View Full Version : Ice Age Trail basics

07-11-2008, 11:39
First off, many thanks to Mags for letting me steal the format of his PCT and CDT handouts, I hope I have done it justice with my efforts here.

So here is what I've put together on the trail. If there are any suggested additions, subtractions, or amendments, please don't hesitiate to PM or email me.

The Ice Age Trail


The Ice Age Trail is one of the eight established National Scenic Trails. The National Trails Act, incidentally, was introduced by Wisconsin Senator Gaylord Nelson in 1964. The Ice Age Trail was approved by Congress in 1980 with an authorized length of 1000 miles, entirely within the state of Wisconsin. The trail follows the edge of the most recent North American glaciation, about 15,000 years ago. Geologists travel from around the world to see the drumlins, eskers, kames, dalles, and moraines left behind by this mammoth 2-mile thick ice sheet at the nine National Scientific Reserves along the route. This trail is not yet complete, like the earliest days of the Appalachian Trail nearly half of it's length is routed along rural roads and through various local communities.

This handout will help you prepare for the basics of a journey on this trail.


Administered by the Ice Age Trail Alliance in conjunction with the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources and the National Park Service
Total length of around 1200 miles, of which over 600 are complete and certified. Uncertified but established trail length is constantly changing and increasing
Entirely within the State of Wisconsin
Travels from Potowatomi State Park in Door County to Interstate State park on the state's western edge.


Half the length of the AT
More gradually graded, easier tread
No shelters outside of scattered State Forest units
Long stretches of road walking
Yellow blazes!


1) Where do I start?
The eastern Terminus of the trail is at Potawatomi State Park in Sturgeon Bay. Sturgeon Bay has no bus, train or air service. Green Bay, 45 miles away, is the closest major city offering these services. Contact the Sturgeon Bay Visitors Center at (920) 743-3924 or www.sturgeonbay.org (http://www.sturgeonbay.org/) for more information

The western Terminus is in Interstate State Park in St. Croix Falls. St. Croix Falls also has no bus, train or airport service. Nearest services are in Minneapolis/St. Paul, MN, 45 miles away. Contact the Polk County Information Center at (800) 222-7655 or www.polkcountytourism.com (http://www.polkcountytourism.com/)

2) Re-supplying
The Ice Age Trail travels through or near so many towns, villages, and cities that re-supply is of practically no effort. In northern Wisconsin, towns are more scattered and trail segments are longer but there should still be ample opportunity to supply yourself with food and fuel.

2) Where do I sleep?
There are many opportunities to camp in the dozens of national, state, and county forests that the trail passes through. Be aware that the great majority of these campsites will require reservations in advance. In addition, there are Adirondack-style shelters available by reservation in the Kettle Moraine segments, and a few "first-come" shelters in other state parks. In areas where shelters are available, tenting off trail is often not permitted. Consult the Ice Age Trail Companion Guide for detailed camping information. For those seeking a more luxurious experience, there is an established "Inn-to-Inn" program, where hikers can walk to participating bed and breakfast inns, all of which will pick you up from and drop you off at the trail.

4) Weather
The weather in Wisconsin is highly dependent upon the seasons. Winter can be generally regarded as the time between November and March, but snowstorms in the months before and after are not unheard of. Winter temperatures and dense snowfall make hiking the trail in these months much more difficult. Much of the trail is open to cross-country skiing during the winter.. Summer weather can range from pleasantly cool mornings and evenings in June, to 90+ temperatures and matching humidity in July and August.

5) Guidelines for hiking during hunting seasons
Hunting is a serious avocation for hundreds of thousands of Wisconsinites. During the annual deer hunt, there may be upwards of half a million armed hunters sharing the woods with you.
With this in mind, the Ice Age Trail Alliance offers the following guidelines:

"Private Lands: Portions of the Ice Age Trail crossing privately owned lands generally should be considered closed during gun deer-hunting season. "Private Lands" signs are placed at any point where the Ice Age Trail enters private land, most often at a road crossing. Additionally, Ice Age Trail Alliance volunteers often place "segment closed" signs (with dates of the closure) at trailheads. To help ensure the continued good relations with private landowners that are so critical to the Ice Age Trail, it is vitally important that hikers obey these signs and stay off closed segments. If you'd like to go for a hike on a segment you think may be on private land, call the IATA main office (800-227-0046) or the local chapter coordinator (http://www.iceagetrail.org/volunteer-chapters) to learn whether or not it's open for hiking.

Public Lands: The Ice Age Trail remains open on most public lands year-round. Those who hike an Ice Age Trail segment crossing public land during a hunting season do so at their own risk. For safety, hikers should wear high-visibility blaze orange hats and jackets when using the Trail during these times. The best option for hikers is to head to an area of a state park or forest that's closed to hunting. A list of such places is available on the WDNR website (http://dnr.wi.gov/org/land/wildlife/reclands/Hunt.htm)."


