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Milwaukee, WI: Vern Wolf Lake Loop

Bring binocs on this 3.9-mile loop in the Richard Bong State Recreation Area; open grassland invites long views of Vern Wolf Lake, its shoreline, and flying falcons.

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This multi-use park is open to outdoor enthusiasts from hikers to hunters and is crisscrossed with 40-some miles of multi-use trails. The area, once slated for development as an air force base, also has wide-open spaces that welcome fliers of all kinds from homemade rockets to model airplanes to more than 15 species of migratory birds. Both expansive prairies and woodlands surround the 150-acre lake at the center of this 3.9-mile clockwise loop.
Start by crossing a wooden boardwalk and road before turning east through an oak-sprinkled savanna. You’ll pass pine and pussy willows as you head south toward your first glimpses of Vern Wolf Lake. Three trails converge to squeeze across a dam at the lake’s eastern shore; watch for migrant loons, American white pelicans, snow geese and beaver activity. This route doglegs around the south end of the lake before heading west toward smaller ponds and past one of the area’s most popular picnic grounds. A half-mile from the end of the trail, you’ll pass restored prairielands and more scenic views of the lake.
Trail closures occur due to weather conditions and hunting seasons. Check availability by calling the Richard Bong State Recreation Area at (262) 878-5600.
-Mapped by Ted Villaire


Trail Facts

  • Distance: 6.3



Location: 42.6344032, -88.1254196

Follow the blue and green arrows southeast over a boardwalk between two ponds.


Location: 42.633316, -88.1226501

Cross park road and turn left onto the blue/green trail @ Y-junction.


Location: 42.634182, -88.1211472

Continue straight @ 4-way junction, hiking alongside the park road and through an oak-sprinkled savanna.


Location: 42.6276779, -88.1173706

As Vern Wolf Lake comes into view, the footpath crosses a horse trail. Bear left at the well-marked junction to follow the blue trail south around the lake.


Location: 42.6266556, -88.1149902

Following the shoreline, you’ll see stands of pussy willows and may catch the scent of nearby pines. © Ted Villaire


Location: 42.6252098, -88.1138535

The trail crosses an earthen dam between the lake and WI 75. Look for beaver-felled trees near the shoreline.


Location: 42.6233826, -88.114624

The savanna gives way to a stretch of dense woods and tumbling ravines. If the ground is wet, expect mud.


Location: 42.6205864, -88.1199722

The trail heads north and crosses a small stream before it touches the lake shore. In spring or fall, loons, American white pelicans and snow geese make regular migratory reststops.


Location: 42.6232338, -88.1281357

Go straight @ 4-way intersection; pass a cluster of tree-fringed ponds.


Location: 42.6252098, -88.132782

Continue straight across the access road. Along the road to the right is a beach and picnic area and to the left is an open area popular with model-plane hobbyists.


Location: 42.6306953, -88.1291504

After passing a cattail marsh, the trail descends a small hill. Go straight across the boat launch road.


Location: 42.6311417, -88.1255417

This trail intersects a gravel interpretive loop and offers prime southern views of the lake and surrounds. Continue straight across both 4-way junctions, 200 feet apart.


Location: 42.6322784, -88.1228485

Turn left @ Y-junction, and retrace your steps to the trailhead.

Vern Wolf Lake

Location: 42.6276588, -88.1173935

One of your first views of Vern Wolf Lake from a tree-sprinkled savanna. © Ted Villaire

Wolf Lake

Location: 42.6227417, -88.1194153

In spring or fall, keep watch for migrant birds such as loons, American white pelicans and snow geese. © Ted Villaire

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