Wisconsin is a state that’s often overlooked when it comes to winter vacations. However, it’s home to some of the most beautiful winter landscapes in the United States. Wisconsin is the perfect destination if you’re looking for a winter wonderland to explore. In this article, we’ll introduce you to Wisconsin’s most hidden gem in the winter – a place sure to take your breath away.
The Beauty of Wisconsin in the Winter: Wisconsin is a state that’s often associated with cheese, beer, and the Green Bay Packers. However, it’s also home to some of the most picturesque winter landscapes in the United States. Wisconsin is a winter wonderland just waiting, toom snow-covered forests to frozen lakes to be explored.
Let’s begin with the housekeeping before we start planning these winter adventures.
For the average person not experienced in cold weather hiking, it’s unsafe to hike below 40 degrees. Hiking below 40 degrees requires specialized knowledge of wilderness survival, including understanding how to stay warm and avoid hypothermia and frostbite. Before you take your children on these hikes, do your research first. Hike it Baby also has excellent resources to get you started. I won’t share miles because it’s all about time spent outside with family; I was hoping you could go out there and have fun; don’t worry about miles this winter.
5 Tips for Hiking with Children in the Winter!
- Dress appropriately: Make sure your kids are dressed warmly in plenty of layers, hats, gloves, and waterproof boots.
- Please bring plenty of snacks to keep them full and energized throughout the hike.
- Stay on the path: Remind the kids to stay on the trail and out of deep snow.
- Take breaks: Let your kids take breaks to rest and look around.
- Have fun: Make sure to have fun and enjoy the experience. Take pictures and create lasting memories!
Hiking in the Snow:
- Check that the Trail is Open.
- Time Your Hike with the Sun.
- Consider Snow-Specific Hazards.
- Protect Your Feet.
- Pack Winter Survival Essentials.
- Check the Weather Before You Go.
- Parfrey’s Glen: Just 52 min drive from Madison, you will be in Baraboo; It’s difficult to describe this area’s stunning beauty throughout the year. A brief hike leads you to a small yet mesmerizing waterfall that feels like discovering a pot of gold at the end of a rainbow. The scenery is simply breathtaking and exudes a serene atmosphere. I highly recommend you to bring Yaktraks and a hiking pole for the hike, and note that pets are not allowed in the area.
- Raymer’s Cove: Address ⚠️ In the winter, they do not sand or plow this lot, so please use it at your own risk. Preserve visitors can enjoy complimentary parking at the Frautschi Point and Raymer’s Cove lots, while campus lots may be available to visitors during off-hours or on weekends, but a permit is required. It’s essential to read the posted parking restrictions to avoid receiving a ticket. This area is perfect for winter hiking as you can go as far as you desire once on the frozen lake. People who enjoy cross-country skiing or riding fat bikes keep the area busy.
- Fern Dell Gorge Park: located within the Mirror Lake State Park. The parking lot for the gorge is about one mile west of the main park entrance — it’s down a short, gravel road on the north side of Fern Dell Road (note you’ll pass another small lot and a gated road before you reach the gorge lot). The gorge meets up with Mirror Lake. A maintained trail is available on the top left of the canyon, providing fantastic scenery. A small parking lot is located on Fern Dell Rd, between Mirror Lake State Park and South Rd. This hidden gem is tricky, but you can access it from different trails. If you see the pulpit rock trail and shortly after that, you’ll see a path going down to the right… just follow that to the gorge. Bring hiking poles, and please don’t be shy to ask the officer to bring a map; it’s a must in the winter, don’t give up if you didnt find it; go back to the office for directions.
- Cave Point County Park is in Door County and is the only county park within the State Park. Cave Point offers a spectacular picture in winter as the constant wave action forms icicles cling to the rock formations. Bring a camera. Use caution, as rocks are slippery when wet or covered with ice. It gets icy in this area, and the wind is brutal; dress up warm and wear winter boots and yaktraks for extra traction. Do not get too close to the edge; it can be dangerous with the wind. We love this park because you can continue on the trail to the Whitefish State Park and explore XC Ski trails.
- Stephens Falls: The falls are named for the Stephens family, who operated a farmstead from the late 1800s. Stephens Falls is hidden in Governor Dodge State Park. This state park in Dodgeville has gorgeous trails, with two lakes and a cave trail. The short, half-mile route takes you to Stephens Falls from the parking lot. Be cautious with the stairs in the winter. If you feel adventurous, explore gorgeous rock formations along the trail.