No permit is required to hike the Ice Age Trail. Parking at trailheads usually requires a state park sticker, available at most lots. The cost is currently $25 for a yearly sticker.


This is the home page of the Ice Age Trail Alliance, the volunteer organization that administers the trail. This is the place to find nearly any information on the trail hiking programs such as the "Inn to Inn" program. This is also where to buy the Ice Age Trail Atlas and Companion Guide.

The State of Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources page on the trail

The home page of the National Park Service's information on the trail.


The official site for reserving the Adirondack shelters. In my experience, better results are achieved by using the toll free phone number.

www.madison.com/communities/iceage (http://www.madison.com/communities/iceage)
Dane County chapter of the IATA, see this and other chapter websites for information on Trail Angels, current conditions, etc.

double d
07-11-2008, 12:14
IceAge, thanks for posting this detailed information, I was recently hiking on the IAT during the July 4th holiday. Great trail, lots of wonderful Upper Midwest scenery.

07-11-2008, 12:43
I may have to take a trip to Wisconsin! :)

Handout looks pretty good...

Jim Adams
07-11-2008, 13:15
didn't mean to ask about the maps and not comment on the hand out...nice, easy to understand with alot of info. Good job!


07-11-2008, 15:34
I believe that parts of the trail are "closed" to hikers during our gun deer season in November. I am checking for printed literature regarding this subject.

07-12-2008, 13:32
This trail is first on my list after I finish the A.T. Thanks for the info

08-27-2008, 09:51
Made some small updates today.

12-23-2008, 20:31
I hiked part of the south kettle morraine state forest this october. Great section, rolling hills, yellow birches,and lots of scenery. Not to rugged but it was a good trip.

double d
12-24-2008, 00:45
Puddingboy, did you encounter any flying, biting insects while on your hike? The summer on the IAT where you hiked is tough on the skin as the flying biting bast--- came out in dive bombing formation.

Wise Old Owl
12-24-2008, 00:52
Yea I made some small updates today although this sentence almost ruined it "nearly half of it's length is routed along rural roads and through various local communities" I took the bicycle and put it back on the rack! The website made up for it, now I just need to see the whole thing on Google Earth.

12-24-2008, 01:49
Puddingboy, did you encounter any flying, biting insects while on your hike? The summer on the IAT where you hiked is tough on the skin as the flying biting bast--- came out in dive bombing formation.

We hit the trail once at Loew Lake. Maybe 5 minutes before we headed back to the safety of our SUV!

10-21-2009, 20:38
Trail Angels await for helping hikers. Contact the local chapter volunteers and Thousand Miler Wanna Be folks: Ice Age Trail Alliance www.iceagetrail.org (http://www.iceagetrail.org) Example of a secondary local chapter website (Dane county): www.madison.com/communities/iceage (http://www.madison.com/communities/iceage)

09-17-2010, 15:21
Updated to include info on hiking during hunting seasons

01-29-2011, 12:37
I may have to take a trip to Wisconsin! :)

Handout looks pretty good...


I'll be your Southern Wisconsin Trail Angel if you
decide to hike the trail

regards from me, Tman

WI shepherd
01-29-2011, 19:27
The Wis DNR has a very good interactive map that can be used to see the approved sections of trail, although I wouldn't rely on it for actual trail hiking. It took me a while to figure out how to interact with the map, but it was time well spent. Both aerial and topo maps are available.


03-16-2011, 16:24

double d
07-14-2011, 18:49
Any updates to the IAT in terms of black flys this summer (July, 2011)? I'm thinking of doing some miles on the IAT in the near future at KM State Park (north section).

07-18-2011, 16:55
I live pretty close to the KM North, and deer flies are awful this year for some reason.

However, I have found that deer flies want more than anything to bite you right on top of your head. If you wear a bandanna or a hat, your odds of getting bit are greatly reduced. Add DEET or Permethrin to the equation and you might be okay.

Old Boots
07-18-2011, 17:49
I have hiked the Kettle Moraine portions of the trail. It is a great experience if you lie the AT. Thanks for posting the info.

07-22-2011, 20:17
The Ice Age Trail! That was my first thru hike, and it got me hooked for life.

double d
07-23-2011, 10:15
I have hiked the Kettle Moraine portions of the trail. It is a great experience if you lie the AT. Thanks for posting the info.
Agreed! Very cool hiking area, it just seems that every time I go to that area, I get attacked by black flies to the point that its no fun to hike and I'm not one to wimp out, especially after driving three hours one way to hike. Maybe I'll smoke a few cigars while hiking!

double d
07-23-2011, 10:15
The Ice Age Trail! That was my first thru hike, and it got me hooked for life.
Wow, thats got to be a cool story. When did you thru-hike it and how did you plan it?