May 17, 2018 by: Kathleen Fleming
Inside Kettle Moraine State Park
The Hamilton House Bed & Breakfast is located a short five-minute drive away from Southern Kettle Moraine State Park, one of Wisconsin’s premiere state parks. Encompassing over 22,000 stunning acres of glacial hills, sparkling lakes, and dense pine forests, Kettle Moraine State Park is a must-do for any visitor to Whitewater or the surrounding area. The Southern portion of the park offers some of the best hiking, cycling, and running trails in the Midwest. Here is our guide to exploring Southern Kettle Moraine State Park.
What is a Kettle Moraine?
First things first, let’s define some terminology. A Moraine is an accumulation of rock and soil that forms from a glacier. A Kettle is the shallow body of water that rises after that glacier retreats. You don’t need a degree in geology to understand that the two combine for some truly stunning landscapes. Within the massive state park, you’ll find glacial hills, kettles, lakes, restored prairie lands, and lush pine and hardwood forests.
What Can I Do There?
Well, a lot. At Kettle Moraine State Park, you can hike, mountain bike, snowmobile, cross country ski, fish, hunt, birdwatch, or simply marvel at the natural beauty that surrounds you. There are also over 87 miles of equestrian trails for horseback riders and two beaches for swimming, on Ottawa and Whitewater Lakes, as well as three historic cabin sites for the history buff in your family.
The two main hiking and cycling routes in Southern Kettle Moraine State Park are the John Muir Trail and the Emma Carlin Trail, both colored coded according to level of difficulty. The John Muir Trail offers 27 miles of tracks consisting of 5 one-way loops that allow you to mix and match your skill levels and desired distance. The Red and White Loops are fairly short and easy. For the harder stuff, try the Blue, Orange, and Green Loops, where you’ll find steep uphill climbs and thrilling, twisting descents. To access the Emma Carlin Trail, simply take the Green Loop to the Connector Trail, which eventually meets up with the Emma Carlin Trail. This trail is more remote and less trafficked than the John Muir Trail. With difficult single-track sections and rocky, rooted trail surfaces, this trail is recommended for more experienced riders.
While in the park, we also recommend checking out the Ice Age Trail as well, a nation scenic trail that stretches over more than 1,200 miles in the state of Wisconsin. Many consider the 30+ miles in the Kettle Moraine State Forest some of Wisconsin’s best. Even better, Whitewater was recently made an official Ice Age Trail Community, further improving our credentials as a nature lover’s paradise.
If you are looking for a slightly easier walk, try checking out some of the parks’ excellent self-guided nature trails. Though slightly less rigorous, these nature walks are a great way to explore the park’s flora & fauna and catch some stellar views of the glacial landscapes along the way. We recommend:
- Bald Bluff Nature Trail
- Lone Bluff Trail
- Paradise Springs Nature Trail
- Rice Lake Nature Trail
- Stony Ridge Nature Trail
- Scuppernong Nature Trail
- Stute Springs Nature Trail
The Park also offers a variety of world-class nature programs if you’d like to learn even more. The programs include wildflower hikes, animal pelt identification workshops, birdwatching, stargazing, watercolor painting, and so much more! For the full list, check out their events calendar.
After your fun-filled day at the park, we recommend paying a visit to the Natural History Museum, to learn a little more about the unique geographical history of the park, as well as the Trading Post Gift Shop, to pick up a souvenir you can bring back home.
There are so many things to explore at Kettle Moraine State Park you couldn’t possibly do it all in one trip. Winter or summer, snow or sunshine, Kettle Moraine State Park is an outdoor experience you aren’t likely to forget. Whatever activity you choose, we promise you will fall in love with the unique landscapes and inspiring natural beauty of Wisconsin’s premiere state park.
Planning a trip to Kettle Moraine State Park? Book a stay at the Hamilton House Bed & Breakfast, located an easy 5-minute drive from the park’s southern entrance.