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Kettle Moraine State Forest—Southern Unit Activities and recreation

Hiking Hiking

Hikers can enjoy miles and miles of rolling hills through pine plantations, prairies and southern hardwood forests. Trail maps help to prepare you for the distances you will encounter and the natural areas that will surround you when you hike. Hiking is available on the Scuppernong, Emma Carlin, John Muir and Nordic trails, as well as the Ice Age National Scenic Trail. There are also several shorter self-guided nature trails. Trail descriptions.

Bicycling Bicycling

From the youngest beginner to the most avid professional, 30 miles of trail offers some of the best off-road biking in the Midwest. Normally these trails are open from mid-April to mid-February. In order to protect the trail tread, the trails are closed during wet conditions after rainfall. For up-to-date trail conditions, call 262-594-6202. We highly recommend that you do not ride while it is raining or within 4 to 6 hours after rain has stopped. Please call ahead before venturing out. A state trail pass is required for riders 16 years of age and older.

A special loop has been created for the younger mountain bike riders. This 0.4-mile loop is behind the Muir shelter and introduces young riders to the skills of off-road biking. Young riders have the option of riding the a level trail or taking short loops off the main trail to test their skills riding in sand, over rocks, narrow beams and logs.

Camping Camping

Camping at Kettle Moraine State Forest - Southern Unit

Picnicking Picnicking and shelters

Reservable shelters within the Forest

Boating Canoeing/Kayaking Boating, canoeing and kayaking

Boat launches are located within the Forest at Ottawa Lake, Rice Lake and Whitewater Lake. The use of gas-powered motors is prohibited on Ottawa Lake. A vehicle admission sticker is required at all three launches. All watercraft must be equipped with a wearable Coast Guard approved personal flotation device for each person on board.

Fishing Fishing

There are four lakes within or bordering the Southern Unit of the Kettle Moraine State Forest. These lakes, ranging in size from 28 acres to 640 acres, for a total of 860 acres. The major fish populations in these lakes include panfish and walleye. Muskie, large and smallmouth bass, trout and northern pike are also present. Ottawa Lake has a fishing pier that is accessible to people who are mobility impaired and Whitewater Lake has two accessible fishing stations.

Anglers of any age may check out basic fishing equipment free of charge at the Ottawa Lake office. This equipment was donated by the Tackle Loaner Program. Call the office at 262-594-6200 to find out what equipment is available.

Swimming Swimming

The southern unit of the Kettle Moraine State Forest has two swimming beaches, at Ottawa Lake and Whitewater Lake. Lifeguards are not provided. Pets, soaps, food and beverages are prohibited in marked swim areas. Ottawa Lake and Whitewater Lake are open from 6 a.m.-11 p.m. year-round. Picnic tables, grills and toilet facilities are available near the beaches. The state parks' carry in, carry out policy applies at these areas. Both lakes are tested regularly for bacterial levels. Information is posted to notify swimmers of the water quality of the lake.

Horseback riding Horseback riding

There are 87 miles of equestrian trails s of varying lengths over a cross section of the Kettle Moraine. The Horserider's Campground offers 56 horse campsites. Horses are limited to designated horse trails. A state trail pass is required for riders ages 16 and older.

Cross-country skiing Cross-country skiing

Groomed Ski Trail in the Forest.
Cross-country ski trail.

The Nordic and McMiller trails are open for skiing when there is enough snow. Hiking, pets and snowshoes are prohibited on these ski trail systems when they are groomed for skiing. A state trail pass is required for skiers 16 years of age and older. Trails can be closed with very little warning if weather changes. Please call the Trail Information Line, 262-594-6202 before venturing out.

Snowmobiling Snowmobiling

An 87-mile network of state forest trails join private trails in Waukesha, Jefferson and Walworth counties, which make it possible to visit adjoining towns and villages in this region. Local snowmobile clubs contracted by the state forest groom the trails. Riders will enjoy many miles of trail that traverse through the southern hardwood forests, pine plantations and open vistas.

The opening and closing of snowmobile trails is at the discretion of each county. Snowmobile trails which cross DNR lands are opened and closed consistent with the surrounding county (or counties). Whenever possible, the opening and closing of snowmobile trails is done on a county-wide basis, however localized conditions may require localized trail opening and closing. It is the responsibility of the county to provide notification about the status of snowmobile trails. The Travel Wisconsin Snow Conditions Report [exit DNR], and local club and county snowmobile web pages [exit DNR] and telephone hotlines will provide the most current information.

Ice Fishing Ice fishing

The lakes freezes over for about three months each winter. The forest does not monitor or measure the thickness of the ice on the lakes. Ice thickness and safety can vary from day to day and from location to location. Use your best judgment about the safety of the ice.

Snowshoeing Snowshoeing

Hikers and snowshoers may explore several miles of trails that are not groomed for skiing. Some trails in the forest that are open for snowshoeing include the John Muir, Emma Carlin, Connector and Scuppernong trails, all Nature Trails, and the Ice Age Trail.

Hunting Trapping Hunting and trapping

Most of the Southern Unit of the Kettle Moraine State Forest's 22,000 acres are open to hunting during established open seasons. Some seasons are subject to change. Consult the hunting and trapping regulations before going hunting.

Hunting is not permitted in intensive use areas such as parking lots, picnic areas or wildlife refuges or other posted special use areas. Hunting is also prohibited in Old World Wisconsin, Paradise Springs Nature Trail, Scuppernong Springs Nature Area, Rice Lake Nature Trail and within 100 yards of any campground, picnic area or posted special use area.

There are many areas of private land scattered throughout the forest. It is the hunter's responsibility to be sure to stay on state-owned property and not trespass on adjacent private lands. A hunting map is available online, at Forest Headquarters and the Ottawa Lake and Whitewater Lake Visitor Centers.

Hunting Target shooting

The only target shooting permitted within the forest is at the McMiller Sports Center [exit DNR] in Eagle. It is owned by the state forest and operated by a concessionaire. This shooting range offers a wide range of gun and bow range opportunities that are open to the public year-round.

Pets Pets

Pets are permitted in most campgrounds, most trails, roads and outlying areas. However, pets are not allowed in buildings, picnic areas, on beaches, playgrounds, cross-country ski trails or marked nature trails. Special pet-free campsites have been designated in Loop 1 (Sites 1-36) in the Pinewoods Campground. Otherwise, pets are allowed at your campsite and along campground roads, but must be on a leash at all times.

Special Pet swim areas are available at Ottawa Lake on the left side of the boat launch, and at Rice Lake on the right side of the boat launch. Owners are reminded that your dog needs to be on a leash to the water’s edge and returned to the leash once out of the water.

Owners are responsible for cleaning up after their pets. Pets must be leashed, must not interfere with the enjoyment of the forest by others and must not be left unattended at any time.

Last revised: Tuesday October 22 2019