View Full Version : Overnight in KMN

08-28-2011, 21:06
Just got back from a great overnight on the Ice Age Trail in Kettle Moraine North.
We started at Butler Lake and hiked to Shelter #2, then back out the next day.
We're pretty new to backpacking, so this was one of our learning trips.

It's about 8.5 miles from BL to Shelter #2. There were enough landmarks (roads, campgrounds, stream crossings) so we easily knew where we were all the time.

We had a great time, but I had my roughest time at about mile 7. I was getting achy, hungry, and tired.
My husband had his rough patch on our way out, during the last mile, but i was amusing myself with christmas songs.

The trails were not too strenuous or difficult, but since we aren't used to hiking with packs, it was a little harder than we expected.

Shelter #2 was nice, although the shelter itself was full of mouse droppings, so we set up our tent just outside. We had a few visitors while we were in camp (a guy on a bike and a trail runner). We had a nice fire in the fire pit, too.

We are planning our next trip up there, I think we'll head to shelter #4!13699

08-28-2011, 21:14
i forgot to mention:

holy cow, the mosquitoes! I knew they'd be bad, but I never thought this bad. DEET did not keep them away.

08-29-2011, 00:18
Sounds like you had a nice hike other than the mosquitoes. Worse mosquitoes I ever experienced were up in North Dakota near Mandan/Bismarck. Got swarmed by literally 1000's of them just before sunset one evening.

09-06-2011, 22:25
Thank you for your basic itinerary! I'm trying to introduce my roommate to backpacking, and this seems perfect. How varied is the terrain?

09-09-2011, 13:08
Well the Kettle Moraine area is basically hilly by definition and has other features that involve ups and downs like eskers. But overall it's fairly level especially compared with other parts of the county. If you mean how do different parts of it differ within KM North, I'm not the best one to ask as I am more familiar with KM South. My sense is though that KM North has a bit more in terms of woods and less in terms of the prairies and other open areas (which KM South has more of I think). The stretch I did in KM North also had large stretches of conifer plantations including mature red pine and Norway spruce. KM South has extensive conifer plantations as well.

Different Socks
10-23-2011, 00:09
Any problem reserving the shelters for your overnight stay? How much are they charging now?

01-05-2012, 18:26
Hiked/backpacked (but amateur) a few times, and have introduced by 9 & 10 year old boys to it. Planning on taking them up in early March for a weekend hike, 1 nighter. Plan on starting at shelter 1 and hiking to cabin 2 0r 3 and returning. I realize there will likely be snow on the ground, that the idea. Any suggestions, ideas, things to see or better stretches of KMN to hike? I plan on reserving the shelters. Thanks

double d
04-08-2012, 17:39
Hiked the same part of the IAT in KMN as the OP. Great hike, especially in early April, as there are no bugs to attack you (this trail is bad for flying insects in the summer, worst then in most parts of the U.S.). Also, I was charged $10 per night for the car fee in a state parking lot and a $22 fee for a reservation at a KMN shelter! I"m also a IAT member, but these fees are crazy, as the IAT is a federal trail. Anyways, hiking in the KMN is a great weekend of hiking, nice rolling hills, not to hard, but not easy either, so a great tune up for our Eastern AT or Colorado Trail and PCT that one might hike later on.

09-03-2013, 15:52
Went and hiked the entire Northern Kettle Moraine unit this past weekend. It was as decent trip. The trails were nice overall with lots of ups and downs. Bugs were the biggest problem. They nearly ruined our trip as we forgot the bug spray one day and the mosquitoes just ate us alive. Not as diverse as the southern unit. The northern unit pretty stays in the forest throughout heading along the ridge line of some very long kettles. Only 2 stream crossings in the whole park and not many open prairie areas like the southern unit.

As far as the shelters go...

