Wisconsin

10 Best Hikes in Wisconsin for Hitting the Trail Any Time of Year

by Brittany Varano
Updated June 30, 2022

best hikes in wisconsin
Witches Gulch in the Wisconsin Dells. Photo: Jacob Boomsma

Grab your hiking boots, trusty water bottle, and sense of adventure — it’s time to take a hike in the Badger State.

There’s nothing better than a healthy dose of fresh air, and in Wisconsin, that’s especially true. Rain or shine (or snow), Wisconsonites appreciate a hearty walk outside. But as a state that’s primarily known for its rolling farmlands and lack of mountains, it may come as a surprise that there are actually some pretty incredible hikes to be discovered.

Plus with over 3,000 miles of hiking trails across the state, there’s plenty of variety to entice nature lovers. In the north, it’s possible to follow trails that lead to magnificent waterfalls or along the shorelines of a nationally protected archipelago. And in the south, there are epic trails that lead up towering bluffs and meander through the lush river valleys of the Driftless Area.

Without further ado, here are some of the best hiking trails in Wisconsin.

Ice Age National Scenic Trail

1. Devil’s Lake Segment

wisconsin hikes - ice age trail devils lake
Photo: Kris Wiktor

Why you should go: A popular segment of a national trail that climbs the bluffs of Devil’s Lake State Park.

  • Nearest town: Baraboo
  • Difficulty: Moderate to hard
  • Distance: 14.7 miles
  • Elevation gain: 1922 feet

The Ice Age National Scenic Trail: Devil’s Lake Segment is one of Wisconsin’s best hikes for a reason. This sweat-inducing trail not only takes you up and over 500-foot-tall quartzite bluffs, but also looks out onto Devil’s Lake’s scenic beauty.

The path starts on the outskirts of the park and primarily follows the West Bluff Trail. It then continues onward past Devil’s Doorway and Balanced Rock, two of the park’s iconic rock formations. It’s worth hiking this trail every season, as the landscape changes color to reflect the time of year.

Related Read: 10 Best Hiking Trails at Devil’s Lake State Park, Wisconsin

Peninsula State Park

2. Eagle Trail

wisconsin hikes - eagle trail
Photo: Malachi Jacobs

Why you should go: An exciting Door County hiking trail noted for its rocky outcroppings and Lake Michigan shoreline.

  • Nearest town: Ephraim
  • Difficulty: Moderate to hard
  • Distance: 2 miles
  • Elevation gain: 150 feet

The Eagle Trail loops through thick forest and climbs limestone bluffs, from which you can take in incredible views of Lake Michigan. This cliffside trail passes unique rock formations and caves that are part of the 450-miles-long Niagara Escarpment. Although the path isn’t particularly challenging, it is rocky and uneven so careful attention is essential.

You can find this popular Wisconsin hike in Peninsula State Park, one of the best places in Door County for outdoor adventure. The park boasts over 450 campsites, a sandy beach, and a historic lighthouse. This trail is popular in the summer and fall.

Copper Falls State Park

3. North Country Scenic Trail

wisconsin hikes - copper falls
Photo: Keith Homan

Why you should go: A segment of national trail that rewards hikers with views of an impressive gorge and two of the state’s largest waterfalls.

  • Nearest town: Mellen
  • Difficulty: Moderate
  • Distance: 7 miles
  • Elevation gain: 785 feet

Experience a bit of untouched wilderness along the North Country Scenic Trail, a 4,600-mile-long national hiking trail that starts in North Dakota and ends in Vermont. This particular segment of the trail is an out and back that starts at Mill Road before passing through northern Wisconsin’s Copper Falls State Park.

It overlaps with the park’s popular Doughboy’s Trail and takes you to observation decks that overlook the rushing water of Copper Falls and Browntown Falls. In addition, the park offers various camping sites, including one backpacking site nestled on the shores of the Bad River.

Related Read: 11 Waterfalls in Wisconsin Not to be Missed

Apostle Islands National Lakeshore

4. Meyer’s Beach Sea Cave Trail

wisconsin hikes - meyers beach sea cave
Photo: Bryan Neuswanger

Why you should go: A lakeshore path that showcases the unrivaled beauty of the Apostle Islands’ mainland sea caves.

  • Nearest town: Bayfield
  • Difficulty: Moderate to hard
  • Distance: 4.6 miles
  • Elevation gain: 270 feet

Catch sight of incredible limestone buffs that line the shores of Lake Superior with a visit to the Meyer’s Beach Sea Cave Trail. On the trail, you can witness how deep gorges cut through the forest, allowing hikers to look down onto the waters of the Great Lake. Parts of the trail are lined with boards and boardwalks and require stream crossings.

In the winter, impossibly large icicles begin to form, transforming the sea caves into glittering works of art. The Ice Caves are truly a sight to behold, but they require a hike over the frozen surface of Lake Superior. That means that access to the ice caves is limited to when weather and ice conditions are safe.

Perrot State Park

5. Perrot Ridge to Brady’s Bluff

wisconsin hikes - bradys bluff
Photo: Robert Vandenbeg

Why you should go: A hike boasting exciting climbs and 360-degree views of the Mississippi River Valley.

