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Ice Age National Scenic Trail

Hiking a segment of the Ice Age Trail in Columbia County.

DNR Photo

Ice Age National Scenic TrailThe Ice Age Trail is a National Scenic Trail located entirely within Wisconsin. The trail is also one of 42 designated Wisconsin state trails and the only one specifically designated as a "State Scenic Trail." From Interstate State Park on the Minnesota border to Potawatomi State Park on Lake Michigan, the Ice Age Trail winds for more than 1,000 miles, following the edge of the last continental glacier in Wisconsin.

One of only eight National Scenic Trails, the Ice Age Trail is intended to be a premier hiking trail and conservation resource for silent sport and outdoor enthusiasts. The trail traverses some of Wisconsin’s most scenic landscapes and helps tell the story of the last Ice Age by highlighting Wisconsin's unique glacial features.

Recreation along the Ice Age Trail

The Ice Age Trail is primarily an off-road hiking and backpacking trail that provides excellent opportunities for sightseeing, wildlife viewing and bird watching. In winter, some sections of the trail are open for cross-country skiing and snowshoeing.

The few sections of the Ice Age Trail that use the same corridor as state rail trails, such as the Sugar River State Trail, allow for bicycling and snowmobiling on the rail trail corridor. ATVs and other motorized vehicles are not permitted on any segment of the Ice Age Trail.

Camping

Opportunities are available for camping along the Ice Age Trail in national, state and county forests and in many state and county parks, including some private campgrounds. Campgrounds can vary from primitive walk-in campsites to facilities complete with electric hookups. When planning a trip, it is best to check ahead of time for camping locations and availability. The Ice Age Trail Atlas and Companion Guide, which are available for sale from the Ice Age Trail Alliance (formerly the Ice Age Park and Trail Foundation), provide camping and lodging details for all segments of the trail.

Ice Age Trail maps

Post with yellow blazeThe Ice Age Trail travels through 30 counties on state, federal, county and private lands, connecting dozens of communities. There are hundreds of trailheads and access points located along the trail route. More than 600 miles of trail are open. The completed sections of the trail are connected by less-traveled roadways and other temporary routes.

The Ice Age Trail Atlas and Companion Guide [exit DNR], containing maps for all sections of the trail, are available for sale from the Ice Age Trail Alliance. The Atlas contains more than 100, 1:48,000-scale, color maps of the entire trail and also shows parking areas, toilets, campgrounds, shelters and dispersed camping areas. The Companion Guide provides a complete description of the entire trail including lodging and dining information.

The Ice Age Trail is also listed on the maps of the state parks and forests it travels through.

The Ice Age Trail Alliance website [exit DNR] provides a trail map and current conditions for the Ice Age Trail.

Ice Age Trail in state parks and forests

Hikers at Devil's Lake
Stone steps lead the way up the bluff trails at Devil's Lake State Park.

The Ice Age Trail goes through several state and federal lands in Wisconsin, including traveling many miles through county and private lands. In addition to the state parks and forests listed below (from west to east along the trail), the Ice Age Trail travels through many state wildlife and fishery areas and some state natural areas.

The Ice Age Trail includes parts of other Wisconsin state trails.

Interstate State Park, Chippewa Moraine State Recreation Area and the Northern Unit of the Kettle Moraine Forest - all units of the Ice Age Scientific Reserve - have Ice Age Educational and Interpretive Centers with major displays in glacial history and geology.

Ice Age Trail partners

The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources and its partners, the National Park Service and the Ice Age Trail Alliance, cooperatively work together to develop and maintain the Ice Age Trail. Additionally the DNR works with many volunteers, county and local governments and private land owners to continually open new sections of the trail. An agreement [PDF] between the DNR, National Park Service and Ice Age Trail Alliance explains the roles of the partners.

National Park Service

National Park Service The National Park Service (NPS) [exit DNR] officially became involved with the Ice Age Trail in 1980 when Congress and the president designated the trail as a National Scenic Trail. The NPS works with the Ice Age Trail Alliance and DNR on the construction, funding and protection of the trail and coordinates the planning process for the Ice Age Trail corridor. The DNR and NPS also work together on another National Scenic Trail in Wisconsin, the North Country Trail.

Ice Age Trail Alliance

Ice Age Trail Alliance

The Ice Age Trail Alliance (IATA) [exit DNR] is a nonprofit, volunteer organization whose mission is to create, support and protect the many segments of the Ice Age Trail. The IATA (formerly the Ice Age Park and Trail Foundation), was established in 1958 when the first segments of the Ice Age Trail were being built in the Kettle Moraine Forest. There are 21 local IATA chapters across Wisconsin. Volunteers play a key role in constructing new segments of the Ice Age Trail and help keep existing segments open.

Mobile Skills Crew

The Mobile Skills Crew (MSC) [exit DNR] is a program of the Ice Age Trail Alliance and is supported by the DNR and National Park Service. From spring to fall, MSC projects take place on Ice Age Trail segments throughout Wisconsin. Trained MSC volunteers specialize in working safe, having fun and building and maintaining high-quality, sustainable Ice Age Trail segments. Camping, education and environmentally friendly trail building techniques are always components of MSC projects. No experience is necessary to attend and volunteers are always welcome to participate in MSC projects.

Last revised: Friday October 17 2014