Wisconsin's Ice Age Trail: Land Of Cool Cliffs

Carved limestone cliffs add even more to love on Wisconsin's Ice Age Trail.
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Carved limestone cliffs add even more to love on Wisconsin's Ice Age Trail.

If grade school lessons have given you the impression that glaciers left nothing behind but piles of rock and flat, uninspiring landscapes, consider calling up your teachers and inviting them to take a weekend outing on the Ice Age Trail. It's the only trail to follow the terminal moraine left by a glacier, and it's way more interesting than earth science class.

The trail's path takes hikers from the shores of Lake Michigan where dramatically carved limestone cliffs line the shoreline, then southward over the glacial moraines of Kettle Moraine State Forest and the wilds of Chequamegon National Forest, where dense stands of bur oak, red oak, and hickory inhabit rich soil that the mountain-moving glaciers deposited. It then merges into Sandstone buttes in the central part of the state and the 1800-foot hardwood hills of the far north, where numerous lakes dot the landscape. It ends where the melting glacier carved out an incredible landscape, now Interstate State Park. The sculpted landscape is a product of the great Wisconsin glacier of more than 10,000 years ago.

Since the Ice Age Park and Trail Foundation began purchasing land in 1986, the foundation has been able to fund over half of the proposed 1,000-mile Ice Age Trail, which now consists of 600 miles of segmented sections. The remaining 400 miles will make the trail continuous. Contact: Ice Age Park and Trail Foundation; 800-227-0046; www.iceagetrail.org.