Wisconsin March 23, 2018
The One Incredible Trail That Spans The Entire State of Wisconsin
Wisconsin’s Ice Age Trail is 1,200 miles of trail that roughly follows the terminal moraine – or edge – of the last glacier that covered the area. North America’s last glaciation is called the Wisconsin Glaciation, and our awesome state has tons of features that can be attributed to those glaciers. This stunning trail travels all over Wisconsin. It’s run by the National Park Service, but maintained by volunteers. There are segments of the trail all over that connect to form one of the most amazing trail systems anywhere in the country.
According to the Ice Age Trail Alliance website, "More than 12,000 years ago, an immense flow of glacial ice sculpted a landscape of remarkable beauty across Wisconsin. As the glacier retreated, it left behind a variety of unique landscape features. These glacial remnants are now considered among the world’s finest examples of how continental glaciation sculpts our planet."
The trail is one of just 11 National Scenic Trails. It exists entirely in Wisconsin and passes through 30 different counties.
It starts at Potowatomi State Park in the east and ends at Interstate State Park at the St. Croix River.
The Ice Age Trail began in the 1950s as the dream of Milwaukeean Ray Zillmer, who had a vision of a long, linear park winding through Wisconsin along the glacier’s terminal moraine. He wanted to create a national park. That dream wasn't realized, but the trail system is known nation-wide and draws a million visitors every year. The Trail Alliance has headquarters in Cross Plains and a full-time staff dedicated to maintaining the Trail.
The trail is a stunning and unique way to learn about how glaciers formed our country. We sit where two glaciers game together, we have the terminal moraine and we have a portion of the state that was not glaciated. You can see and learn so much about how our land was formed right here in Wisconsin.
Geologic features along the route include kames, lakes, drumlins, ice-walled-lake plains, outwash plains, eskers, tunnel channels, unglaciated features of the Driftless Area and other older landforms. Hiking here means learning a whole new language. There are parts of the trail that show new areas that may only be 10,000 years old. But there's also rock outcrops at Grandfather Falls, Lincoln County, and Eau Claire Dells (mylonite), Marathon County that are 1.8 billion years old..
Even if you're not into learning the geology or history, the Ice Age Trail provides a stunning system of trails and segments that get you out into nature and let you explore the true beauty of our great state.
Some of the trail is shared use, so you might find bikers or cross-country skiiers at times, but all of it is available for hiking.
Just as stunning in winter as it is in summer, the Ice Age Trail is an amazing boon to those of us in Wisconsin to have right here in our backyard.
Whether you explore a mile or two or hope to hike all 1,000 miles at some point, the Ice Age Trails lets you traverse the whole state from east to west and takes you into the most gorgeous scenery you can imagine.
Wisconsin is so lucky to have this amazing trail that not only provides access to so many parts of the state, but that works to protect the amazing landscapes and geology that were formed millions of years ago.
Have you ever hiked the Ice Age Trail? What’s your favorite part? Let us know in the comments!
Want to check out other amazing Wisconsin trails?
Check out the Elroy-Sparta, the country’s first rail-to-trail conversion.