One of the most beautiful aspects of Whitewater, WI is its close proximity to nature. Within minutes, you’re either immersed in forest or enjoying vast countryside. So if you’re in town for the weekend and crave the wilderness, we promise one of these four hikes will scratch that nature itch.
Listed from easiest to most challenging so you can choose the trail most appropriate for your energy level, these four hikes cover areas of the Ice Age Trail in the Kettle Moraine State Forest and a beautiful county park tucked away just outside of Whitewater. In the summer and fall, don’t forget bug spray, and any time you’re hiking on the Ice Age Trail, remember to purchase a State Park Admission Sticker, whether a day or year pass, for your car if you don’t already have one. Most importantly, enjoy yourself!
The Trail of Many Terrains: Natureland Park (Easy)
W8338 Territorial Rd.
At only .8mi, this trail covers a wide variety of environments beginning with a forest of deciduous trees, along the shore of Whitewater Lake, over marshland, and through a forest of tall pines.
When you arrive at the park, follow the sidewalk past the pavillion and over two bridges where you’ll find yourself at the trailhead. Grab a guide if you want to learn about different aspects of the trail as you mosey. One of the most fun things about this trail is the hiker-made “secret” trails that break off from the main trail and take you down to the lake through the woods. This is the perfect loop to hike with kids and even enjoy a picnic!
Ice Age Trail-Whitewater Lake Segment to Rice Lake Nature Trail Loop (Easy-Moderate)
Clover Valley Rd. just before State Park Rd.
This segment of the Ice Age Trail is about 1mi long through marshland, pine forest, and climbs a bit near the end. When you hit the mile marker sign at the end, take a right and finish out the segment there. Cross State Park Rd. and keep your eyes peeled for the entrance to the Rice Lake Nature Trail that’s about a mile loop following the shoreline of the Rice Lake bay.
Shortly after beginning the loop, you’ll see a sign for a lookout point. This secluded part of the lake attracts beautiful birds, turtles, and beavers since boats aren’t common. It’s relaxing, peaceful, and quite whimsical. The end of the loop offers a slightly rocky climb, but quickly evens out as you head back toward the road to finish out your hike on the Ice Age Trail once more.
The White Loop: John Muir Trail System (Moderate)
N9097 Country Rd. H
This 3.05mi trail offers a stretch of trail that’s mostly glacial moraines and eskers. It takes you through oak and hickory forest over some moderate hills and rocky paths with a few steep uphill and downhill climbs. The sunlight through the trees adds a touch of magic to your hike if you head out in the late afternoon/evening. A short burst of the trail follows the shoreline of a pond and wetland for a brief change of scenery before heading back into the woods. Bicyclists also use The White Loop, so beware of oncoming bicycles and kindly step to the side to let them pass.
Ice Age Trail-Hwy 12 Trailhead to Whitewater Lake Ranger Station Segment (Moderate-Hard)
Bluff Creek State Natural Area Parking Lot
At about 3.5mi, this trail ascends and descends through some of the most gorgeous kettles of the southern end of the Kettle Moraine State Forest. The forest is thick and lush with points opening up to sections of spacious pines.
Seeing wildlife is more common, and as you traverse farther from Hwy 12, you can indulge in the sounds of bird calls and the squeaks and chirps of ground critters. Though this trail is rocky with a large number of climbs and quick declines, the sights are gorgeous enough to keep pushing you forward.
If you’re not looking to hike 3.5mi to the ranger station and then another 3.5 back, have someone drop you off and pick you up, or park one car at one entrance and drive to the other so you have a way back to your car.
With such wonderful terrains formed by the Wisconsin Glacier during the Ice Age, the Kettle Moraine Forest Southern unit, its trails, and this area of Wisconsin provide a deep connection to glacial geology and landforms unique to the midwest and the US. So get out and explore! Happy hiking!