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Winter Recreation

Kettle Moraine State Forest – Southern Unit

Cross-country skiing

The Nordic and McMiller trails are open for skiing when there is enough snow. Hiking, pets and snowshoes are prohibited on these ski trail systems when they are groomed for skiing. A state trail pass is required for skiers 16 years of age and older. Trails can be closed with very little warning if weather changes. Please call the Trail Information Line, 262-594-6202 before venturing out.

Cross-country skiing trails

McMiller trail system

This trail system, on County Highway NN south of the Village of Eagle, provides skiing for skate and classical stride skiers. The trails traverse some significant terrain that provides great training opportunities for all skiers. The trails pass through primarily hardwoods forest and pine plantations. Five trails of different distances and degrees of difficulty greet skiers of all abilities. McMiller's heated shelter building is open every day. The trails are open every day of the week. Hiking is not allowed when the trails are groomed for skiing. McMiller Trail map [PDF].

McMiller also offers a biathlon course for those who participate in this unique sport that combines physically demanding cross-country skiing with rifle marksmanship. The biathlon range at McMiller is open for use from during daylight hours seven days a week.

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].

Snowmobiling

An 87-mile network of state forest trails join private trails in Waukesha, Jefferson and Walworth counties, which makes it possible to visit adjoining towns and villages in this region. Local snowmobile clubs contracted by the state forest groom the trails. Riders will enjoy many miles of trail that traverse through the southern hardwood forests, pine plantations and open vistas.

The opening and closing of snowmobile trails is at the discretion of each county. Snowmobile trails that cross DNR lands are opened and closed consistent with the surrounding county (or counties). Whenever possible, the opening and closing of snowmobile trails is done on a county-wide basis; however, localized conditions may require localized trail opening and closing. It is the responsibility of the county to provide notification about the status of snowmobile trails. The Travel Wisconsin Snow Conditions Report [exit DNR], and local club and county snowmobile web pages [exit DNR] and telephone hotlines will provide the most current information.

Snowmobile trails

The Moraine Ridge Trail (main trail through the forest) and the loop and access trails allow for snowmobiling in winter. A snowmobile map is also available at the Forest Headquarters. Snowmobile trail map [exit DNR].

Ice fishing

The lakes freezes over for about three months each winter. The forest does not monitor or measure the thickness of the ice on the lakes. Ice thickness and safety can vary from day to day and from location to location. Use your best judgment about the safety of the ice.

Snowshoeing

Hikers and snowshoers may explore several miles of trails that are not groomed for skiing. Some trails in the forest that are open for snowshoeing include the John Muir, Emma Carlin, Connector and Scuppernong trails; all Nature Trails; and the Ice Age Trail.

Snowshoeing trails

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 and then, after joining up with the orange loop, proceed uphill along a moraine and back downhill to the trail head.
  • 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, until it splits off on the southern half of the loop. Here, you are in for several difficult ups and downs.

John Muir trail system

On County Highway H north of the Town of La Grange and U.S. 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 up and down hill before reconnecting with the blue/green loops.
  • 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.

Ice Age National Scenic Trail

Explore the 30-mile section of the 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.

Nature 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].

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. 0.50 miles round-trip. Lone Tree Bluff nature trail [PDF].

Paradise Springs nature trail

County Highway N north of State Highway 59, just west of Eagle. Fieldstone spring house, former resort hotel, dam and former trout holding tank. Catch-and-release trout pond (artificial lures only). Paved accessible trail. Reservable picnic shelter. Vault toilets. 0.5 miles. 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 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].

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, 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].