Kettle Moraine State Forest—Southern Unit Trail descriptions
The Southern Unit of the Kettle Moraine State Forest has more than 160 miles of trails, varying in difficulty, length and permitted uses. Steep climbs or descents are common. Parking lots are provided throughout the forest. All terrain vehicles (ATVs) are not allowed on Southern Unit trails at any time.
Bald Bluff nature trail
County Highway H south of Palmyra on east side of the road. One of the highest points in Jefferson County, Hike to the top of the bluff, a former Indian signal hill. 0.5 miles. Bald Bluff nature trail.
There are 87 miles of equestrian trails of varying lengths over a cross section of the Kettle Moraine. Riders will enjoy large hardwood forests, pine plantations and many vistas overlooking wet kettles, oak savanna prairies and area lakes. Horses are limited to designated horse trails. A state trail pass is required for riders 16 and older. Horse and snowmobile trails map.
These connector trails connect the John Muir and Emma Carlin trail systems. There are two separate connector trails, each about six miles long.
Emma Carlin trail system
This trail system, on County Highway Z just south of State Highway 59, goes through a hardwood forest with mostly hilly terrain. Three color coded trails ranging from 3.5 to 8 miles. Parking, water and vault toilets are available. The trails in this system are single-track mountain bike trails that are generally more difficult than the John Muir Trails. Trail map.
- Brown Loop, moderate, 3.5 miles: Skirt in and out of pines and hardwoods, pass a kettle lowland, then after joining up with the orange loop, proceed uphill along a moraine and back downhill to the trail head.
- Orange Loop, moderate/hard, 6 miles: Traverse the contours of the glacial geography, generally uphill to the scenic overlook where the Connector trail meets the Carlin trails. Then get ready for lots of ups and downs until meeting back with the brown loop.
- Green Loop, hard, 8 miles: This trail is continuous with the orange, until it splits off on the southern half of the loop. Here you are in for several difficult ups and downs.
Ice Age National Scenic Trail
Explore the 30 miles of Ice Age Trail that goes from the southernmost end to the northernmost point of the Kettle Moraine State Forest-Southern Unit. It's part of the Ice Age National Scenic Trail that eventually will go 1000 miles through some of Wisconsin's most scenic areas.
- Forest map
- Guide to hiking the Ice Age Trail in the Southern Unit and Lapham Peak Unit
- Backpack camping
John Muir trail system
On County Highway H north of the Town of La Grange and US Highway 12 and south of the Town of Palmyra, this is the most popular trail system within hundreds of miles. The John Muir Bike Trails are single-track, mountain bike trails that are rough, natural surface trails. Five different loops ranging from 1.25 miles to 12 miles. Parking, water and vault toilets are available. Trail map.
- Brown Loop, easy, 1.25 miles: Mostly flat trail with some small rolling hills; two moderate uphill climbs, one fast downhill and a little rocky ending.
- White Loop, moderate, 4.25 miles: Moderate hills, some rocky trail sections; one long downhill, one fast steep downhill and one moderate uphill before reconnecting with the brown loop.
- Rainy Dew Bypass (purple), hard, 4.7 miles: Moderate trail with a hard rocky up and down hill before reconnecting with the Blue/Green Loops.
- Orange Loop, moderate/hard, 5.0 miles: The first half of the trail is the white loop. Includes moderate trail with a hard, long up-hill before reconnecting with the brown loop.
- Green Loop, hard/more difficult, 7.0 miles: Moderate trail with very rocky and sandy trail sections; many hard ups and downs, with many fast sections.
- Blue Loop, hard/most difficult, 12.0 miles: Hard trail with very rocky section, many hard up hills and several fast down hills.
- Skills Course: a very short course to practice trail skills.
Lone Tree Bluff nature trail
Hike uphill to get a bird's-eye view of the area's glacial landscape. On the way, markers indicate how the bluff earned its name and how the landscape has changed since pioneer days. 0.50 miles round-trip. Lone Tree Bluff nature trail.
