1. Wehr Nature Center / Whitnall Park
Nestled in beautiful Whitnall Park is Milwaukee County’s very own Wehr Nature Center. It’s the perfect destination for a family with young kids looking for easy hiking trails and accessible wildlife watching.
Start at the Visitor Center and drop a donation into the box near the parking lot.
Yu’ll see a Nature Play Space and Nature Center nearby overlooking Mallard Lake.
For kid-friendly hikes, walk down the short hill from the Visitor Center. Turn left for the Lake Loop / Waterfall and turn right for Family Friendly Trail. Check out the Trail Map here.
Lake Loop / Waterfall
Follow the path along Mallard Lake and look for frogs and turtles in the clearings. It’s frog mating season right now so you’ll hear them croaking throughout the hike. Less than a half a mile into your walk, you’ll stumble upon the waterfall into the Root River. It’s a great place to stop for a snack. If your kids are up for it, you can do the entire loop around the lake (1.5 miles), or just turn around and head back to the Visitor Center. We recommend carrying your non-walkers since the path is not stroller-friendly. Bring masks because it’s hard to distance when you pass others on the trail.⠀
Family Friendly Trail
If you turn right on the path below the Visitor Center you’ll find a stroller-friendly boardwalk. It’s called Family-Friendly Trail and it’s only .5 miles long. You’ll see beautiful birds and you may spot a wild turkey. Wehr’s website says, “This trail showcases the diversity of Wehr’s natural communities in a family friendly distance. It begins at the Amphitheater and takes you by Mallard Lake, the Wetland, and the Woodland before returning you to the Visitor Center. Benches and photo opportunities are frequent as you walk over level to moderately sloping terrain on paths of wood chips and boardwalk.”
✔️Use the bathroom before you leave the house! There are no restrooms.
✔️Pack sunscreen, bug spray, water, and snacks.
✔️Check for ticks when you get home.
2. Lake Park Waterfall
The lannon stone waterfall in Lake Park was restored in 2010 and has a vertical fall of more than 30 feet, the highest in Southeastern Wisconsin.
Lake Park was designed in the early 1900s by landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted, who was also the architect for Central Park in New York City and the U.S. Capitol grounds.
You can access the Lake Park Waterfall via a path that begins at an overlook just south of the Lake Park Pavilion parking lot. The wooded path leads down to Lincoln Memorial Drive.
3. Kletzsch Park Dam
Kletzsch Park in Glendale is home to a beautiful waterfall (officially a dam) located on Milwaukee River Parkway and along the Oak Leaf Trail.
It’s a great stop for a snack or rest, and there are a couple of playgrounds nearby. One is located in Kletzsch Park just north of the waterfall, and another is located at Parkway Elementary School south of the waterfall (not open to the public during school hours).
Maslowski Park and playground is also about a five minute drive away.
4. Boerner Botanical Garden
Boerner Botanical Gardens are home to formal gardens situated on Boerner Drive in Whitnall Park in the village of Hales Corners, about 15 minutes from Milwaukee.
Visitors can walk through the rose garden and peony garden, as well as variety of annuals and perennials. Plus, there’s a fragrant herb garden, a daylily path, and a serene rock garden with trickling streams and waterfalls (pictured above).
There’s also a brand new children’s garden called Margie’s Garden, which is included with admission.
5. Grant Park, Mill Pond Dam
The Mill Pond Spillway is located in Grant Park in South Milwaukee along the Oak Creek Parkway.
Built by John Fowle in the early 1840s, this dam helped operate both a gristmill and a sawmill. The millstones, thought to be the oldest man-made items in South Milwaukee survive on the site and can be seen lying on either side of the dam. It is now owned by Milwaukee County and is part of the Oak Creek parkway.
Find out more on milwaukeehistory.net.