The Best Places for Hiking Near Milwaukee

Get a bit of exercise and fresh air during your trip to Milwaukee by embarking on one of the area's best hiking trails
Get a bit of exercise and fresh air during your trip to Milwaukee by embarking on one of the area's best hiking trails | © Anne Rippy / Alamy Stock Photo
Photo of Alice Johnston
Food Editor7 August 2020

Whether you call it hiking, walking or rambling, Milwaukee’s trails provide an ideal way to enjoy the outdoors. With all the breathtaking natural beauty that Wisconsin has to offer, you can choose from trails that take you through hills, up cliffs, around lakes and across streams. Grab your hiking boots and let’s hit the trails.

Hank Aaron State Trail

Natural Feature
Map View
Night Skyline of Milwaukee, Wisconsin from along the Hank Aaron Trail in  Lakeshore State Park
© Paul Brady / Alamy Stock Photo

For a touch of nature in the city, try this 14mi (22.5km) trail which winds through the coolest parts of Milwaukee. It comes from the Menomonee River from Lakeshore State Park, through the Historic Third Ward and beside Miller Park, before finishing at Blue Mound Road in Elm Grove. A paved trail, it’s very easy to traverse and even has informative stops where you can learn about the history, culture and nature of the area. For those looking to walk further, the Hank Aaron State Trail connects with the well-known Oak Leaf Trail.

Milwaukee Lakefront

Natural Feature
Map View

For a winning combination of clear blue water and beautiful nature, this famous 6mi (10km) trail ticks all the boxes. It runs in a loop, so the very energetic can hike it once, twice or even three times without getting off track. It’s a popular trail for everyone from slow-walking toddlers to road bikers, but the fact that the path is very wide means that it never gets too crowded. Regardless of whether you bike, scoot or run, Milwaukee Lakefront is a spot that shouldn’t be missed.

Ice Age National Scenic Trail – Holy Hill Segment

Natural Feature
Map View
WISCONSIN - The Ice Age National Scenic Trail crossing an open field the Emmons Creek Fishery and Wilderness Area.. Image shot 10/2008. Exact date unknown.
© Spring Images / Alamy Stock Photo

The Ice Age National Scenic Trail stretches a whopping 1,200mi (1,931km) across the state of Wisconsin, but if you can’t manage the whole thing, there are plenty of segments perfect for a quick hike. The Holy Hill section of the trail is 7mi (11.25km) long and benefits from wonderful panoramic views of the surrounding area. It leads to the Holy Hill basilica, where you can climb the spires for even more of a bird’s eye view. Even better, it’s suitable for all ages and fitness levels.

Parnell Tower Loop

Natural Feature
Map View

Part of the 132mi (212km) long Kettle Moraine State Forest Northern Unit – which you can explore fully if you’re feeling very energetic – the Parnell Tower Loop Trail runs for around 3.5mi (5.6km) and is an easy section of this well-known trail. It leads uphill to one of the tallest points in the area. Once you’ve ascended, you’ll find an observation tower that offers perhaps the best view of this location’s natural beauty. You might want to keep knowledge of this trail to yourself, in case it gets too popular.

Oak Leaf Trail

Natural Feature
Map View

The Oak Leaf Trail, coming in at 116mi (187km), is one of the most extensive trails in the county. Unless you’re really trying to find yourself and want to hike the whole thing in one go, it’s best to break it down into easy-to-tackle segments. Most of it is paved, so it’s easy to walk, but there are a few hill sections to really get the blood pumping. One of the most popular sections runs right along Lake Michigan and offers incredible views over the cliffs, so don’t forget your camera.

These recommendations were updated on August 7, 2020 to keep your travel plans fresh.