25 Gorgeous Hikes Around Milwaukee (2023)

A little fresh air and exercise goes a long way for everyone in the family.

We rounded up 25 of the best hiking destinations around Milwaukee, many of which are located inside state parks or local nature centers.

All of these destinations have trails easy enough to bring the kids along, and beautiful enough to impress the whole family.


This post is sponsored by CTSI of Southeast Wisconsin. 
Here’s a brain-building tip to try on your next family hike!

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

Let’s dive in!

1. 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 a 22 acre urban oasis located in the heart of downtown Milwaukee, adjacent to the Summerfest Grounds and Discovery World at Pier Wisconsin.

This gem is one of 15 beautiful Wisconsin State Parks near Milwaukee.

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 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.

Afterwards, visit the Northwestern Mutual Community Park, an enormous accessible playground in Henry Maier Festival Park.

Read more about a hike at Lakeshore State Park >>

2. Schlitz Audubon Nature Center

1111 E. Brown Deer Rd. Bayside, WI 53217

There’s so much to do at Schlitz Audubon Nature Center!

The Center offers six miles of trails through 185 acres of habitats such as forests, wetlands, prairies, and Lake Michigan shoreline.

Hike on the stroller and wheelchair accessible boardwalk through Mystery Lake. It’s a turtle and frog paradise!

You can also climb a 60-foot Observation Tower for an incredible view, and take the paved trail down to the shores of Lake Michigan.

Stop in the visitor center and see Emerson, a resident snapping turtle, and other animal ambassadors.

Enjoy family programming for people of all ages, starting at 6 months. Visit on weekend afternoons to see a raptor up close, or go on a guided hike.

Schlitz Audubon also offers a preschool, summer camps, birthday parties, and scouting programs.

Read more about Schlitz Audubon Nature Center >>

3. Lake Park

2975 N. Lake Park Rd. Milwaukee, WI 53211

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.

Don’t miss the trickling waterfall!

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.

4. Wehr Nature Center

9701 W. College Ave., Franklin, WI 53132

Wehr Nature Center is must-visit destination for kids and families!

It’s a 220-acre nature preserve features more than 4 miles of hiking trails that wind through five distinct plant communities, including a mature forest, 15-acre lake, wetland, prairie, and oak savanna.

There’s a beautiful waterfall, a nature place space, observation deck and an ADA-accessible boardwalk. The visitor center also has nature displays and exhibits.

A dedicated staff offers programming for everyone from pre-K to adults, year-round.

Read more about Wehr Nature Center >>

5. Retzer Nature Center

S14 W28167 Madison St., Waukesha, WI 53188

Photo Credit: Facebook, @RetzerNatureCenter

Retzer Nature Center in Waukesha is a must-visit destination for hiking enthusiasts.

The Discovery Trail 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.

Read more about Retzer Nature Center >>

6. 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 >>

7. 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 >>

8. Bender Park

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

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.

kids hiking to beach at Bender Park Milwaukee Wisconsin

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

9. Doctors Park

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

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.

father and son hiking at Doctors Park in Brown Deer Wisconsin

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.

10. 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.

11. 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.

12. Hubbard Park

3565 N. Morris Blvd., Shorewood, WI 53211

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.

Milwaukee River at Hubbard Park in Shorewood Wisconsin

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.

13. Kohler-Andrae State Park

1020 Beach Park Ln.
Sheboygan, WI 53081

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. ⠀

hiking trail at Kohler-Andrae State Park near Milwaukee, Wisconsin

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.

14. Lion’s Den Gorge Nature Preserve

511 High Bluff Dr.
Grafton, WI 53024

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. 

Lake Michigan shoreline at Lion's Den Gorge

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.

15. Lynden Sculpture Garden

2145 W. Brown Deer Rd.
Milwaukee, WI 53217

The Lynden Sculpture Garden offers a collection of more than 50 monumental sculptures sited across 40 acres of park, lake and woodland.

cow sculptures at Lynden Sculpture Garden in River Hills Wisconsin

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).⠀

16. Mequon Nature Preserve

8200 W. County Line Rd.
Mequon, WI 53097

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.

17. Urban Ecology Center at Riverside Park / Rotary Centennial Arboretum

1500 E. Riverside Pl. Milwaukee, WI 53211

archway at Milwaukee 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!

18. Seven Bridges Trail

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

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.

19. Riveredge Nature Center

4458 County Hwy Y, Saukville, WI 53080
(262) 375-2715

Riveredge Nature Center

One of the most beautifully restored natural sanctuaries in southeastern Wisconsin, Riveredge features 402 acres of forest and prairie, tranquil ponds, and more than a mile of Milwaukee River frontage.

There are also ten total miles of trails that meander through the wilderness, and they’re known for their exceptional maple sugaring events.

More than 15,000 lake sturgeon have been raised and released at Riveredge too!

20. Stigler Nature Preserve

17400 W. Liberty Ln., New Berlin, WI 53146

Stigler Nature Preserve in New Berlin
Photo Credit: awealthofnature.org

Nestled in the middle of a business park, this nature preserve is surprisingly secluded and peaceful once you’re inside.

The nature trail loop is just over a mile long and not too strenuous. A shallow creek flows through the preserve, and there are two fun bridges to cross over.

