There’s no better time than summer to enjoy a scenic hike and explore in the great outdoors! Everything is green, lush and full of life, and tall canopy trees can offer welcome shade and relief on a hot, sunny day. Scavenger hunts are a great option for enhancing your family hike, and both younger and older kids will love discovering something new along the trail.
We rounded up 23 summer hiking destinations in the Milwaukee area that have trails easy enough to bring young children along, and beautiful enough to impress the whole crew. We always recommend looking at a current trail map before you head out.
1. Bender Park
4503 E. Ryan Rd.
Oak Creek, WI 53154
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. Don’t miss 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
The northern counterpart to Bender Park is Doctors Park. Located on the border of Fox Point and Bayside, it 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.
1800 Forest Exploration Dr., Wauwatosa, WI 53213
An exceptional gem in the heart of Milwaukee, this 60-acre, mature hardwood forest represents one of the best and last remaining remnants of the southern hardwood forests that once covered southeast Wisconsin.
A unique mix of large oak, maple, ash and basswood trees, along with 16 other native species and a rich understory of wildflowers, the forest provides a diverse habitat for wildlife, including more than 158 species of birds that feed, rest and nest in the area on an annual basis.
Visitors to the forest experience solitude and passive recreation under the canopy of trees along a one-mile self-guided nature trail. This accessible loop for hiking and nature observation includes ehibit signposts with information about the local flora and fauna.
Pro Tip: Take the nature trail clockwise to experience the Forest Field Guide exhibits. Take the trail counterclockwise to explore exhibits on Forest Ecology.
4. Hartung Park
W. Keefe Ave., Wauwatosa, WI 53222 (along the Menomonee River Parkway
Built on the site of a former quarry with a rich geological history, Hartung Park was the result of a collaboration between the City of Milwaukee and the City of Wauwatosa in 2010. Besides hilly grounds with trails, the park also has a stone labyrinth that kids will love meandering through. There’s also a pond, a playground with swings and bongos, and outdoor fitness equipment. A Farmer’s Market runs on Wednesdays from 4-7 p.m., June through September.
6141 N. Hopkins St.
Milwaukee, WI 53209
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.
1130 N. 60th St.
Milwaukee, WI 53208
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.
7. Holler Park
5151 S. 6th St., Milwaukee, WI 53221
A bit of wilderness in the middle of an urban setting, Holler Park is spans 15 acres just south of Layton Blvd. There is a small pond right in the middle of a grove of trees that serves as a nature study area. There’s also a picnic pavilion and a playground.
N120W19809 Freistadt Rd., Germantown, WI 53022
Originally a farmstead, Homestead Hollow contains 105 acres of restored prairie, open grass fields, and forest, There are six trails, the longest of which is 1.7 miles. Grab the stroller for a spin around the pond on the paved, ADA accessible black trail (0.65 miles).
The park also has a dog park, fishing pond, large open grass fields with soccer nets, several enclosed rentable shelters, and a recently remodeled rentable barn hall.
9. Hubbard Park
3565 N. Morris Blvd.
Shorewood, WI 53211
Located right on the Milwaukee River and along the Oak Leaf Trail, this park makes you feel 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. On Sundays, head to Hubbard Park Lodge to partake in the Lumberjack Brunch buffet.
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. ⠀
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. ⠀
11. Lake Park
2975 N. Lake Park Rd.
Milwaukee, WI 53211
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.
500 N. Harbor Dr.
Milwaukee, WI 53202
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 paved paths, 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.
W329 N846 County Rd C
Delafield, WI 53018
The views atop the observation tower are worth the climb at this Delafield destination. There’s also plenty of wildlife to see, 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!
An annual park sticker is required.
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.
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.
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.
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).⠀
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.
Estabrook Pkwy, Shorewood, WI 53211
Sometimes called Milwaukee’s Central Park, the Greenway boasts 878 acres of greenspace and more than 28 miles of hiking, biking, and water trails along an 8-mile stretch of the Milwaukee River that begins at North Avenue and ends at Silver Spring Drive. Twelve public parks are linked together through proposed and existing public easements on private land, and 70% of the land is owned by Milwaukee County Parks.
S14 W28167 Madison St.
Waukesha, WI 53188
Even for the littlest feet, Retzer Nature Center’s new “Discovery Trail” is filled with majestic pines and picnic tables, and it’s very short. The project has revitalized Retzer’s old “Adventure Trail,” with expanded accessibility 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. See the Discovery Trail Map.
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.⠀
When you visit, be sure to stop by the Horwitz-DeRemer Planetarium for a laser show or other planetarium shows.
19. Milwaukee Rotary Centennial Arboretum (Riverside Park)
1500 E. Park Pl.
Milwaukee, WI 53211
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 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, & 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 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.
20. Seven Bridges Trail (Grant Park)
100 E. Hawthorne Ave.
South Milwaukee, WI 53172
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.
1111 E. Brown Deer Rd.
Milwaukee, WI 53217
Mystery Lake at Schlitz Audubon Nature Center is turtle and toad paradise! It’s a short hike along a boardwalk trail from the Nature Center, but bring a map because it can be tricky to find your first time. Visit the 60-foot observation tower for a beautiful view of the nature preserve and Lake Michigan.
Throughout the year, the center offers a variety of guided hikes with specific themes that are geared toward families. The 2022 calendar includes guided hikes about snakes, metamorphosis, ponds, fireflies, the supermoon and more. There’s even an Alphabet Adventure hike on Saturday, Aug. 6!
If you’re looking for a longer hike, take the paved hiking trail down to Lake Michigan and follow the sandy steps down to the beach. You can feel the lake breeze, and see if any gulls or ducks are out on the water.
22. St. Francis Seminary Woods
3257 S. Lake Drive, St. Francis, WI 53235
Just four miles south of Milwaukee, the Seminary Woods have been on the grounds of St. Francis de Sales Seminary since 1885 and have remained largely preserved and untouched by human civilization. It is used by seminarians as a place of peaceful reflection, but anyone can walk on the trails and view the gated grottos and historic cemetery at the center of the woods.
This 70-acre forest is full of ancient beech, sugar maple, red oak, paper birch and basswood trees, as well as more than 120 species of plants and wildflowers (you’ll also want to visit in the spring!). Kids will delight in the four bridges that cross Deer Creek as it flows through the woods on its way to Lake Michigan. Keep your eyes peeled for white-tailed deer, coyotes, great horned owls, and thousands of migratory birds that call this forest their home.
9701 W. College Ave.
Franklin, WI 53132
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.
Explore over five miles of nature 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.
Did you know? Wehr Nature Center is also featured in “10 Nature Centers Around Milwaukee.”