There’s nothing better than enjoying some Wisconsin scenery on a relaxing hike through one of our state parks, countrysides or natural areas. And having little ones along for the walk doesn’t mean that you still can’t get out and get active—here are some of the best trails to meander down with the whole crew.
Badger State Trail, South Central
This famous rail-trail starts in Madison and heads south down to Illinois, where it connects with the Jane Addams Trail. The nice level grade and smooth limestone and asphalt sections are great for walkers, and the family will enjoy views of prairie, farmland and rolling hills. The kiddos will marvel at the trail’s signature highlight: the 1,200-foot-long Stewart Tunnel that’s built on a curve.
Doughboys Nature Trail, North Central
Located within the scenic Copper Falls State Park, this trail in the heart of the park walks along the Bad River and has stops along the way where families can view the Copper and Brownstone waterfalls. A spur off the trail that’s one mile long leads visitors to a 65-foot observation tower where views include Lake Superior, the Apostle Islands and the Penokee Range. The park is ripe with fun spotting opportunities where young adventurers can catch a glimpse of many varieties of trees, animals and birds.
Kettle Moraine State Trail Lapham Peak Unit, Southeast
This lovely, easy trail situated 25 miles west of Milwaukee in Delafield is easy to get to (it’s one mile off the Interstate) and offers wildlife viewing and 17 miles of lighted loop trails. Pick from eight different trails, but whichever you pick, be sure to ramble over to the 45-foot observation tower on top of the highest point in Waukesha County for stellar vistas.
UW-Madison Arboretum, South Central
In the heart of the capital city is 20 miles of impeccably groomed nature trails and boardwalks that traverse woods, prairies, gardens, savannas, marshes and even a “lost city”—a failed Madison subdivision that never came to fruition. The friendly visitor center has tons of things to keep little explorers busy like a library, theater and gallery. The northern end of the preserve runs along the gorgeous Lake Wingra, and is only a hop, skip and jump away from the free Henry Vilas Zoo.
Pattison State Park, Northwest
This state park is extra-special because it not only offers over seven miles of trails, but it has the state’s highest waterfalls and the fourth highest waterfall east of the Rockies. The Black River passes through the park, then flows over the 31-foot Twin Little Manitou Falls which pours into Interfalls Lake. Walk the two-mile trail along Interfalls Lake for scenic water views, and make sure to stroll along the short .5-mile Big Manitou Falls overlook to have your pint-size hikers take in the 165-foot-high majesty.
Wyalusing State Park, Southwest
Perched 500 feet above the Wisconsin and Mississippi Rivers, this wonderful park (and one of the state’s oldest) has nine walking trails that lead through small waterfalls, woods, Native American effigy mounds and natural areas for wildlife observation. The short Bluff Trail is easy and has sights from atop the Wisconsin River bluffs, and a wood staircase leads down to the Treasure Cave where kids can explore a limestone cavern. The Sugar Maple Trail is a self-guided nature trail with signs pointing out plants and ecological concepts for little learners.
Turn your hike into a weekend getaway with these spots for kid-friendly camping! For more Wisconsin hiking, browse our directory.