3 Places to take a Hike in Central Wisconsin

From the 33,000 acres of the Mead Wildlife Area to the rolling hills shaped by glaciers along the Ice Age Trail, you’ll want to visit these three places to take a hike in Central Wisconsin.

Central Wisconsin sits at a crossroads, merging the central plains and the northern highlands – providing a literal connection between the landscapes that give Wisconsin it’s iconic feel. From the towering pines to quiet grasslands and the winding, rushing rivers, the land is rich and dynamic. Read on to explore three popular hiking trails, offering a glimpse into the landscapes that shaped the region.

Ice Age Trail

If you venture to the eastern edge to follow the Ice Age Trail, you’ll notice a distinct change. From more frequent rolling hills and outcrops of boulders, this segment retains remnants of the past once shaped by glaciers. Head out to explore segments of this 1,000-mile footpath, as they travel through eastern Portage County, linking history, cultures, and geological features.

Learn more about the Ice Age Trail segments.

Looking for near-by spots for more hiking?

Check out the Tomorrow River State Trail, Green Circle Trail and Standing Rocks Park.


George W. Mead & McMillan Marsh Wildlife Areas

Spanning the border of the Portage and Wood County lines, you’ll find the Mead Wildlife Area & McMillan Marsh. With more than 33,000 acres to explore, the land was originally gifted to the state of Wisconsin for use as a wildlife refuge in 1959. Containing a mix of wetlands, forests, and grasslands the land is ripe with diverse habitats. Today, it is a popular spot for outdoor recreation including hiking, hunting, and bird-watching.

Learn more about the Mead Wildlife Area & McMillan Marsh.

Looking for near-by spots for more hiking?

Check out the Berkhahn Hiking Trail and the Hamus Nature Preserve Trail.


Buena Vista Marsh

Much of Central Wisconsin was once the bottom of what is known as Glacial Lake Wisconsin. You’ll still find plenty of evidence of this distant past, with the distinctive sandy soil and wide flat landscapes, but much of the land that is now the Buena Vista Marsh has been altered by drainage, agricultural use, and wildfires. Surrounded by agricultural lands, from cranberry bogs and potato fields, today the site is largely dominated by bluegrass and is managed as open grassland for prairie chickens.

Learn more about the Buena Vista Marsh.

Looking for near-by spots for more hiking?

Check out the Ahdawagam Trails, the Necedah National Wildlife Refuge and the Sandhill Wildlife Area.

Want more?

Find more resources, including free guides and maps, to help plan your trip in central Wisconsin here.

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