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Hiking Kettle Moraine north of Milwaukee on the Zillmer Loop Trail

Backpackers on their way to the overnight shelter
Backpackers on their way to the overnight shelter

Milwaukee hikers can drive just 50 minutes north to the Kettle Moraine State Forest North to enjoy many trails which provide diverse terrain and ecosystems. The Zillmer Loop Trail located on Cty Hwy SS between Kewaskum and Campbellsport consists of 8 miles of four trail loop systems with a difficulty level of intermediate.

Green/Red Loop of Zillmer Loop Trail
Photography by Trisha Comardo

The yellow trail is approximately 5.4 miles and offers up the most difficult terrain and that could still be rated at the medium level of difficulty with some 30 to 40 degree inclines but they are short and sweet and smooth. The downhills are smooth with no rocky terrains/slopes to worry about. This trail winds around the outer perimeter of the loop system between Hwy SS and over to Hwy 67 by the Ice Age Trail Visitor Center. The brown trail is approximately 1.2 miles and is the smaller loop inside the green loop which is 1.8 miles. The green loop makes up a portion of the red trail which is 3 miles round trip. These 3 loops all connect inside the yellow loop and the red loop connects to the yellow loop at the western end of the red loop.  The trails are wide, mowed, and well kept which wind in and out of hardwood and coniferous forest areas, through some prairie lands and across babbling creeks which are mostly hidden in the terrain. The terrain is slightly hilly with gradual sloping climbs, nothing that would be too strenuous for a regular hiker.

Summer time brings a wide array of wildflowers and butterflies. An occasional wood chuck and deer might be sighted and even scamper across the trail in front of you as you walk through. Butterflies sited this August on the trail included the monarch and the Aphrodite Fritillary as well as many whites and sulphurs and a single copper (American). A ground hog scampered up a tree to stay out of reach of other four legged critters. Birds sited and/or heard included blue jays, cardinals, wrens, woodpeckers, tree swallows, goldfinches, and an occasional phoebe.

Restrooms are available at the parking lot area off of Cty Hwy SS where you can also find picnic tables and grills to enjoy before or after your hike. There is plenty of parking available. A state parking sticker or day  use fee is required. A deposit box is available in the parking lot. Restrooms and parking with access to the Zillmer Loop Trail can also be found at the Ice Age Visitor Center on Hwy 67.  There is also an overnight backback shelter at the northern end of the green loop where it continues on as the red loop.

Do be aware that in July and August the deer flies can be quite pesky and the mosquitos, after a rainy summer as this was, will not give you any type of break at all so be prepared with proper clothing and insect spray. It also offers up cross country skiing during the winter. Hiking is prohibited when there is snow on the ground. Be aware that hunting is allowed during spring turkey season and deer gun season.

This trail will be a great one to visit during the fall colors.

(If you like this article, you can also read my nature articles at Milwaukee Nature Examiner.  Select the subscribe button at the top of this page to receive email notifications when further articles are posted.)


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