Updated: Dec 22, 2022
You all know I love all things Wisconsin, but one of my very favorite things is the Ice Age Trail! It’s a beautiful 1,200 mile trail that’s only in Wisconsin. Exploring the trail has brought me to some incredible small towns and shown me so much of the natural beauty the state has to offer. And it’s not just me who enjoys the trail–more than 2.3 million people use the IAT every year! Out of the 1,200 miles of trail, about half are considered “segments,” yellow blazed trails/paths for you to hike. The other half of those miles are road walks that are unmarked and connect routes between the segments.
Hayden and I have made day trips and date days out of hiking new segments together, Pabst and I have hiked hundreds of miles together on the trail (unless otherwise noted–the IAT is dog-friendly), and we have done many miles as a family too. It’s my goal to someday section hike every mile of the trail. Now time to share my top tips, recommendations, and favorite spots on the IAT!
The first thing you need for your IAT adventures is this mileage tracking sheet. It’s a free download that gives you a breakdown of each segment and makes it easy for you to track what you’ve completed. I love that it shows how long the road walks are between segments (if any).
The FarOut App is another great tool. This app shows a detailed map of the whole trail and highlights all the things–special points of interest, water sources, camp sites, etc. It’ll also keep you updated on any trail updates/changes, and it has a GPS that can be used to track your mileage. I often use the app to look for parking along the trail too. (The full IAT map costs $24.99 to purchase on the FarOut app. **But it’s discounted to $14.99 right now until 10/9/22!**)
Besides the trail itself, the Ice Age Trail Alliance also includes the trail communities! There are currently 17 towns along the trail that have partnered with the IAT Alliance. They support the trail, and in return, hikers support their community. The Ice Age Trail Alliance has put together a list of trail overviews and local businesses to support while you're out there. They’re great to reference if you’re looking to plan a weekend getaway or day trip to hike a segment. These resources will give you awesome recommendations for coffee shops, restaurants, stores, and more!
We have spent years exploring and reexploring segments around the state, and I’ll let you in on some of our favorites…
LODI: Lodi holds my favorite local segment– The Gibraltar Rock Segment. It starts at the Merrimac Ferry and takes you through the woods and up a short climb to open up to absolutely gorgeous views before you descend. I love this hike so much and have done it so many times–it never gets old! There are also some really great local businesses to support in the area. I love visiting Buttercream Bakery* in downtown Lodi for a mango smoothie and sweet treat, and the pups always enjoy a pup cup! We also love Fish Tales, a supper club right on Lake Wisconsin. If you visit during the fall, Treinen Farm* is a must! They have an awesome pumpkin patch and corn maze. Hayden’s family goes every year and it is seriously so fun!
BARABOO: The Baraboo Segment is on a lesser used part of the trail, but it’s a great segment where we frequently walk the dogs. It’s a great tour of Baraboo–you start up by Baraboo University (BooU as we call it), stroll past Oschners Park (the free zoo), and go down along the Baraboo River. On this segment, you’ll walk right past one of our favorite restaurants, Driftless Glen*. Be sure to stop in for great food and excellent cocktails. For a dog-friendly recommendation, I highly suggest Tumbled Rock Brewery & Kitchen. Their massive patio is a great place to relax after a long hike. While you're in town, you could also hike the Sauk Point Segment and the stunning but lengthy Devil’s Lake Segment.
MANITOWOC: The City of Manitowoc Segment is also a gorgeous waterfront segment. It’s paved and allows you to walk along the shore of Lake Michigan and into town. We loved seeing the massive ferry arrive from Michigan, and we recommend stopping at Petskull Brewing Co. for some cajun food. They have a very spacious dog-friendly patio to relax on.
DELAFIELD: We love the Lapham Peak Segment. It’s a long segment with good elevation change. It goes through the beautiful state park and leads you up to the observation tower to take in some breathtaking views. While you’re in Delafield, I recommend Blue Collar Coffee* for breakfast and Revere’s for lunch. The Delafield Segment goes right through town and passes by all the local businesses.
As you explore the IAT, an important thing to note is that it is one continuous trail. If you are going to plan a longer hike, be prepared to go out and back, or plan for a friend to shuttle you. If I’m hiking with a friend, we meet in our own cars at the point where we mean to end our hike, leave one car there, and then both hop in the other car and drive back to our starting point. At the end of the hike, we take whose car is at the ending point and drive back to the starting point to retrieve the other car. When I hike with Hayden, we usually plan for an out and back hike so we can just take one car.
I hope you’re able to get out and enjoy this beautiful trail! Please reach out if you have any questions about the trail or tracking your miles, or if you would like any more recommendations, as I am more than happy to help. And as always, leave no trace. Happy Trails! Don't forget to follow us on Instagram to see all of our IAT adventures.
* = Not dog-friendly. All restaurants without a * have dog-friendly patios, but dogs are not allowed inside.