15 Easy Hikes For Kids Around Milwaukee (2023)

With its abundance of parks and trails, the Milwaukee area provides plenty of opportunities to get outside and explore with your little ones.

But not every hike is kid-friendly, and it can be hard to find trails and paths that are appropriate for young kids and their little legs.

Luckily, we’ve found a dozen hikes that will be perfect for all ages.

From scenic overlooks to hidden waterfalls, there’s something for everyone on our list.

So lace up your walking shoes, grab some snacks, and let’s hit the trails!

Family Hikes Around Milwaukee

1. Urban Ecology Center

The Urban Ecology Center at Riverside Park is an absolute gem amid its urban surroundings.

You can spend an entire day here with your children exploring the building and the surrounding park.

archway at Milwaukee Rotary Centennial Arboretum in Riverside Park near Urban Ecology Center Milwaukee Wisconsin

Check out our Guide to the Urban Ecology Center at Riverside Park for must-see features, fun facts, and more.

(Their Washington Park and Menomonee River Valley locations are also worth a visit!)

2. Lakeshore State Park

fall wildflowers in autumn at Lakeshore State Park Milwaukee Wisconsin

Lakeshore State Park is an urban oasis located in the heart of downtown Milwaukee, adjacent to the Henry W. Maier Festival Grounds and Discovery World at Pier Wisconsin. In addition to the paved paths, there is a small beach and a link to the Hank Aaron State Trail.

Families with young kids will love the accessible paved paths at Lakeshore State Park, and you’ll all enjoy the unobstructed views of our beloved Lake Michigan and the city skyline.

(It’s also within walking distance to an epic playground called Northwestern Mutual Community Park!)

3. Bender Park

Park in the lot near the lake to access the easy walking trail along Lake Michigan, heading North. The trail loops back around with great views of the water. There is also a small swimming beach! Check the park map for more hiking paths.

4. Doctor’s Park

Park in the main lot by the playground, and take the path on the east side of the lot leading down to the beach. It’s all downhill and tree-covered on the way there, and you’re rewarded with beautiful rocks and driftwood at Tietjen beach.

5. Hubbard Park

Located right on the Milwaukee River and along the Oak Leaf Trail, it feels like you’re a million miles from the city.

There are lots of paved trails, and non-paved trails, and you can explore at your own difficulty level. It’s really just a nice place to relax and take in the sights and sounds of nature.

You can bike there, or park in the lot on N. Morris Blvd. and E. Menlo Blvd. From there, you’ll enter the park through a short tunnel (kids love it).

There are bathrooms near the beer garden up the path, just north of the entrance to the park.

6. Kohler Andrae State Park

One of the last remaining nature preserves along Lake Michigan, Kohler-Andrae State Park is a 45 minute drive from Milwaukee. It offers hikes along sandy beaches and rolling sand dunes, and through pine trees and wildlife. ⠀

The Creeping Juniper Nature Trail starts and ends at the nature center and will immerse you among the sand dunes. ⠀

Other short hikes include the Black River Marsh Boardwalk, just a quarter mile hike through wetland, and the Fishing Pond Trail, another quarter mile hike with a flat surface for strollers and plenty of resting spots. ⠀

The one-mile Woodland Dunes Nature Trail is also stroller accessible, and it starts and ends at the playground. ⠀

Check online to see if restrooms and buildings are currently open or not.

7. Lion’s Den Gorge Nature Preserve

This nature preserve in Grafton is home to one of the last remaining stretches of undeveloped bluff land along the Lake Michigan shoreline. The views are stunning!

The park is 73 acres with plenty of hiking trails, boardwalks through wetlands, picnic areas, and restrooms. 

The trails are relatively stroller-friendly, but you’ll have to ditch the stroller to take the stairway down to walk along the Lake Michigan shoreline.

Be very careful on the trails because the cliffs and bluffs are very steep. It’s best to put babies and toddlers in a carrier.

8. Lynden Sculpture Garden

Free social distance walking is now open at the Lynden Sculpture Garden. Visit the bright polka dotted cows grazing along the pond (“Des Vaches: Mo, Ni, Que” by Swiss artist Samuel Buri),

run around in the wide open spaces, explore magical trees the kids can hide inside of, and find frogs and turtles galore.

Remember to enjoy the sculptures with your eyes only. Don’t climb on them!

The 40 acre space makes it easy to keep a safe distance from others. The hours are 10:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m, and they are closed on Thursday.⠀

9. Mequon Nature Preserve

Mequon Nature Preserve, with over 444 acres, five miles of trails, an observation tower, and an observation platform.

There are three parking lots to start from, like a choose-your-own-adventure book. To climb the observation tower, park in the parking lot on Swan Rd. and follow the trail around Pat’s Pond.

For good wildlife watching, park near the Pieper Power Education Center, and find the Observation Platform along the Streich Family Wetlands.

10. Retzer Nature Center

Even for the littlest feet, Retzer Nature Center is filled with majestic pines, picnic tables, and stroller-friendly paved paths.

The newly renovated Discovery Trail includes a variety of “Exploration Stations” for outdoor education, sensory-based play experiences, and STEM activities for families and school groups.