The path is mostly covered in cedar wood chips, but it can get a little muddy and buggy after a rain, so be sure to pack galoshes and bug spray.

There’s a thorough write up of this nature preserve on A Wealth of Nature blog.

21. Forest Exploration Center

1800 Forest Exploration Dr., Wauwatosa, WI 53226

Forest Exploration Center
Photo Credit: Danielle Pahlisch

Nestled in the heart of an urban landscape, this 60-acre, mature hardwood forest offers a true escape from the city bustle. There’s a unique mix of large oak, maple, ash and basswood trees, and the forest provides a diverse habitat for wildlife, including more than 158 species of birds. ​

A one-mile self-guided trail offers shaded exploration and discovery under the woodland canopy. The accessible loop was designed and built specifically for wheelchair, foot traffic and strollers.

Keep your eyes peeled for the double-sided signs with rotating panel themes, media interactives and explorations along the trail. You can read one side of the sign when you follow the trail clockwise, then double back and read the other side as you move in a counterclockwise direction.

22. Alice Bertschy Kadish Park

750 E. North Ave., Milwaukee, WI 53212
Kilbourn Reservoir Park History

Established in 2007 at the intersection of three Milwaukee neighborhoods, Alice Bertschy Kadish Park (aka Kilbourn Reservoir Park) is the result of a public-private partnership.

The City of Milwaukee leases the entire park area to the nonprofit COA Youth & Family Centers, which obtained an endowment that provides for upkeep and maintenance. 

Surrounding views abound from the top of this filled-in reservoir. Climb the stairs from North Avenue for an incredible panorama of the city skyline and surrounding trees!

23. Kettle Moraine State Forest – Pike Lake Unit

3544 Kettle Moraine Rd., Hartford, WI 53086
(262) 670-3400

The trailhead of the hike to Powder Hill is about a half-mile away from the Nature Trail parking lot. Powder Hill is the second highest point in southeastern Wisconsin, and you can climb the observation tower for a panoramic view.

The Pike Lake Unit of the Kettle Moraine State Forest also includes a segment of the Ice Age Trail.

Vehicle admission sticker required.

24. Parnell Tower 

W7876 County Road U, Plymouth, WI 53073

Parnell Tower Kettle Moraine State Forest Sheboygan Wisconsin
Photo Credit: Instagram, @alyssa_joy26

The highest point of elevation in the Kettle Moraine State Forest, this 60-foot wooden observation tower offers a panoramic view of the forest and surrounding farmland. On a clear day, you can see for about 25 miles in any direction from the top of the tower.

The tower is a favorite stop for hikers and backpackers along the Parnell Tower Trail, a 3.5-mile loop that overlaps with the Ice Age National Scenic Trail. The trailhead can be found near the parking lot on County Highway U (one-quarter mile west of County Highway A), and the tower is not far from there. There’s also a picnic area near the parking lot.

The tower is open from 6 a.m. to 11 p.m., and a state park admission sticker is required. The parking lot is closed during winter. 

25. Scout Lake

5902 W. Loomis Road

Scout Lake Hike in Greendale is stroller-friendly.
Photo from Instagram, @jessicawenzel

Hidden among the hustle and bustle of Greendale’s downtown area is Scout Lake, a peaceful oasis with lots of wildlife and a paved trail surrounding the entire circumference of the lake. It’s perfect for strollers, skating, and biking. There’s also a playground there.

The Milwaukee area offers a plethora of beautiful hiking trails for nature enthusiasts of all levels.

Whether you’re looking for a leisurely stroll or a challenging climb, there’s something for everyone here.

From the stunning views of Lake Michigan to the tranquil forests and prairies, the area is a hiker’s paradise.

So grab your hiking boots, pack some snacks, and head out to explore the natural wonders that Milwaukee has to offer.

Happy hiking!

Related Posts:

50 Best Camping Activities Your Kids Will Love

In 2013, Calie Herbst, a former teacher with three little ones, saw a need for a “One Stop Shop” for family fun in Milwaukee. So she founded Milwaukee With Kids. Her goal was to find the best this city has to offer families and share it with other parents. In one place. In 2019, she published "Exploring Milwaukee WIth Kids", a comprehensive Milwaukee travel guide for families and kids. She appears regularly on WISN News, Fox 6's 'Real Milwaukee', B93.3, and Wisconsin Morning News. She has been featured in Medium, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, NPR, the Wisconsin Jewish Chronicle, and on CBS 58 News. Calie is available for hosting, moderating and media appearances.

About the author

In 2013, Calie Herbst, a former teacher with three little ones, saw a need for a “One Stop Shop” for family fun in Milwaukee. So she founded Milwaukee With Kids. Her goal was to find the best this city has to offer families and share it with other parents. In one place. In 2019, she published "Exploring Milwaukee WIth Kids", a comprehensive Milwaukee travel guide for families and kids. She appears regularly on WISN News, Fox 6's 'Real Milwaukee', B93.3, and Wisconsin Morning News. She has been featured in Medium, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, NPR, the Wisconsin Jewish Chronicle, and on CBS 58 News. Calie is available for hosting, moderating and media appearances.

Related Posts