Ice Age National Scenic Trail
The Ice Age Trail is a National Scenic Trail located entirely within Wisconsin. The trail is also one of 42 designated Wisconsin state trails and the only one specifically designated as a "State Scenic Trail." From Interstate State Park on the Minnesota border to Potawatomi State Park on Lake Michigan, the Ice Age Trail winds for more than 1,000 miles, following the edge of the last continental glacier in Wisconsin.
One of only 11 National Scenic Trails, the Ice Age Trail is intended to be a premier hiking trail and conservation resource for silent sport and outdoor enthusiasts. The trail traverses some of Wisconsin’s most scenic landscapes and helps tell the story of the last Ice Age by highlighting Wisconsin's unique glacial features.
Recreation along the Ice Age Trail
The Ice Age Trail is primarily an off-road hiking and backpacking trail that provides excellent opportunities for sightseeing, wildlife viewing and bird watching. In winter, some sections of the trail are open for cross-country skiing and snowshoeing.
The few sections of the Ice Age Trail that use the same corridor as state rail trails, such as the Sugar River State Trail, allow for bicycling and snowmobiling on the rail trail corridor. ATVs and other motorized vehicles are not permitted on any segment of the Ice Age Trail.
Opportunities are available for camping along the Ice Age Trail in national, state and county forests and in many state and county parks, including some private campgrounds. Campgrounds can vary from primitive walk-in campsites to facilities complete with electric hookups. When planning a trip, it is best to check ahead of time for camping locations and availability. The Ice Age Trail Atlas and Guidebook, which are available for sale from the Ice Age Trail Alliance, provide camping and lodging details for all segments of the trail.
Ice Age Trail maps
The Ice Age Trail travels through 30 counties on state, federal, county and private lands, connecting dozens of communities. There are hundreds of trailheads and access points located along the trail route. More than 600 miles of trail are open. The completed sections of the trail are connected by less-traveled roadways and other temporary routes.
The Ice Age Trail Atlas and Guidebook [exit DNR], containing maps for all sections of the trail, are available for sale from the Ice Age Trail Alliance. The Atlas contains more than 100, 1:48,000-scale, color maps of the entire trail and also shows parking areas, toilets, campgrounds, shelters and dispersed camping areas. The Guidebook provides a complete description of the entire trail including lodging and dining information.
The Ice Age Trail is also listed on the maps of the state parks and forests it travels through.
The Ice Age Trail Alliance [exit DNR] provides a trail map and current conditions for the Ice Age Trail.
Ice Age Trail in state parks and forests
The Ice Age Trail goes through several state and federal lands in Wisconsin, including traveling many miles through county and private lands. In addition to the state parks and forests listed below (from west to east along the trail), the Ice Age Trail travels through many state wildlife and fishery areas and some state natural areas.
- Interstate State Park, Saint Croix Falls
- Straight Lake State Park, near Frederic
- Chippewa Moraine State Recreation Area, near New Auburn
- Brunet Island State Park, Cornell
- Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest [exit DNR]
- Hartman Creek State Park, near Waupaca
- Devil's Lake State Park, near Baraboo
- Kettle Moraine State Forest
- Southern Unit, Eagle
- Lapham Peak Unit, near Delafield
- Loew Lake Unit, near Monches
- Pike Lake Unit, near Hartford
- Northern Unit, near Campbellsport
- Point Beach State Forest, near Two Rivers
- Potawatomi State Park, near Sturgeon Bay
The Ice Age Trail includes parts of other Wisconsin state trails.
- Gandy Dancer, St. Croix Falls to Frederic
- Tuscobia, Rice Lake to Birchwood
- Mountain-Bay, near Hatley
- Military Ridge, near Verona
- Badger, near Fitchburg
- Sugar River, Monticello to Albany
- Glacial Drumlin, near Wales
- Eisenbahn, near Kewaskum
- Ahnapee, Casco Junction to Sturgeon Bay
Interstate State Park, Chippewa Moraine State Recreation Area and the Northern Unit of the Kettle Moraine Forest - all units of the Ice Age Scientific Reserve - have Ice Age Educational and Interpretive Centers with major displays in glacial history and geology.
