Taking On Wisconsin’s Ice Age Trail and What Inspired Me To Do It

Did you know that Wisconsin’s Ice Age Trail is one of 11 National Scenic Trails in the US? I bet not.  Most people, even if you are from Wisconsin really do not know much about the Ice Age Trail segments that they pass along the highway when you are traveling this beautiful state.  If fact, I cannot count how many times I have passed the trail-head on highway A just east of Elkhart Lake without really knowing much about it. Or that I passed another segment on my way to Whitewater to drop Megan off at college. Another interesting fact is nearly 60% of Wisconsin’s population live within 20 miles of some portion of the trail!  Now to not take advantage of it is really a shame

Ice Age Trail marker
What is the Ice Age Trail?

The Ice Age Trail is an 1100 mile trail that follows the last North American glacial advance in Wisconsin.  Along many parts of the trail, you can view what’s left behind from out glacial history in the form of lakes, rock formations, and hilly terrain. The trail consists of around 650 miles of actual trail separated into trail segments and roughly 450 road miles that are connecting routes. The western terminus is located in St. Croix Falls in Interstate State Park and the eastern terminus is located in Potawatomi State Park in Kewaunee County.

The Ice Age Trail really is a Wisconsin and for that matter, a national treasure that needs more attention.

I have been mildly obsessed with the trail for some time now. No, I’m not a dedicated hiker or runner, I just love to be out in nature and get in a little exercise while I’m at it. That and the fact that I live withing 2 miles of one of the newest segments, the Walla Hi segment, located on the southwestern edge of Manitowoc County.

What really got me thinking of taking on the Ice Age trail was reading Melanie Radzicki McManus’s book Thousand-Miler. What brought me to read this book was a suggestion from a friend, and since I am a travel blogger, I’m always looking for things to explore in Wisconsin. Oh, and also the fact that McManus was a 51 year old women when she did her first through hike of the Ice Age Trail. Midlife women who go out and grab what they want just inspire me.

Thousand-Miler is a fascinating book. Melanie not only covers her first through hike with all its aches and pains, but the experiences of other Ice Age hikers that she has met. She also shares a history of the trail, which was so interesting.  I kept thinking about how this all took place without most Wisconsinites having little knowledge of it.  I was also incredibly lucky to see Melanie in person when she came and gave a talk about the Ice Age Trail at my local library (if you have a chance to see her in person, you must! What a great talk).  She also shed some light on why most people have no clue about this trail. She pointed out that in general the midwest is considered the fly-over states.  Which means that most travelers really don’t pay much attention to the middle section of our country. The east coast, west coast and the south are the prime tourist areas and somehow the middle section gets overlooked, even though we have INCREDIBLE places to see and things to do right here.

So this makes total sense to us midwest travel writers and bloggers and we put a lot of time and energy to get people to come visit our states!! We are COOL and have unique places and things to do too!

Okay, so I may be ranting a little there and back to the Thousand-Miler and the Ice Age Trail…

This book seriously made me want to lace up my hiking shoes and hit the trail. If you are expecting this book to be like Wild, that ultra famous book from Cheryl Strayed, well quite frankly, as McManus will tell you herself, it’s not even close. Simply put, if you at all interested in the trail, you must read this book!

Which brings me back to my journey.  As I said, I have wanted to take on the Ice Age Trail for awhile. As I begin thinking about my travel plans and goals I want to accomplish next year, I put segment walk some parts of the Ice Age Trail on that list. Now I am not talking about all 1100 miles! Just segments that I decide to do at a leisure pace. No time frame, just to enjoy each segments beauty. The beauty of the trail is you can take it on however you want.

Last week while it was an exceptionally gorgeous fall day, Zoe and I took off down the road a couple miles to hike my first segment of the Ice Age Trail. The Walla Hi segment just opened not too long ago, in fact the grand opening was just the previous weekend! Located in Walla Hi County Park just a few miles east of Kiel, this segment is part of a few hiking trails located in the park.  There is also a great horse trail that winds around the edge of the park. I drove into the park to the second parking area and spotted the sign for the trail-head. There is a map on the sign and there were a couple paper maps located in a map box.  Grabbing one, we began our trek.  The Ice Age portion is about 2 miles and I hiked to one end, turned around and hiked to the other end. Instead of turning around and retrace my steps, there was a connecting trail marked with white blazes that looped back to the parking are where my car was.

The Ice Age Trail portion was well marked with yellow blazes every few trees, so it was easy to find my way.  The hike is beautiful and a bit challenging up a few hills, but the scenery was awesome! Since the leaves were in full color, it made for a perfect 3 mile hike on a sunny warm day! Eventually the plans are to extend the trail to nearby Lax Chapel road. I decided then that I would be back many times to hike this segment.

Hiking that small stretch of the trail made me even more determined to check out more segments. As always finding things like this to do in Wisconsin just reinforces the pride I feel that I live here.  As much as I love Paris, Wisconsin will always be the place I call home.

For those of you that think the midwest is fly-over territory, why not give us a try? You will not be sorry.

Have you hiked any of the Ice Age Trail? Tell me about it.

As always, if you like what you read here, please share it. Thanks




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  1. Tonya | 29th Oct 17

    I had no idea that there are 11 11 National Scenic Trails and I’ve never heard of this one but it sounds fascinating. I’m adding the book to my reading list and I’ll probably want to hike the trail too. Good luck! I look forward to reading what portions you decide to hike.

    • Lori Helke | 30th Oct 17

      Thanks Tonya! You will have to let me know how you like the book.

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