- Wequiock Falls: is located in Greenbay. A pretty place to picnic and relax along Highway 57, the park has tables, restrooms, drinking water, and ample parking in the Summer. If you’re going to Door County this winter, stop here, and you won’t regret it. Make sure you wear Ice Cleats/Yaktraks.
- Fonferek Glen: Fonferek’s Glen is a 74-acre geological gem featuring a 30-foot waterfall with an overlook platform, limestone cliffs, and a stone archway. There is a small parking lot, and they accept donations. Pet friendly. It’s less than 10 min walk to see the frozen waterfall, and then you can loop around the trail. The trail is challenging; hold on to your children on this hike.
- Devil’s Punch Bowl: The Devil’s Punchbowl in Menomonie has two short trails. The upper trail begins with a stairway that brings visitors to the top of the falls and then through a small patch of woods overlooking the bowl. The second trail is straight ahead of the parking lot and brings visitors past the small prairie to a long stairway down the slope and into the bowl. Curve to the right and cross the creek to venture the short distance to the natural rock amphitheater, exposed rock face, and waterfall. The Map Directions to get there: From the intersection of Highways 25 and 29 in Menomonie: Follow State Highway 29 West for approximately 1 mile. Turn left on County Road P after crossing the Red Cedar River. Follow County Road P for approximately ¼ mile. Turn Left on 410th Street (also known as Paradise Valley Road and State Rustic Road 89). Follow 410th Street for about 2 miles to the parking area on the left.
- Pine Hollow State Natural Area: Pine Hollow State Natural Area is a beautiful location with not-so-great parking or access, especially in the winter. If you’re in shape and willing to go off-trail, you should check it out. To get here, turn to Pine Hollow Rd. Once you are on the gravel, try to park on the side road. No signs and trailheads tell you if you’ve gone too far. The DNR advises you to park on the shoulder and “hike in. In the winter, when the snow is deep. When I did it in February 2021, I Parked on Pine Hollow Road. People can’t find this hidden area because there is no actual trail, the road is not plowed, not even a parking lot, and it’s not easy to turn around. This hike is for people comfortable in snowshoes to find the 15 ft tall ice wall; very adventurous, be prepared. Reaching the ice wall from Pine Hollow is rapid, and you can hike down to the ice reasonably quickly. Keep in mind that you’ll have to hike back up. Getting back out of the hollow is challenging. Physically bring your hiking poles and wear cleats for this hike. My daughter was seven and loved this area.
- Natural Bridge: While in the area to see the Ice formations in Pine Hollow, Keep your winter boots on and drive 3.1 miles to explore the Natural Bridge, State Park. Keep it nice and short; you don’t have to hike the 2 miles loop. Take a gentle hike up to see the most beautiful rock formation, and it takes like 10 min only. It’s pretty steep but worth it; take your time and enjoy the wildlife. It’s the smallest state park.
Wisconsin State Park Fee: A state park vehicle sticker is required—annual pass is $28 Daily, $8 for residents, and $38/11 for non-residents. Pay at the parking lot. Did you know we have 50 State Parks in Wisconsin to explore all year round? We have created this scratch-off poster to help you set goals.
The ice formations at the sea caves are beautiful but have vast chunks of heavy ice. They can fall anytime, so avoid spending much time underneath them. Remember that what you enjoy about the spectacular formations at the caves is also what other people want. Please do not damage the ice or break off the pieces.
Wisconsin Winter seems long if unprepared; we hope to see you on the trails soon. Don’t hesitate to contact us through our social media if you have any concerns or need clarification.
Even when familiar with an area, you may be in danger. Sometimes snow may cover a frozen lake or pond you didn’t realize existed. You might think you are walking or skiing over fresh snow when it’s just hovering over thin ice. You could easily fall through the surface and become a drowning victim, especially alone. Kids shouldn’t be playing near the frozen lake without supervision. When in doubt, DON’T GO OUT!
Wisconsin is often overlooked for winter vacations, but it shouldn’t be. With its stunning landscapes and endless winter activities, Wisconsin is the perfect destination for anyone looking for a winter wonderland to explore. There’s something for everyone in Wisconsin in the winter, from the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore to Granite Peak. So what are you waiting for? Plan your winter getaway to Wisconsin today
Disclaimer: If you decide to go out and try these hikes, you are hiking at your own risk; we won’t be responsible for any injuries