You can also explore “Vista Trail” where you’ll get a good view of Waukesha, and the “Nature Trail” where there are boardwalks and babbling brooks.⠀

Read more about Retzer Nature Center >>

11. Riverside Park / Arboretum

The Urban Ecology Center at Riverside Park is an absolute gem amid its urban surroundings.

You can spend an entire day here with your children exploring the building and the surrounding park.

Park at the Urban Ecology Center and take a peek at the pond outside the entrance with a people-powered fountain.

Then, discover outdoor sculptures and murals (an archway make of iron and steel, a set of sculptures called “Walk like a River” behind the UEC building, a giant concrete frog and raccoon, and a large student-made mural across from the building).

You can also explore the forest and walking paths west of the footbridge, and play on the Habitat Playgarden with a sandbox, spider web, & otter slides. (Located at the northeast corner of Riverside Park.)

Later, check out the huge stone archway at the entrance of the Milwaukee Rotary Centennial Arboretum. (You can see the archway from the entrance of the UEC building if you look southwest.)

Take a Walk of 3 Billion years, a walking path marked with rock sculptures as high as seven feel tall that tell the geological past of Wisconsin. Starting at the building, go west until you see the first cairn made of 340-million-year-old stone at the gravel drive that leads to the warehouse. Follow the winding path until you find the ninth and final stone structure that’s made from rock over 3 billion years old.

Check out our Guide to the Urban Ecology Center at Riverside Park for must-see features, fun facts, and more.

(Their Washington Park and Menomonee River Valley locations are also worth a visit!)

12. Seven Bridges Trail

Set along the shores of Lake Michigan, the babbling brooks, lannon stone paths, foot bridges, and huge beech trees makes it feel like an enchanted forest.

The trail starts at the Covered Bridge entrance. Find it by entering off of Lake Drive. The main loop will take you down to the beach and back, and is just half a mile total. To access it, find the stairway to the left of the Covered Bridge entrance, and take the stairs down.

13. Schlitz Audubon Nature Center

Mystery Lake at Schlitz Audubon Nature Center is turtle and toad paradise!⠀

It’s a short hike from the Nature Center, but bring a map because it can be tricky to find your first time.

The observation tower is closely, as well, offering a beautiful view of Lake Michigan and the surrounding area.

Read more about hiking at the Schlitz Audubon Nature Center. >>

14. Wehr Nature Center

Yep, this waterfall is right here in Milwaukee County.

You’ll find it at Wehr Nature Center in Franklin. Take the Lake Loop, which runs along the shoreline of Mallard Lake and right to this waterfall into the Root River.

You can also explore the short and flat “Family Friendly Trail” which will take you through beautiful woodlands. You’ll see lots of birds, and you may even come face to face with a wild turkey.⠀

See all 5 Waterfalls in Milwaukee >>

15. Lapham Peak

If you’re looking for a family-friendly hiking destination in the Wisconsin State Parks system, Lapham Peak State Park in Delafield may be just the place for you.

We recommend starting at the Hausman Nature Center and picking up the Plantation Path trail from there.

observation tower at Lapham Peak Unit in Kettle Moraine State Forest Delafield Wisconsin

The Plantation Path will lead you to the crown jewel of the park, 45-foot observation tower atop the highest point in Waukesha County (1,233 feet above sea level) to take in the beautiful views.

The Lapham Peak Observation Tower is especially spectacular in the fall!

If you want to skip the hike and go right to the observation tower, there is a convenient parking lot located very close-by.

Read more about Lapham Peak >>

16. Havenwoods State Forest

Havenwoods State Forest is the only state forest in the city of Milwaukee, located on the north side, and it’s absolutely beautiful.

autumn at Havenwoods State Forest entrance Milwaukee Wisconsin

It boasts 237 acres, hiking trails, colorful wildflowers, a pond, a nature center with animals, and more!

Read more about Havenwoods State Forest >>

17. Holy Hill

Holy Hill is a majestic place that you need to visit if you live in southeastern Wisconsin.

You can admire the beautiful architecture of the neo-Romanesque church built in 1926, enjoy the peaceful environment and expansive views, and even climb the scenic tower.

Once you get to the top, the view is absolutely incredible.

The paths leading through the forest and up to the church are especially magical in October, when all the leaves turn golden yellow.

Read more about Holy Hill >>

18. Lake Park

2975 N Lake Park Rd, Milwaukee, WI 53211

Lake Park Milwaukee Wisconsin footbridge
Lake Park is one of the most beautiful and historic parks in Milwaukee.

Truly beautiful in any season, the paved winding paths of historic Lake Park will bring you gorgeous lake vistas, rocky ravines, impressive statues, and the charming North Point Lighthouse. It’s home to an awesome playground, too!

Fun Fact: This park was designed by Frederick Olmsted, the same landscape architect who designed Central Park in New York City and the U.S. Capitol Grounds.

Want more hiking content? Check out our related posts:

17 Gorgeous Fall Hikes Around Milwaukee

7 Stroller-Friendly Hikes Around Milwaukee

10 Nature Centers Around Milwaukee

6 Best Spring Hikes Around Milwaukee

9 Best Views Around Milwaukee

5 Beautiful Waterfalls in Milwaukee County

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