A little fresh air and exercise goes a long way during a Wisconsin winter. These hikes are easy enough to bring the kids along, and beautiful enough to impress the whole family. They are great with or without snow, but if there is some fresh powder on the ground, you might try snowshoeing. Some of these places even have snowshoes available to rent.
We always recommend looking at the Trail Map before you head out.
1. Doctors Park
1870 E. Fox Ln., Fox Point, WI 53217
Part of the Milwaukee County Parks system, Doctors Park features 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 leading down to the beach. It’s all downhill and tree-covered on the way there, and you’re rewarded with beautiful rocks, driftwood, and amazing ice formations at Tietjen beach. Fair warning: it’s gets *really* cold by the water. Wear layers!
2. Hawthorn Glen
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.
Follow the Hawthorn Glen Facebook Page to stay informed about low-cost snowshoe hikes for which they provide snowshoes. Sometimes the hikes are even candlelit!
3. 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.
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.
4. 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 frozen beaches and snowy sand dunes, and through pine trees and wildlife. Click here for a trail map.
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.
5. 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.
6. Kettle Moraine State Forest – Lapham Peak Unit
W329 N846 County Rd C, Delafield, WI 53018
One of the highlights at this Delafield destination is the 45-foot observation tower perched atop the highest point in Waukesha County, which offers panoramic views of the surrounding area.
There’s also plenty of wildlife to see, and lots of kid-friendly hiking options. We recommend Plantation Path, a one-mile, blacktopped, handicapped accessible trail through a prairie and wooded area. (In warmer months, the Butterfly Garden is located just east of this path.) Check the trail map before you go! Note: Hiking is not allowed on the cross-country ski trails when they are snow-covered.
An annual park sticker is required.
7. Lynden Sculpture Garden
2145 W. Brown Deer Rd., Milwaukee, WI 53217
The Lynden Sculpture Garden offers a unique experience of art in nature through its collection of more than 50 sculptures 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, and explore magical trees the kids can hide inside of.
Remember to enjoy the sculptures with your eyes only. Don’t climb on them! Also, there are no paths, so wear suitable footwear.
8. Retzer Nature Center
S14 W28167 Madison St., Waukesha, WI 53188
Even for the littlest feet, Retzer Nature Center’s “Adventure Trail” is filled with majestic pines, picnic tables, and is very short. 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.⠀
You can even rent snowshoes at the nature center. First come, first serve!
9. Riverside Park / Arboretum
1500 E. Park Pl., Milwaukee, WI 53211
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). 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.)
Or you can 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 three billion years old.
Snow shoe rentals available (free for members).
10. Seven Bridges Trail
Seven Bridges Trail, South Milwaukee, WI 53172
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 winter wonderland.
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.
11. Schlitz Audubon Nature Center
1111 E. Brown Deer Rd., Bayside, WI 53217
Start at the nature center and head down to the lake to see impressive ice formations. Or, stick to the snowy trails and forests. You can view both Lake Michigan and the forest from above by climbing the 60-foot observation tower. Wheelchair and stroller-accessible walking trails allow everyone to experience nature.
When weather permits, snowshoes are available for use on the trails (free for members, $10 for guests). Keep an eye on their website and calendar. They occasionally offer low-cost, guided Family Snowshoe events, during which they provide the snowshoes.
12. Wehr Nature Center
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.
You can also explore the short and flat “Family Friendly Trail,” which will take you through beautiful winter woodlands. You may even come face to face with a wild turkey.⠀
13. Paradise Springs Nature Area
W374 S8640 County Rd N, Eagle, WI 53119
Paradise Springs is a magical place, and you’ve never seen a more stunning freshwater spring in Wisconsin. The paths are paved, and the hike is less than a mile. There’s also an observation deck and waterfall!
It used to be a resort for Milwaukee’s wealthiest folks. There was a horse track and shuffleboard court, and a spring water bottling plant (sold under the name “Lullaby Baby Drinking Water”).
The Springhouse was built by Louis Petit, who was dubbed the “Salt King” because he became wealthy in the salt mining business. (His grandson is August Pabst, who became a beer executive and inherited this property.)
Caution! Paradise Springs is about a 50-minute drive away from Milwaukee, and you’ll probably only spend about 30 minutes there. You can pair up your visit with a trip to Fox River Park in Waukesha, just 20 minutes away from Paradise Springs. Fox River Park has a nature playground with a 30-foot slide built into the side of a hill!
Pro Tip: The Culver’s on Rochester St. in Mukwonago is between the two destinations, if you need a sweet treat.
14. Three Bridges Park
610 S. 35th St., Milwaukee, WI 53215
Have you been to Three Bridges Park? It’s one of the city’s newest parks, open since 2013 and located along the Menomonee River between 27th and 37th St.
Prior to 2013, this area was neglected, nearly destroyed by industry, and would not sustain wildlife and plants. Thanks to the Urban Ecology Center, and many community partners and volunteers, this land has been reclaimed for nature and outdoor recreation.
Today, it’s a 24-acre urban oasis with paved trails, rolling hills, and small oak trees planted for future generations.
The park is not visible from the street, but we recommend parking near the Urban Ecology Center (3700 W. Pierce St.)
Be sure to walk under the Valley Passage, a bright and colorful archway. From there, it’s just a short walk to the Menomonee River, Silver City Bridge, walking paths, and great views of the city!
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