lac Ave. until you enter Kewaskum village center.
  4. Turn right onto Main St. at a T intersection.
  5. Drive .4 miles and turn left on Hwy G (before Citgo gas station).
  6. Drive 7.0 miles and turn left on Hwy SS (by big black and white building).
  7. Drive .4 miles and turn right into Zillmer Trail Area.

Zillmer Entrance Area

Here you’ll find the hub of several trails leading away from a large parking lot surrounded by trees. Also in the entrance area are some well-kept bathrooms with vault toilets and hand sanitizer, and a large fire pit with benches around it. img_8836Finally, there is a big, log cabin-style building, available for groups to rent.

img_8834This is one of many amazing hiking areas in the state of Wisconsin. I know I have only dipped my feet into the large pool of hiking possibilities, but I plan to keep sharing them with you as I discover them!

Thank you so much for reading! If you have questions, don’t hesitate to email me at twotentsdown@yahoo.com, or click on one of the buttons below to connect with me on social media.

If you need me, I’m… Two-Tents-Down-Logo-Color-CROPPED