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Get Outside and Play: Winter Hike

Written by Mike Larson
    Tuesday, 10 December 2013
A brisk November walk through Whitnall Park. A brisk November walk through Whitnall Park.

When I ask outdoor enthusiasts what they like about the winter, they frequently list their favorite adventure sports: skiing, snowshoeing, sledding, etc. Often I’ll hear a comment along the lines of “the winter weather here is terrible - except that I get to go skiing!” Unfortunately, as the last couple of years have taught us, winter sports that require snow aren’t much fun if it doesn’t snow. What’s an outdoor enthusiast to do if it doesn’t snow significantly until January, or even at all? Or, if you’re not in to the more adventurous sports, does that mean you should stay indoors all winter? Certainly not! This year, I’ve found another way to get outdoors in the cold: take a hike!

The woods in winter time are serene and quiet in a way that is unlike anything else. As I walk through my favorite parks, the usual crowds on a hot summer day are completely gone, allowing me to enjoy the sense of solitude. Trees and brushes that are usually covered with leaves are bare, offering me a better look at the wildlife, nests, and landscapes that are normally hidden from view. There’s something about a hike in the winter woods that is unique and pleasurable for its own sake and I invite you to set aside time to explore them as often as you can.

This November I toured four of my favorite hiking destinations in the Milwaukee area that I would encourage you to visit:

Doctors Park

This beautiful park along the north shore has a stunning view of the lake without interruption from buildings and houses. Believe it or not, the beach is an excellent place to go in the wintertime- just be sure to bundle up!

doctors park

Kinnickinnic River Trail

This new addition to Milwaukee’s urban bike trails is an as yet undiscovered gem on the city’s near south side. There are two sections to explore. Start at Sixth and Rosedale and take the beautiful new bridge over Chase Avenue as you explore the riverbank improvements of Milwaukee’s “other” river. Head over to Kinnickinnic Avenue for a bite to eat, then find the second part just east of KK between Maple and Washington Streets. I hope they continue this Rails to Trails project north into the Third Ward in the near future!

Whitnall Park

The forests and prairie areas throughout Whitnall Park are huge! If, like me, you think plants can be beautiful even after they’re dead (dormant) then this is an excellent area to hike. My wife teases me because I refuse to cut down the native plants growing in our yard until the springtime. If you’ve never thought of plants this way, then keep it in mind as you explore the meadows of this well-maintained park.

whitnall park

Milwaukee Riverwalk

For those in the mood for a more urban experience, consider a stroll down the Milwaukee Riverwalk south of I-794. Starting at the Milwaukee Public Market, you can pick up a boardwalk style trail interspersed with planter boxes of native plants (see how beautiful they are!). Restaurants, sculptures and art galleries are just a short detour off this walkway in case you get too cold and need a short break!

Do you have other places you like to go for winter hikes? Please share below!

Mike Larson

Mike Larson

Mike is a happily married man living with his family in Bay View. As a young child he spent days playing along the banks of the Rock River, fostering a love for nature which eventually led him to study biology and pursue a career with the Urban Ecology Center. He enjoys telling people everything he can about the Center through his role as the Visitor Services Manager. He hopes that the work he does can help make it possible for his two sons and other kids in Milwaukee to grow up with similar experiences to those he had as a child.

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