The Ice Age Trail-1000 Miles of Adventure in Wisconsin
All of this planning and thinking about the Appalachian Trial somehow sidetracked my thoughts to a long distance trail in my home state Wisconsin, the Ice Age Trail. It’s a pretty neat trail that I’ve done a few short day hikes on.
The Ice Age Trail is not yet complete. It is about 1,200 miles long with more than 600 miles that are blazed and over 500 miles of unmarked connecting routes. The sections that are not blazed trails include sections along “quiet, country roads.” Blaze color is Yellow.
The Western Terminus is in Interstate Park in St. Croix Falls. Here you can enjoy the beautiful St. Croix River and just across the river you will find yourself in Minnesota!
The Eastern Terminus is in Potawatomi State Park in Sturgeon Bay. This park is located in Door County, the peninsula of Wisconsin.
Thirty-one counties are traveled along the entire trail.
Multiple modes of transportation are allowed on the trail, although some are section specific. Hiking and snowshoeing are allowed along the whole trail and some sections allow biking and cross-country skiing.
Just like the Appalachian Trail, the Ice Age Trail is built and maintained mainly by volunteers. There are multiple groups that maintain local sections. You can find out more about the local chapters here!
The trail route is on multiple types of properties that includes private land, city parks, state parks county forests and national forest. The Ice Age Trail Alliance is looking to protect the route of the trail and each year has been purchasing land to in the long term achieve that goal. The State of Wisconsin has also been contributing to acquiring land for the trail through the Knowles-Nelson Stewardship Program.
What’s it like, hiking in Wisconsin?
The Ice Age Trail will take you through all types of terrain. Yes, Wisconsin is mainly flat. So the route mainly rolls along through forests, prairies and along many lakes and rivers. The most recent period of the Ice Age, known as the Wisconsin Glaciation, ended about 10,000 years ago. This created many unique areas across the state. A very popular area is in South East Wisconsin, the Kettle Moraine. Features found across the state include many fun names. Examples:
Dells: A gorge cut by torrents of meltwater from the melting glacier or draining of glacial lakes.
Driftless Area: The Southwester quarter of the state that shows no signs of glacial activity. Check out this documentary by my friends over at Untamed Science : Untamed Science- Mysteries of the Driftless
Fen: An area of low, flat marshy land where decomposing plants accumulate, forming peat
Hummocky: Hilly, knob-and-kettle topography
Potholes: A bowl carved into rock by stones whirling around in a river eddy. You can see some really great potholes in Interstate Park and also Devil’s Lake.
Swale: A hollow or depression at the beginning of a valley that often has wet soils
There are a few different options for camping and lodging along the Ice Age Trail.
In the northern area of the trail large areas of public lands are available to set up camp. Reservations are not required, there are no fees or permits. There are no facilities, but you can set up anywhere you wish as long as you are at least 200 feet from water and 200 feet away from the Ice Age Trail.
The Ice Age Trail Alliance and their partners have established dispersed camping areas in sections there are no current camping options. Dispersed will be similar to primitive sites, no reservations required, no fees and no facilities. There are signs to designate the area and you can camp within sight of the centrally located signs.
Developed Backpacker Camping Areas
These areas are a little bit more developed than the other two areas. These areas may include a fire ring, pit toilet and a shelter. Some areas may require a fee and/or reservation. The Kettle Moraine State Forest and the Chippewa Moraine State Recreation Area have some backpacking sites.
You can find many developed, traditional campgrounds along the Ice Age Trail. Campgrounds along the trail generally require an advance reservation and charge a fee.
IAT INN Style
A fun way to experience Wisconsin while thru-hiking the Ice Age Trail is to stay at an Inn, Bed & Breakfast or a cottage. I think this would be a really fun experience! An expensive way to thru-hike, but you would get to meet so many locals and enjoy some good old Wisconsin hospitality. Some of the innkeepers will shuttle you to the trail for a little extra money. Check out the list of the Friends of the Ice Age Trails B&B’s here!
For a little extra fun along the trail, the IATA has created ColdCaches. ColdCaching is the Ice Age Trail specific GeoCaching. Just like GeoCaching, you go on a high-tech treasure hunt. Along with the instructions some of the ColdCaches include a brief history of the area. As you collect caches you can earn patches. And they are pretty cool!
The list of ColdCaches can be found at geocaching.com .
Well that’s about all for now. My home state can be pretty rad! I think I’ll add this trail to the bucket list! Now back to hours and hours of gear research at work…
All information was gathered from IATA’s awesome website: www.iceagetrail.org
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