State Ice Age Trail Areas
State Ice Age Trail Areas (SIATAs) are lands purchased by the DNR for the Ice Age National Scenic Trail under the authority of s. 23.09 (2)(d) 10., Stats., unless purchased as part of another department project. The primary purpose of State Ice Age Trail Areas is to permanently protect segments of the Ice Age Trail, preserve Wisconsin's glacial landscape features and other natural and cultural resources and, where possible, offer primitive and remote opportunities for visitors to experience a quiet connection with nature. SIATAs offer low-impact public recreation such as hiking, backpacking and snowshoeing while protecting the natural and scenic character of the Ice Age Trail corridor.
Intended and allowed management activities include trail construction, creation of dispersed camping areas and invasive species control. The desired condition of the properties is for good quality natural communities. When developing the natural resource management section of the property master plan, the specific characteristics of each State Ice Age Trail Area are considered, including the pre-settlement vegetation, existing vegetation, soil types, landscape position and context and feasibility of the department and its partners to maintain the natural community types.
A few State Ice Age Trail Areas offer dispersed camping opportunities as part of a pilot program. These areas are being established to increase camping options for Ice Age Trail long-distance hikers in areas where there are currently no other convenient camping options. Similar to primitive camping areas, dispersed camping areas lack facilities and no permits or reservations are required. The hiker may camp anywhere within sight of a centrally located sign that defines the dispersed camping area. These areas are for long-distance hikers only and are not open for those doing single-night out-and-back hikes. For more information on dispersed camping, and a list of suggested backpacking itineraries, see the backpacking information [exit DNR] on the Ice Age Trail Alliance website.
State Ice Age Trail Area maps
SIATAs are open for hiking/walking. Some properties or portions of properties are open for hunting and trapping during the Wisconsin state parks hunting time frame. No hunting or trapping is allowed within 100 yards of the Ice Age National Scenic Trail on SIATA properties. For more information, please see: Hunting and trapping in Wisconsin State Parks.
Ice Age Trail partners
The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources and its partners, the National Park Service and the Ice Age Trail Alliance, cooperatively work together to develop and maintain the Ice Age Trail. Additionally, the DNR works with many volunteers, county and local governments and private land owners to continually open new sections of the trail. An agreement [PDF] between the DNR, National Park Service and Ice Age Trail Alliance explains the roles of the partners.
National Park Service
The National Park Service (NPS) [exit DNR] officially became involved with the Ice Age Trail in 1980 when Congress and the president designated the trail as a National Scenic Trail. The NPS works with the Ice Age Trail Alliance and DNR on the construction, funding and protection of the trail and coordinates the planning process for the Ice Age Trail corridor. The DNR and NPS also work together on another National Scenic Trail in Wisconsin, the North Country Trail.
Ice Age Trail Alliance
The Ice Age Trail Alliance (IATA) [exit DNR] is a nonprofit, volunteer organization whose mission is to create, support and protect the many segments of the Ice Age Trail. The IATA (formerly the Ice Age Park and Trail Foundation), was established in 1958 when the first segments of the Ice Age Trail were being built in the Kettle Moraine Forest. There are 21 local IATA chapters across Wisconsin. Volunteers play a key role in constructing new segments of the Ice Age Trail and help keep existing segments open.
Mobile Skills Crew
The Mobile Skills Crew (MSC) [exit DNR] is a program of the Ice Age Trail Alliance and is supported by the DNR and National Park Service. From spring to fall, MSC projects take place on Ice Age Trail segments throughout Wisconsin. Trained MSC volunteers specialize in working safe, having fun and building and maintaining high-quality, sustainable Ice Age Trail segments. Camping, education and environmentally friendly trail building techniques are always components of MSC projects. No experience is necessary to attend and volunteers are always welcome to participate in MSC projects.