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Backpacker Magazine – August 2010

Ice Age Trail

Hike a landscape carved by glaciers more than 10,000 years ago.

by: Devon Taylor

Download a printable version of this entire trip right here.


The 1,100-mile Ice Age Trail delivers big-wilderness solitude and prairie vistas dotted with whimsically shaped glacial erractics—rocks with no geologic business being where they are—and this 32.3-mile point-to-point is the trail’s best weekend slice. From County Highway C trailhead (1), hike south through intermittent grassland, forest, and pine-tree farms to Road ZZ (2) at mile 3.2. After the turn-off for Shelter #1 (3) at mile 4.8, head south for .3 mile and cross WI 67 (4). You’ll hike through an ancient (dry) lakebed featuring the feathery purple blooms of blazing star in July. At mile 6.8, a .25-mile side trail (5) leads to Brady’s Rock, a crumbled outcropping of pale Niagara dolomite. Continue through calf-high walking fern to WI 59 (6) at mile 11.1. Cross Road S and head west across prairie dotted with wild lupine and prickly pear. Atop a moraine, overlook indented kettles that formed when ice blocks calved off glaciers and were buried and insulated by glacial gravel. The subsequent melting created the depression. At mile 12.8, a .2-mile spur trail (7) leads to Shelter #2; camp here for a sprawling sunset view over the prairie. Next day, head into forested hills while pileated woodpeckers jackhammer away overhead. Enter Kettle Moraine Oak Opening State Natural Area (8), and gain a moraine-top viewpoint high above Blue Spring Lake. At mile 19.4, a side path (9) leads to the Stone Elephant, a ridgebacked glacial erratic (flip page for details). In 1.4 miles, reach the top of grassy 1,032-foot Bald Bluff (10). Continue south, then ascend a steep side trail 400 yards into dense trees to reach Shelter #3 (11), where you’ll spend the second night. On the final day, clamber ahead 3.2 miles west to La Grange Lake (12). Push through thick honeysuckle to the US 12 trailhead (13) at mile 28. Turn left onto Hi Lo Road, then take Kettle Moraine Drive to Whitewater Lake State Recreation Area (14) and a trailhead parking lot.

ice age trail
Trip Planner
Shuttle car drop From Eagle, take WI 67 south seven miles and turn right on US 12. In .4 mile, go left on County Rd. H for 2.5 miles to ranger station parking lot.
To trailhead Return to WI 67 and go north for 11.2 miles. Turn right on County Rd. C and park in .9 mile.

Permit Camping is allowed at shelters only; reserve permits ($12-14/night) up to 11 months in advance. (888) 947-2757

Gear up
Sherper’s, 224 E. Wisconsin, Oconomowoc; (262) 567-6847

Trip data

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