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: Bong Recreation Area

The famous sign on Interstate-94

So you’re heading south on I-94 and you see that giant brown and white sign that says “Bong Recreational Area: Exit 340”. At some point in your life, you may have giggled a little. I certainly have! Weird thing is, I never actually knew dscn3000what this sign was all about. Recently a friend recommended I check out this so-called “recreational area”, so I did just that.

What is “Bong Recreational Area”?

It is exactly what is says it is: an area for recreation. Here, you can hike, ride horses, tear around on ATVs and snowmobiles, camp, swim, kayak, boat, canoe, hunt, fish, and more. Richard Bong State Recreational Area could appeal to anyone from a casual camper to an avid outdoorsperson.

Our hike

It was a mid-August afternoon, hot and sunny, when my wife I hiked the blue loop of the “South of Highway 142” trail section. Bong is definitely a dscn2940popular park. There were people everywhere! On the way to the bathroom, we saw a group of people chatting and walking. In the parking lot at the trailhead, we saw many more people, including a woman getting her horse ready for trail riding.

Humans were only some of many creatures we shared the blue loop with. We weren’t on the trail for more than two minutes before we spotted a handful of turtles and bull frogs in a murky pond. We enjoyed the view from the beautiful wooden foot bridge that stretched across the marshy area.

Hiking Trail Segments

North of Highway 142

  • Gray Trail (1.7 miles)
  • Yellow Trail (4.4 miles)
  • Orange Trail (6.4 miles)
  • Red Trail (8.3 miles)

South of Highway 142    

  • Green Trail (1.8 miles)
  • Blue Trail (4.2 miles)

Trail Difficulty

Like I said earlier, we hiked the 4-mile blue loop, South of Highway 142. This loop was very easy. It was well-marked and relatively flat. Even the most inexperience hiker could manage this trail.dscn2978

Address

Richard Bong State Recreation Area

26313 Burlington Rd.

Kansasville, WI

53139

Phone Number

262-878-5600

Trail information line

262-878-5600

Directions to Richard Bong State Recreation Area

(50 minutes from the East Side of Milwaukee)

  1. Follow I-43 South
  2. Take exit 312B to the right for I-94 / US-41 / I-43 toward Lincoln Ave./Becher St.
  3. Keep left onto I-94 E / US-41 S
  4. Take exit 316-319 to the right for I-94 E / US-41 S toward College Avenue (Follow for 20.4 miles)
  5. Take exit 337 to the right toward Mt. Pleasant
  6. Turn right onto 1st St. / CR-KR (Follow for 5 miles)
  7. Turn left onto US-45 / 200th Ave. (Follow for 2.5 miles)
  8. Turn right onto WI-142 / 15th St. / Burlington Rd. (Follow for 4 miles)
  9. You’ve made it!

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Trail Fees

A daily or annual admission sticker is required to enter the park. We already had one on our car, so the park worker just waved us in.

dscn3015All state parks require a daily or annual admission sicker on each vehicle in the lot. These fees go to maintenance of trails and facilities, and other things within the state parks. You can find information about sticker prices on Wisconsin’s Department of Natural Resources Website.

There are multiple ways to purchase your sticker. You can go to a participating local business, or purchase a pass online, but I think it’s easiest to do it right at the park. To do this, try to find an open park office, fee collectors at the park entrance, or a self-service payment tube on the premises.

The self-service payment tubes are usually located at the entrance to each trail section. You just grab a form and a pencil, fill out the form, put it all in the provided envelopes, and drop it into the tube. Lastly, put your ticket stub in your car window, and wait for your amazingly-designed Wisconsin State Park sticker to come in the mail.

Have you ever been to Bong Recreational Area? What do you like to do there?

That’s all for now! Thanks for reading!

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.

IMG_8851

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.

IMG_8872

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

Wisconsin Hiking: Kettle Moraine State Forest – Greenbush Trails

Hiking in the Greenbush Area

A few weeks ago, my wife and I headed out on a day hike in Wisconsin’s Kettle Moraine State Park. The park is filled with picnic areas, scenic views, winding hilly roads, and beautiful trails used for a variety of sports. Needless to say, we love going there!

Unfortunately, we have gotten lost on our way to this park almost as many times as we have been hiking in it. The directions on the DNR website are so basic, I’ve ended up miles out of my way, and had far too many minutes stolen from my hikes.

So this time, I decided that I would document our route to the Greenbush area (from Milwaukee), so that other people don’t have as much trouble finding it. Oddly enough, we did not get lost this time, and instead found our way perfectly, with no wrong turns or hang ups. Murphy’s Law, right? Not really!

Rhesia went out of her way to figure out the basic area we needed to get to, looked up a map, zoomed in, found an intersection, typed that into Google maps, and finally Siri took us to where we needed to go. Not so simple.

GPS Coordinates of the Greenbush picnic area

Here are the exact coordinates I expertly triangulated (Just kidding! I just used the compass app on my iPhone thanks to theses instructions.):

You can enter these GPS coordinates into Google Maps or a maps app on your Smartphone. If step-by-step street directions are more your thing, I’ve also included some of those below.

Directions to Greenbush picnic area

I took the photo to the right, as I was getting out of the car. This is the view from the small parking lot. A short walk up that path, are bathrooms and a bulletin board with a map of all the trails in the area, and some ever-changing park alerts.

But you have to get there first! Below, I’m going to offer you Siri’s directions, with my own little tidbits added in.

These are directions from Milwaukee, Wisconsin to the Greenbush Area parking lot on Kettle Moraine Drive in Campbellsport, Wisconsin:

1. Head North on I-43 (towards Green Bay).

  • Stay on I-43 for about 23 miles.

2. Take Exit 97 (towards Plymouth), which is called Hwy 57 North.

  • You’ll be on this path for another 23 miles.

3. Turn left on 23 West (towards Greenbush).

  • This turn will come about a half mile past a Fleet Farm on your left hand side.
  • Stay on 23 West for about 7 miles.

4. Turn left onto County Road T.

  • This turn comes just after a quarry on the right and a trailer park on the left,
  • Look for a green sign that says “Greenbush”.
  • Stay on County Road T for about 1.2 miles (through the tiny town of Greenbush)

5. Turn left onto Kettle Moraine Drive.

  • Follow this road for 1.7 miles until you see a picnic area on your right hand side.

Greenbush Picnic Area

You’ve made it! This quaint and beautiful picnic area is a hub for so many trails. There are tables and bathrooms, and plenty of space to spread out.
Note: If you’re parking a car in the lot, you must have a Wisconsin State Park sticker on your window. If you don’t have one, you can apply for one on the spot. There are applications and a deposit bin available for the convenience of last-minute visitors of the park. This method is based on the honor system. When you see how beautiful this State Park is, I hope you’ll be as inspired to honor it as I was.

Pictures on the trail

I’ve had the pleasure of hiking in this area last winter, during the summer, and again in the fall. It is beautiful in any season!

Thank you for reading!

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