McMiller trail system
This trail system, on County Highway NN south of the Village of Eagle, provides skiing for skate and classical stride skiers. The trails traverse some significant terrain which provide great training opportunities for all skiers. The trails pass through primarily hardwoods forest and pine plantations. Five trails of different distances and degrees of difficulty greet skiers of all abilities. McMiller's heated shelter building is open every day. The trails are open every day of the week. Hiking is not allowed when the trails are groomed for skiing. McMiller Trail map
McMiller also offers a biathlon course for those who participate in this unique sport that combines physically demanding cross-country skiing with rifle marksmanship. The biathlon range at McMiller is open for use from during daylight hours seven days a week.
Nordic trail system
This trail, on County Highway H south of the Village of Palmyra, provides hiking and skiing for skate and classical stride cross-country skiers through a variety of vegetation, hardwoods, pine plantations, open meadows and kettle moraine terrain. There are six different trails of varying lengths and degrees of difficulty, providing great hiking or skiing for all levels of ability. A warming shelter is open every day and convenient parking, vault toilets and a sledding hill are also available at the trailhead. Hiking is not allowed when the trails are snow covered. Bikes are not allowed on this trail system. Nordic Trail map.
Ottawa Lake canoe trail
This self-guided water trail at Ottawa Lake consists of eight stops marked by a numbered buoy. The trail takes about 30-40 minutes to complete. Start at the Ottawa Lake boat launch. Ottawa Lake canoe trail.
Paradise Springs nature trail
County Highway N north of State Highway 59, just west of Eagle. Fieldstone spring house, former resort hotel, dam and former trout holding tank. Catch and release trout pond (artificial lures only). Paved accessible trail. Reservable picnic shelter. Vault toilets. 0.5 miles. Paradise Springs nature trail.
Rice Lake nature trail
Off Kettle Moraine Drive, just east of Hi-Lo Road. Walk along the edge of a small pond, hear frogs in the spring, visit the wildlife blind. 0.5 miles. Rice Lake nature trail.
Scuppernong trail system
These trails, on County Highway ZZ just east of Highway 67 north of the Village of Eagle, are open to hikers and classical stride skiers only; skate skiing is not permitted. There are three color-coated loop trails ranging from just over 2 miles to 5 miles. The Scuppernong area provides convenient parking, water and a vault toilet. The trails have a nice rolling characteristic through hardwood forest and pine plantations. Hiking is not allowed when the trails are groomed for skiing. Bikes are not allowed on this trail system. Scuppernong Trail map.
- Red Loop, intermediate, 2.3 miles: Short and narrow with steep terrain is the only way to describe this loop. You’ll pass through pine plantations and hardwood forest.
- Orange Loop, intermediate, 4.1 miles: This loop will take you deeper into the hardwood forest.
- Green Loop, advanced, 4.9 miles: About halfway on this loop you will pass the edge of the Pinewoods Campground. As you continue through the pines, walk quietly down these old fire lands. When making your final descent from the ridge to the parking lot, you will experience a roller coaster of hills that you won’t soon forget.
- Observation Loop: Enjoy a seat on this overlook with views of Ottawa Lake and the surrounding area.
Scuppernong Springs nature trail
County Highway ZZ across from Ottawa Lake Recreation Area Natural springs, foundation of previous marl works plant, hotel and Native American campsite. Scuppernong Springs nature trail.
Stony Ridge nature trail
Behind the Forest Headquarters on State Highway 59. Get a good view of the geological features of the Kettle Moraine area, visit the pond or kettle with many turtles. One mile.
Stute Springs nature trail
County Highway Z south of State Highway 59, across from Emma Carlin. Foundations of a former 180-acre farm, spring house, stone fences. Hike an extra mile to the top of “Big Hill” (highest point in the Kettle Moraine). 1.5 mile loop. Stute Springs nature trail.
The Moraine Ridge Trail (main trail through the forest) and the loop and access trails allow for snowmobiling in winter. A snowmobile map is also available at the Forest Headquarters. Snowmobile trail map.