  • Nearest town: Trempealeau
  • Difficulty: Moderate
  • Distance: 3.3 miles
  • Elevation gain: 810 feet

The Perrot Ridge to Brady’s Bluff trail is a perfect introduction to Wisconsin’s Driftless Area, a region that was left untouched by the last advancing glacier. What was left behind was a topography unique to anywhere else in the state, characterized by its rolling hills and many cold water streams.

This trail takes you along two of the park’s most popular sights: Brady’s Bluff and Perrot Ridge. Brady’s Bluff towers 460 feet above the river and is noted for its prairie plants and scenic vistas. Perrot Ridge takes hikers along a steep and narrow path that looks out onto where the Trempealeau and Mississippi Rivers meet.

Related Read: The 9 Absolute Best State Parks in Wisconsin

Kohler-Andrae State Park

6. Cordwalk-Boardwalk Trail

wisconsin hikes - cordwalk boardwalk
Photo: Shutterstock

Why you should go: A leisurely boardwalk stroll over sand dunes halfway between Green Bay and Milwaukee.

  • Nearest town: Sheboygan
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Distance: 3 miles
  • Elevation gain: 88 feet

The Cordwalk-Boardwalk Trail is one of the best hiking trails in Wisconsin simply because of how incredibly unique the surrounding landscape is. Characterized by winding boardwalks, sweeping sand dunes, and the lapping waters of Lake Michigan, this hike makes you feel as if you’re somewhere along the East Coast.

This easy trail is perfect for families, but unfortunately, pets are not allowed. When you’ve finished strolling the trail, Kohler-Andrae State Park is also a wonderful place to swim or witness the beauty of the area’s wetlands.

Rib Mountain State Park

7. Rib Mountain Yellow Trail

wisconsin hikes - rib mountain
Photo: Jesse Campo

Why you should go: A forested trail with many inclines that takes you to the top of one of Wisconsin’s tallest hills.

  • Nearest town: Wausau
  • Difficulty: Moderate
  • Distance: 4.4 miles
  • Elevation gain: 836 feet

The Rib Mountain Yellow Trail is a meandering path that’s sure to get your heart racing. It offers the steepest climbs within Rib Mountain State Park, ensuring a quality workout. And at the top, you’re treated to panoramic views of Wausau and the surrounding forests.

Sugar maples fill out the mountain, drawing in thousands of visitors every fall itching to ride Rib Mountain’s cable car for an up-close view of the fall foliage. In the winter, the wide trail transforms into a popular place for snowshoeing.

Related Read: 9 Cozy Cabins in Northern Wisconsin For Your Next Trip Up North

Ice Age Trail

8. St. Croix Falls Segment

wisconsin hikes - st croix falls
Photo: Linda McKusick

Why you should go: A hiking trail near the Minnesota border marked by stopovers in Interstate State Park and the Dalles of the St. Croix River.

  • Nearest town: Dresser
  • Difficulty: Hard
  • Distance: 9 miles
  • Elevation gain: 1597 feet

Relish the beauty of Wisconsin’s oldest state park and the lush St. Croix River Valley with a stroll along the Ice Age Trail: St Croix Falls Segment. This portion of the national trail is noted for its scenic views of the St. Croix River and substantial (by Wisconsin standards) total elevation gain.

But the most beautiful part of the trail is arguably at the western terminus, where you can witness over 200 potholes that have been carved into the region’s ancient basalt bedrock. The path features stretches that follow roadways as well as some small stream crossings.

Wisconsin Dells

9. Witches Gulch Trail

wisconsin hikes - witches gulch
Photo: Jacob Boomsma

Why you should go: An exciting boardwalk through a steep canyon in the Wisconsin Dells.

  • Nearest town: Wisconsin Dells
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Distance: 2 miles
  • Elevation gain: 130 feet

Nestled along the Wisconsin River, the Witches Gulch Trail passes through a mossy slot canyon on the site of what was once a glacial lake. The canyon is a direct result of thousands of years of erosion.

This incredibly scenic trail features narrow stretches and undulating sandstone canyon walls that tower feet above you. You can only access this seasonal trail via a private Upper Dells Boat Tour. It’s also said that the area is haunted, and those brave enough can go ghost hunting on a nighttime boat tour of the gorge.

Related Read: The 10 Best Hiking Trails in the Wisconsin Dells

Ice Age Trail

10. Holy Hill Segment

wisconsin hikes - ice age trail holy hill
Photo: Flickr

Why you should go: A point-to-point idyllic trail that passes by the famed Holy Hill in southeastern Wisconsin.

  • Nearest town: Hartford
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Distance: 6.75 miles
  • Elevation gain: 603 feet

The Ice Age Trail: Holy Hill Segment is an excellent trail through the scenic Kettle Moraine Forest. It’s so named because you can spot Holy Hill during your hike, where the historic Basilica and National Shrine of Mary looks out onto the surrounding landscape.

For those who wish to climb Holy Hill, there is a well-marked detour trail that takes you to the top of the 1,350-foot-tall glacial kame. It’s also possible to visit the church’s observation tower, a particularly popular thing to do in the fall thanks to its far-reaching forest views.

Where to Go Next in Wisconsin

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