Hiking in the Kettle Moraine State Forest This Fall

Posted: Tue-Aug-2021

Fall is the perfect season to go hiking in Wisconsin, and there are plenty of great places to choose from.  One of our favorites, though, is the Kettle Moraine State Forest. The Kettle Moraine, which refers to a highly glaciated area of the state, is full of challenging, hilly terrain, interesting geological features, and beautiful hardwood forests that glow in the fall. Meandering through these trails is one of the most beautiful ways to admire the golden hues of fall. 

There are two main segments of the Kettle Moraine State Forest, both in the southeastern region of Wisconsin. The northern unit of the Kettle Moraine State Forest is just north of Milwaukee, while the southern unit is to the southwest of the capital city.  Near both sections of the forest, you'll find the perfect fall getaway at one of our cozy Wisconsin Bed and Breakfasts. 

Though all of our member properties are unique in their accommodations, each of them possesses the same commitment to safe travel, excellent hospitality, and high-quality lodging experiences. This fall, stay at one of the best places to stay in Wisconsin, one of our top-rated Wisconsin Bed and Breakfasts.

One of the best places for hiking in Wisconsin is the Kettle Moraine State Forest

5 great Fall Hikes in the Kettle Moraine State Forest

In total, the Kettle Moraine State Forest encompasses more than 50,000 acres and more than 250 miles of hiking trails, along with some equestrian and mountain biking trails. It's an incredible place to explore at all times of the year - even in winter when the trees open up for cross country skiing and snowmobiling.  However, one of our favorite times to enjoy hiking in this stunning area is in the fall. 

In both units of the Kettle Moraine State Forest, you'll find a section of the Ice Age National Scenic Trail, which stretches for 1,200 miles across the state of Wisconsin and roughly follows the path of the terminal moraine from the last ice age. This massive glacier once covered most of North America, and some of the best evidence of its transformative effect on our lands can be found in Wisconsin. Exploring this trail is reason enough to visit the Kettle Moraine State Forest, but it's certainly not the only hike worth taking in the area. 

Peak fall foliage in southeastern Wisconsin typically comes a little later, usually peaking in mid-late October. You can follow along with the development of Wisconsin fall colors throughout the season here

Northern Kettle Moraine National Forest

The northern unit of the Kettle Moraine National Forest is the largest forest unit and offers extraordinary opportunities for year-round recreation. Here, you'll find 31 miles of the Ice Age National Scenic Trail to explore.  Beyond that, there are several more great hiking trails to explore.  Popular areas include the Greenbush Recreation Area (13.5 miles), New Fane Loop System (7.7 miles), Zillmer Loop Area (11.4 miles), Butler Lake Loop Area (3 miles, Tamarack Loop (2 miles), and the Parnell Tower Loop (3.5 miles).

Perhaps our favorite for enjoying the fall colors is the Parnell Tower Loop, where you'll find steps leading to the 60-foot tall observation tower.  Climb to the top of the tower, and you'll enjoy a sensational view over the forest, ablaze with the vibrant colors of fall below. 

Where to stay: Hidden Serenity Bed and Breakfast in West Bend, Wisconsin; Honeybee Inn Bed & Breakfast in Horicon, Wisconsin

Stunning fall views while hiking in the Kettle Moraine State Forest in Wisconsin

Southern Kettle Moraine National Forest

You'll find a slightly different landscape in the Southern Unit of the Kettle Moraine National Forest. However, there are still beautiful remnants of the last ice age's glacial impact throughout these prairies and forested hills. Like its partner to the north, the southern unit is a wonderful place for hiking, biking, horseback riding, cross country skiing, and snowmobiling. There are also great opportunities for paddling on Ottawa and Whitewater Lakes. 

When it comes to hiking, the opportunities are ample. Here, the rolling hills will lead you through various prairies, southern hardwood forests, and pine plantations. Popular hikes here, aside from the Ice Age National Scenic Trail, include the Scuppernong (11.3 miles), Emma Carlin (17.5 miles), John Muir (34.2 miles), and Nordic Trails.

One of the prettiest hikes in the fall is the Bald Bluff Nature Trail. It's not very long, at only 0.5 miles, but it leads to one of the highest points in Jefferson County and rewards with colorful fall views. On the Scuppernong Trail System, you'll find an observation tower overlooking Ottawa Lake, which is spectacular during the fall. 

Where to stay: Victoria-on-Main Bed and Breakfast in Whitewater, Wisconsin; Hamilton House Bed and Breakfast in Whitewater, Wisconsin; Eagle Centre House Bed and Breakfast in Eagle, Wisconsin

The Best Places to Stay in Wisconsin This Fall

Cozy accommodations, scrumptious breakfasts, welcoming hospitality, and breathtaking fall colors. That's what awaits you this fall when you choose to stay at one of the best places to stay in Wisconsin.  As wonderful as the two units of the Kettle Moraine State Forest are, they aren't the only great place to enjoy stunning Wisconsin fall colors, either. 

We recently wrote a blog about Door County fall colors, and last year put together a comprehensive guide to even more great fall hikes and scenic drives around the state. But truly, it's hard to go wrong anywhere in Wisconsin, especially when you partner with our exquisite Inns. And at each, you can expect a unique sense of authenticity, coupled with the same dedication to quality and safety that you crave. 

We'd love to show you the best our state has to offer this fall.  It's a popular time to travel, though, so if you haven't booked your accommodations already, don't wait any longer!  Browse through our Wisconsin Bed and Breakfasts, and start planning your fall getaways to some of the best places to stay in Wisconsin.  

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