Hiking has become an essential element for my personal contentment and physical fitness. I have even added it to most of my travel itineraries. I consider myself incredibly fortunate to live in a state full of beautiful trails. We even have our own Long-distance Thru hiking trail in Wisconsin. While I doubt that I will take off to hike all 1000 miles any time soon, I love that I can hop on at various points and feel solidarity with the super hikers. Here are my reasons I think you should discover the Ice Age Trail:
1. Well Maintained Hiking Trails
The trail is contained completely within the state of Wisconsin, crossing 30 counties and traversing over 1,000 miles. The trail consists of a combination of traditional hiking paths, multi-use trails and connecting roads, all blazed with bright yellow markings. There are even several areas where campgrounds are nearby. Many segments of the trail are groomed in the winter months for cross-country skiing and snowshoeing.
The Ice Age Trail is one of 11 National Scenic Trails in the United States. Even though it is under the auspices of the National Park Service, it is predominantly maintained by local volunteer groups such as the Ice Age Trail Alliance. Just like the glacier lobe that created it, the trail starts at Green Bay on the western shore of Lake Michigan, it then dips as far south as Janesville, meandering its way across the state back up to St. Croix Falls at the border of Northern Wisconsin and Minnesota. Along this route is a complete display of the topography, flora/fauna, and cultures/ communities that the beautiful state of Wisconsin has to offer.
2. Create Your Own Itinerary
The Ice Age Trail Alliance (IATA) has an extensive website with maps, mileage information and special events. Because the trails are managed by the respective counties and volunteer agencies, it is a little tough navigating the website for specific segments. I have found the best information on these two different pages..
- “Explore The Trail” In this section there are some recommended itineraries for multi-day backpacking excursions or single day trips. These will provide you with a the name of the counties, a snapshot out of the book for their most popular segments and a link to maps .
- “About the IATA” this is a listing of all the volunteer agencies by county. If you click on “Volunteer Chapters” it will take you to a listing of the counties. If you then click on the respective county most of them will have a link to a segment map for their area and events hosted by their volunteer agencies.
3. Real Life Geology Lesson
The trail defines what was the leading edge of the Green Bay Lobe Glacier of The Laurentide Ice Sheet. The glacier scraped, pushed and dumped debris along its melting base over 10,000 years ago. Wisconsin is covered with drumlins, kettles, moraines, kames and eskers. A thorough geology can be experienced along the Ice Age Trail. All Wisconsin grade school students learn about the results of glaciation. If you are unfamiliar with any of these topographic elements ask a 10 year old.
4. Close Encounter of the Wildlife
The trail encounters a wide variety of habitats and their varying examples of wildlife. Bird watchers can check off many species of hawks, owls, woodpeckers, cranes, waterfowl, eagles and songbirds. Mammals large and small abound across the state, from the tiniest mouse to the large black bears. Even a number of reptiles and amphibians such as turtles, snakes and toads get into the act along the trail
5. Health Benefits of Spending Time in Nature
There are many studies that have shown the boost that being in nature can give. Nature has been credited for improving such things as; short-term memory, concentration, vision, immune system function, creativity and mental health. Below are a couple of links to articles touting nature and hiking.
“Spending time in nature has been linked to improved attention spans(short and long term), boosts in Serotonin (the feel good neurotransmitter) and shows increased activity in the parts of the brain responsible for empathy, emotional stability, and love (whereas urban environments do the same for fear and anxiety).”
If you’re feeling down, get outside.—-Zach Davis
I totally agree! Get outside no matter the time of year. The Ice Age Trail is waiting for you!!
St. Croix River, Western Terminus of the Ice Age Trail
National Scenic Trails in the National Park Service