By Bobby Tanzilo Senior Editor/Writer Published Feb 06, 2023 at 2:00 PM

It’s easy to fall into a rut – or under a blanket on the sofa in front of the television – during the Milwaukee winter. Sometimes the best prescription is just to get up and get moving.

Lion's Den
Lion's Den Gorge. (PHOTO: Jeff Bentoff/Facebook)

With that in mind, here is a selection of area trails and paths perfect for walking, running and hiking. Some will work for snowshoeing, cross country skiing and other fun, too.

Of course, there are many, many trails in the area, so this is just a sampling to get you going.

Around the city

Menomonee River Parkway has paved paths but you can also walk into the brush and do a more rustic walk along the river from Tosa Village north. When you get to Mayfair Road on the paved portion, just south of Capitol Drive (you’ll have passed the great Hartung Park in a former quarry by then), you can cross the street to Currie Park and there you’ll find a connection to the Oak Leaf Trail. (Technically, you’ll be continuing on the Oak Leaf Trail as the parkway trail is part of the huge system. See below.)

Oak Leaf
The Oak Leaf Trail in winter. (PHOTO: Paul Kajtna/Facenbook)

If you want a manageable bite that’s a paved loop, check out the 3.2-mile Hoyt/Hart Park Trail that will never take you too far from a cocktail and a bite to eat. It’s got just a 68 feet elevation gain, so it’s leisurely. You’ll walk through what in summer is the The Landing at Hoyt Park beer garden.

The much-used 135-mile mostly paved Oak Leaf Trail – a favorite of strollers, walkers, bikers, joggers, etc. – is actually seven main trail segments with a couple scenic loops and a couple scenic connectors.

You can find details on each of these, plus maps, here.

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Depending on your location, you might prefer the South Shore or KK River lines, or if you’re on the East Side, the Milwaukee River line, the Root River line or Whitnall loop if on the Southwest Side, or up on the Northwest Side, the Menomonee River line, of which the trail above is part. But that 15-mile one goes much farther north, too, to Dretzka Park.

While a number of them are on old rail lines, lovers of the old North Shore Line will dig the eight-mile Oak Creek Line, which follows the old intercity rail line’s right of way.

Short & sweet

Lake Park ravines. You might think of golf or Lake Park Bistro or a beer garden or the cool playground or Musical Mondays or lawn bowling when you think of Lake Park, but this Frederick Law Olmsted-designed gem preserved its lakefront ravines and you can walk through them.

Discover the waterfall, quiet spots in the heart of the city and more. They’re all short – less than a mile –  Locust St. Ravine Trail is .51 mile, North Ravine Trail is .25 mile, North Lighthouse Ravine Trail is .17 mile and Waterfall Ravine Trail and South Lighthouse Ravine Trails just .13 mile each – but fun. And perfect for a quick stretch of the legs and contemplation time.

There’s a map here.

Seven Bridges
Seven Bridges Trail at Grant Park.

Typically, the roughly two miles of Seven Bridges ravine trails in South Milwaukee’s lakeside Grant Park are an oasis of calm in the city, offering a peaceful respite amid the chirping of birds, the sound of Lake Michigan lapping at the beach and the rustle of the trees in the breeze.

The Grant Park trails – called Seven Bridges, despite the fact that there are more than seven – are among the best to be had in the County Parks: wooded with gentle rises, a path to a Lake Michigan beach, elevated views over the lake and more.

A map is here.

A little further afield

Whether you prefer to head southwest or northwest, you’ll find incredible trails in either unit of the Kettle Moraine State Forest, both of which offer numerous walking/hiking options of varying lengths and difficulties with a wide range of terrain and scenery.

Kettle Moraine
A woodsy Kettle Moraine trail.

Both also are connected to the Ice Age National Scenic Trail. Each is roughly a 45-minute drive from Milwaukee, depending on your location.

You can find a map and more details on the Southern Unit here and the same for the Northern Unit here.

Mark Baden is going to kill me for including this one, but the Lion’s Den Nature Preserve – between Mequon and Port Washington on the shores of Lake Michigan – is a 73-acre park with a few different trails, some of which lead down to the beach and that offer views from the 90-100-foot bluffs above the lake.

I love that when you’re down on the beach you can spy Port Washington up in the distance. But the wooded sections of trail are nice, too, and there’s also some marshland, which is good news for birders.

The paths aren’t paved but they’re nicely groomed and, for the most part, pretty easy walking.

There are also picnic areas and restrooms.

Find a map and more info here.

You can see more trail options in Wisconsin in this post.

Bobby Tanzilo Senior Editor/Writer

Born in Brooklyn, N.Y., where he lived until he was 17, Bobby received his BA-Mass Communications from UWM in 1989 and has lived in Walker's Point, Bay View, Enderis Park, South Milwaukee and on the East Side.

He has published three non-fiction books in Italy – including one about an event in Milwaukee history, which was published in the U.S. in autumn 2010. Four more books, all about Milwaukee, have been published by The History Press.

With his most recent band, The Yell Leaders, Bobby released four LPs and had a songs featured in episodes of TV's "Party of Five" and "Dawson's Creek," and films in Japan, South America and the U.S. The Yell Leaders were named the best unsigned band in their region by VH-1 as part of its Rock Across America 1998 Tour. Most recently, the band contributed tracks to a UK vinyl/CD tribute to the Redskins and collaborated on a track with Italian novelist Enrico Remmert.

He's produced three installments of the "OMCD" series of local music compilations for and in 2007 produced a CD of Italian music and poetry.

In 2005, he was awarded the City of Asti's (Italy) Journalism Prize for his work focusing on that area. He has also won awards from the Milwaukee Press Club.

He has be heard on 88Nine Radio Milwaukee talking about his "Urban Spelunking" series of stories, in that station's most popular podcast.