17 Gorgeous Fall Hikes Around Milwaukee (2022)

A little fresh air and exercise goes a long way, especially this time of year. Fall hiking is a peaceful and colorful experience that will delight the senses.

We rounded up 17 autumn hiking destinations, many of which are located inside state parks or near nature centers in the Milwaukee area. All have trails easy enough to bring the kids along, and beautiful enough to impress the whole family, making them the best places to admire fall foliage and breath the crisp, fresh air.

We always recommend looking at a trail map before you head out.

1. Bender Park

4503 E. Ryan Rd.
Oak Creek, WI 53154
Park Map

golden fall autumn leaves in Bender Park Oak Creek, Wisconsin
Photo Credit: Instagram, @awerls1753

To access this hidden gem, head east on Ryan Road and don’t stop until you reach Lake Michigan. Park in the lot near the lake to access the easy walking trail that follows the shore, heading north. The trail loops back around with great views of the water.

During warmer months, check out the small swimming beach and walkable pier. Check the park map for more hiking paths.

2. Doctors Park

1870 E. Fox Ln.
Fox Point, WI 53217
Park Map

fall hiking autumn leaves on path trail in Doctor's Park, Fox Point, Wisconsin
Photo Credit: Instagram, @snaptheearth

The northern counterpart to Bender Park is Doctors Park. Located on the border of Fox Point and Bayside, this beautiful place consists of 49 acres on a bluff overlooking Lake Michigan.

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

Turn your visit into a day trip by stopping by the Schlitz Audubon Nature Center next door.

3. Havenwoods State Forest

6141 N. Hopkins St.
Milwaukee, WI 53209

autumn at Havenwoods State Forest entrance Milwaukee Wisconsin
Photo Credit: Facebook, @FriendsofHavenwoodsStateForest

Located right in the middle of the city, Havenwoods is huge, clocking in at 237 acres. This makes it a great place not only for hiking, but also for biking.

Don’t miss the gardens and arboretum just north of the Nature Center and parking lot. For little kids and short attention spans, this might be all you accomplish while you’re there! There’s plenty of space to wander around through forests, prairie, and wetland. The 120-foot bridge is less than half a mile from the Nature Center, heading west.

4. Hawthorn Glen

1130 N. 60th St.
Milwaukee, WI 53208

autumn fall colors at Hawthorn Glen Outdoor Education Center Milwaukee Wisconsin
Photo Credit: Facebook, @HawthornGlenOE

Hawthorn Glen is near the border of Milwaukee and Wauwatosa, and it offers the perfect length loop for little legs. There are postings along the way so you can learn about the history and wildlife around you. There are stairs to climb at the back of the property for a good view, and a fun hill for the kids to roll down. There’s also a small playground and sandbox.

5. Hubbard Park

3565 N. Morris Blvd.
Shorewood, WI 53211

Milwaukee River in Hubbard Park, Shorewood, Wisconsin autumn fall hiking
Photo Credit: Instagram, @sstephanie.s

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 paved and non-paved trails, and you can explore at your own difficulty level.

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

1020 Beach Park Ln.
Sheboygan, WI 53081

Lake Michigan beach autumn hiking trail fall Kohler Andrae State Park, Sheboygan, Wisconsin
Photo Credit: Instagram, @Jen.s.photography

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, through pine trees and wildlife. ⠀

The Creeping Juniper Nature Trail starts and ends at the Nature Center; it 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 (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. ⠀

Vehicle admission sticker required.

7. Lake Park

2975 N. Lake Park Rd.
Milwaukee, WI 53211

North Point Lighthouse in autumn fall hiking in Lake Park, Milwaukee, Wisconsin
Photo Credit: Instagram, @zipperpinch

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. And it’s all tucked away from the hustle and bustle of the Milwaukee lakefront.

8. Lakeshore State Park

500 N. Harbor Dr.
Milwaukee, WI 53202

fall wildflowers in autumn at Lakeshore State Park Milwaukee Wisconsin
Photo Credit: Facebook, @LakeshoreStateParkMKE

Lakeshore State Park is an urban oasis located in the heart of downtown Milwaukee, adjacent to the Summerfest 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. The park is 22 acres!

Families with young kids will love the accessible trails, and you’ll all enjoy the unobstructed views of Lake Michigan and the city skyline.

You’ll walk among short-grass prairie, flowering plants like butterfly weed, purple coneflower and native grasses. If you linger near the rocky shores, you may see some snapping and painted turtles or bullfrogs laying out in the sun.

9. Kettle Moraine State Forest – Lapham Peak Unit

W329 N846 County Rd C
Delafield, WI 53018

autumn colors view from observation tower at Lapham Peak Unit in Kettle Moraine State Forest Delafield Wisconsin
Photo Credit: Facebook, @suzannagreek

There’s plenty of wildlife to see at this Delafield destination, and lots of kid-friendly hiking options. We recommend Plantation Path, a one-mile, blacktopped, accessible trail through a prairie and wooded area. The Butterfly Garden, the crown jewel of Lapham Peak State Park, is located just east of this path. Check the map before you go!

You’ll also want to climb the 45-foot observation tower atop the highest point in Waukesha County (1,233 feet above sea level) to take in the beautiful views and fall colors. (NOTE: According to the Wisconsin DNR website, the pathway steps to the Observation Tower at Lapham Peak are temporarily closed for replacement. The main entrance pathway to the tower will be closed during this time, but visitors can still access the tower from the Ice Age Trail.)

An annual park sticker is required.