Shelter 1 was nice. About a half mile from the parking lot and up a hill. There is a hand pump for water about .15 from the lot and at the bottom of the hill from the shelter (also a path at the back of the pump leads more directly to the shelter, but is much easier going down then up). Shelter was not bad. Fire pit and privy were in decent shape. No where to sit at any of the shelters other then the benches on the shelter itself (no tables like the southern unit has at the shelters). We here kind of late and it had just rained so no fire at night. Pretty much just setup and went to sleep.

Shelter 2 was our least favorite. Inside the shelter there was about a 3" hole dug in the corner letting us know some animal was there. A pile about an inch high and 2 feet across of rat poop on one of the wooden ledges. Spiders firmly in control of the shelter overall. At the other shelters we setup the tent inside the shelter, but not here... It rained while we were here as well and the area in front of the shelter flooded pretty bad but fortunately we setup our tent in a nice spot that went right around the rivers that formed. The privy looked terrible from the outside, but was actually pretty nice. Enough TP in there for 2 years worth of use I would guess.

Shelter 3 is the only one we did not see. It is about a half mile from the nearest street crossing and then based on the map another half mile off the IAT to the shelter. Too far for me to walk just to check it out for fun.

Shelter 4 was the best shelter we stayed at. It is about 50 yards off the IAT near Parnell Tower. It is a .4 miles to the Parnell tower trail and another .6 from there to the tower or parking lot. I know because I walked that mile of the trail a total of 7 times well we were there. We had moved our car this day so I did a lot of back and forth. It had a brand new privy that is a little tricky to find. It's actually down the IAT about 10 feet and then off a little side trail. But it was brand new. Nice concrete base and solid structure. Seemed to have a bit of a fly problem on the inside. The shelter itself has a concrete floor to it which seemed to add to the clean factor of it. There were two birds nest in the ceiling of the shelter, but they didn't seem to be currently in use and didn't bother us. Good water and bathrooms available at the tower parking lot.

Shelter 5 looked to be the best of the bunch, but we only ate lunch there. It is set among a pine forest which cut down on the bugs. At all the other shelters bugs were a huge problem. Bathing in DEET did help. But shelter 5 is right on the IAT as well. There is a privy there in decent shape. I did not check out the water situation. Decent seating options on large logs and rocks around the fire. But overall just in a nice spot and a little more peaceful setting it felt like.

At all of the shelters you can hear the roads at night which kind of stinks and takes away from that middle of nowhere feeling. Overall I would recommend the southern unit - especially Lapham peak - a 1000 times more than the northern unit in terms of both the hiking and the shelters.

09-10-2013, 09:28
Thanks for the report. I've hiked (but not BP'd) all of the southern unit and Lapham Peak, and a little of the northern unit (we stayed I believe at shelter 4). Most people in my experience seem to regard the northern unit a bit more for the reasons you describe but you're right it is I believe less diverse with less prairie and savannah areas. I'd be surprised if road noise was less in the southern unit, but it's possible, though I would say Lapham Peak is anything but remote. I'd guess the bird nests might be eastern phoebe nests but it's probably past the time when they'd be occupied. Anyway, thanks again for the report.

09-10-2013, 12:17
We really enjoyed Lapham for a couple of reasons. First off there is only one campsite there. After 9 pm you are literally the only people in the park. It isn't as remote like you said, but because of it's location you can't hear the roads too much even with the expressway not being too far away. They did some controlled burns in the area too that seem to really cut down on the bugs. Overall it was just a great night there. Deer all over. Birds in the prairie nearby. Very cool setting. And again, the biggest factor is the lack of other people anywhere around.

In the southern unit we stayed at the shelters as well. They were all about the same as far as condition. They all had a picnic bench and a privy and were well kept up. The water at shelters 1 and 3 were both from springs near the shelters. At shelter 2 there is the visitor center about .25 miles down a trail with water available there. I thought the road noise was a lot less there, but that may just be selective memory or a lucky weekend. I just don't remember it being an issue at all like it was in the northern unit. When its hot and sunny we were begging to get out of the prairies and back into the forest, but looking back now it was really cool how different each segment of the trail is in the southern unit. You can see and feel the difference as you pass from section to section. Just keeps things a little more interesting I thought.