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Kettle Moraine State Forest – Southern Unit

Hikers can enjoy miles and miles of rolling hills through pine plantations, prairies and southern hardwood forests. Trail maps help to prepare you for the distances you will encounter and the natural areas that will surround you when you hike. Hiking is available on the Scuppernong, Emma Carlin, John Muir and Nordic trails, as well as the Ice Age National Scenic Trail. There are also several shorter self-guided nature trails.

Hiking trails

Bald Bluff nature trail

County Highway H south of Palmyra on east side of the road. One of the highest points in Jefferson County, Hike to the top of the bluff, a former Indian signal hill. 0.5 miles. Bald Bluff nature trail [PDF].

Connector trails

These connector trails connect the John Muir and Emma Carlin trail systems. There are two separate connector trails, each about 6 miles long.

Emma Carlin trail system

This trail system, on County Highway Z just south of State Highway 59, goes through a hardwood forest with mostly hilly terrain. Three color-coded trails ranging from 3.5 to 8 miles. Parking, water and vault toilets are available. The trails in this system are single-track mountain bike trails that are generally more difficult than the John Muir Trails. Trail map [PDF].

  • Brown Loop, moderate, 3.5 miles: Skirt in and out of pines and hardwoods, pass a kettle low­land, then after joining up with the Orange Loop, proceed uphill along a moraine and back downhill to the trailhead.
  • Orange Loop, moderate/hard, 6 miles: Traverse the contours of the glacial geography, generally uphill to the scenic overlook where the Connector trail meets the Carlin trails. Then get ready for lots of ups and downs until meeting back with the Brown Loop.
  • Green Loop, hard, 8 miles: This trail is continuous with the Orange Loop until it splits off on the southern half of the loop. Here you are in for several difficult ups and downs.

Ice Age National Scenic Trail

Explore the 30 miles of Ice Age Trail that goes from the southernmost end to the northernmost point of the Kettle Moraine State Forest-Southern Unit. It's part of the Ice Age National Scenic Trail that eventually will go 1,000 miles through some of Wisconsin's most scenic areas.

John Muir trail system

On County Highway H north of the Town of La Grange and US Highway 12 and south of the Town of Palmyra, this is the most popular trail system within hundreds of miles. The John Muir Bike Trails are single-track, mountain bike trails that are rough, natural surface trails. Five different loops ranging from 1.25 miles to 12 miles. Parking, water and vault toilets are available. Trail map [PDF].

  • Brown Loop, easy, 1.25 miles: Mostly flat trail with some small rolling hills; two moderate uphill climbs, one fast downhill and a little rocky ending.
  • White Loop, moderate, 4.25 miles: Moderate hills, some rocky trail sections; one long downhill, one fast steep downhill and one moderate uphill before reconnecting with the Brown Loop.
  • Rainy Dew Bypass (purple), hard, 4.7 miles: Moderate trail with a hard rocky uphill and downhill stretch before reconnecting with the Blue Loop and Green Loop.
  • Orange Loop, moderate/hard, 5.0 miles: The first half of the trail is the White Loop. Includes moderate trail with a hard, long up-hill before reconnecting with the Brown Loop.
  • Green Loop, hard/more difficult, 7.0 miles: Moderate trail with very rocky and sandy trail sections; many hard ups and downs, with many fast sections.
  • Blue Loop, hard/most difficult, 12.0 miles: Hard trail with very rocky section, many hard up hills and several fast downhills.
  • Skills Course: A very short course to practice trail skills.

Lone Tree Bluff nature trail

Hike uphill to get a bird's-eye view of the area's glacial landscape. On the way, markers indicate how the bluff earned its name and how the landscape has changed since pioneer days. 0.5 miles round-trip. Lone Tree Bluff nature trail [PDF].

Nordic trail system

This trail, on County Highway H south of the Village of Palmyra, provides hiking and skiing for skate and classical stride cross-country skiers through a variety of vegetation, hardwoods, pine plantations, open meadows and Kettle Moraine terrain. There are six different trails of varying lengths and degrees of difficulty, providing great hiking or skiing for all levels of ability. A warming shelter is open every day and convenient parking, vault toilets and a sledding hill are also available at the trailhead. Hiking is not allowed when the trails are snow-covered. Bikes are not allowed on this trail system. Nordic Trail map [PDF].

Paradise Springs nature trail

This paved trail travels to the Fieldstone spring house, former resort hotel, dam and former trout holding tank. The trail travels along the catch-and-release trout pond (artificial lures only). There is a reservable picnic shelter and vault toilets at the trailhead.  Paradise Springs nature trail [PDF].

Rice Lake nature trail

Off Kettle Moraine Drive, just east of Hi-Lo Road. Walk along the edge of a small pond, hear frogs in the spring, visit the wildlife blind. 0.5 miles. Rice Lake nature trail [PDF].

Scuppernong trail system

These trails, on County Highway ZZ just east of Highway 67 north of the Village of Eagle, are open to hikers. There are three color-coded loop trails ranging from 2 to 5 miles. The Scuppernong area provides convenient parking, water and a vault toilet. The trails have a nice rolling characteristic through hardwood forest and pine plantations. Bikes are not allowed on this trail system. Scuppernong Trail map [PDF].

  • Red Loop, intermediate, 2.3 miles: Short and narrow with steep terrain is the only way to describe this loop. You’ll pass through pine plantations and hardwood forest.
  • Orange Loop, intermediate, 4.1 miles: This loop will take you deeper into the hardwood forest.
  • Green Loop, advanced, 4.9 miles: About halfway on this loop, you will pass the edge of the Pinewoods Campground. As you continue through the pines, walk quietly down these old fire lands. When making your final descent from the ridge to the parking lot, you will experience a roller coaster of hills that you won’t soon forget.
  • Observation Loop: Enjoy a seat on this overlook with views of Ottawa Lake and the surrounding area.

Scuppernong Springs nature trail

County Highway ZZ across from Ottawa Lake Recreation Area Natural springs, foundation of previous marl works plant, hotel and Native American campsite. Scuppernong Springs nature trail [PDF].

A portion of this trail is made of crushed limestone for universal access.  

Stony Ridge nature trail

Behind the Forest Headquarters on State Highway 59. Get a good view of the geological features of the Kettle Moraine area, visit the pond or kettle with many turtles. 1 mile.

Stute Springs nature trail

County Highway Z south of State Highway 59, across from Emma Carlin. Foundations of a former 180-acre farm, spring house and stone fences. Hike an extra mile to the top of “Big Hill” (highest point in the Kettle Moraine). 1.5-mile loop. Stute Springs Nature Trail [PDF].