10. Lion’s Den Gorge Nature Preserve

511 High Bluff Dr.
Grafton, WI 53024

sunrise from bench overlooking Lake Michigan at Lion's Den Gorge Nature Preserve in Grafton, Wisconsin autumn fall hiking
Photo Credit: Instagram, @patrick.josh

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.

NOTE: 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.

11. Lynden Sculpture Garden

2145 W. Brown Deer Rd.
Milwaukee, WI 53217

autumn fall hiking by polka-dotted cows in Lynden Sculpture Park in Milwaukee, Wisconsin
Photo Credit: Instagram, @thefatgardener

The Lynden Sculpture Garden offers a collection of more than 50 monumental sculptures sited across 40 acres of park, lake and woodland. Free social distance walking is now available.

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 and hide inside magical trees, and find frogs and turtles galore. Remember to enjoy the sculptures with your eyes only. Don’t climb on them!

The Sculpture Garden is open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. (closed on Thursdays).⠀

12. Mequon Nature Preserve

8200 W. County Line Rd.
Mequon, WI 53097

observation tower in Mequon Nature Preserve in autumn fall hiking Wisconsin
Photo Credit: Instagram, @emilygracewat

Mequon Nature Preserve rests on over 444 acres, and it offers five miles of trails, an observation tower, and an observation platform.

There are three parking lots to start from; it’s like a choose-your-own-adventure book. To climb the observation tower, park in the parking lot on Swan Road 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.

13. Retzer Nature Center

S14 W28167 Madison St.
Waukesha, WI 53188

Scarecrow Lane at Retzer Nature Center Waukesha Wisconsin
Photo Credit: Facebook, @RetzerNatureCenter

The Discovery Trail at the Retzer Nature Center was added as part of a multi-phase project to revitalize the old Adventure Trail, expanding accessibility into nature for all ages and abilities. The trail includes a variety of “Exploration Stations” for outdoor education, sensory-based play experiences, and STEM activities for families and school groups.

Other additions include a gateway feature, a stone seat wall gathering space, a habitat free-play area, boulder scramble, and native plant observation areas.

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. On the Orange Trail (approx. .75 mile with woodchipped and mowed grass, some sloped terrain), you’ll find a self-guided Story Hike.

From mid-September through the end of October, you can enjoy a fun, self-guided walk around Scarecrow Lane. Scarecrows made by nature center visitors are put on display on the Blue Trail, which you’ll find on the west end of the Learning Center building, near the Children’s Garden and loop to Retzer pond (woodchipped and mowed grass trails with some sloped terrain).

14. Riverside Park / Rotary Centennial Arboretum

1500 E. Riverside Pl.
Milwaukee, WI 53211

Rotary Centennial Arboretum in Riverside Park near Urban Ecology Center Milwaukee Wisconsin
Photo Credit: Facebook, @mkebeautiful

Park at the Urban Ecology Center and take a peek at the pond outside the entrance; it has a people-powered fountain. Then, discover outdoor sculptures and murals (an archway made 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). Then, explore the forest and walking paths west of the footbridge. You can also play on the Habitat Playgarden with a sandbox, spider web, and otter slides. (Located at the northeast corner of Riverside Park.)

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.) An arboretum can be defined as a “living museum of trees,” and this one is home to 70 trees indigenous to southeastern Wisconsin.

Take the Walk of 3 Billion Years, a walking path marked with rock sculptures as high as 7 feet tall that tell the geological past of Wisconsin. Starting at the building, go west until you see the first cairn at the gravel drive that leads to the warehouse. It’s made of 340-million-year-old stone. Follow the winding path until you find the ninth and final stone structure that’s made from rock over 3 billion years old!

15. Seven Bridges Trail

Grant Park
100 Hawthorne Ave.
South Milwaukee, WI 53172
Park Map

autumn fall hiking trails at Seven Bridges Trail in South Milwaukee, Wisconsin
Photo Credit: Instagram, @theoutbound

Set along the shores of Lake Michigan, the babbling brooks, Lannon stone paths, foot bridges, and huge beech trees make this hiking location 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 it’s only a half-mile. To access it, find the stairway to the left of the Covered Bridge entrance, and take the stairs down.

16. Schlitz Audubon Nature Center

1111 E. Brown Deer Rd.
Bayside, WI 53217

autumn fall hiking trail pond at Schlitz Audubon Nature Center in Bayside, Wisconsin
Photo Credit: Instagram, @brookebrightonwx

Mystery Lake at Schlitz Audubon Nature Center is a 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 center offers a variety of guided hikes throughout the year. Enhance your hike by renting a family-friendly Nature Pack, which includes a scavenger hunt, a Quick Guide to animal tracks and traces, a magnifying glass, and a Nature Notebook to write down observations or draw what you experienced.

Note: Masks are optional inside the Visitor Center but are required in the Nature Preschool indoor classrooms when preschool children are gathered in a group. Children aged 2 and under do not need to wear a mask.

17. Wehr Nature Center

9701 W. College Ave.
Franklin, WI 53132

waterfall in autumn at Wehr Nature Center in Franklin, Wisconsin fall hiking
Photo Credit: Instagram, @kawarn13

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

Explore over five miles of great trails through woodland, wetland, prairie and oak savanna on 220 acres of protected land in Whitnall Park.

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.⠀

Just outside the Visitor Center, you’ll discover labeled gardens featuring prairie, woodland and other plant varieties; a natural play space for kids with a log cabin playhouse; and an accessible deck over Mallard Lake.

Wehr Nature Center is also featured in “10 Nature Centers Around Milwaukee“.

Did you like this article?

Check out “10 Nature Centers Around Milwaukee” and “101 Best Things to do in Milwaukee With Kids“.

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