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Staff Picks: Local Natural Areas to Enjoy

Written by Urban Ecology Center
    Tuesday, 31 March 2020
Staff Picks: Local Natural Areas to Enjoy

As we all practice remaining “safer at home,” we are grateful for the many beautiful Milwaukee County Parks and other green spaces. Going outside for walks, hikes, bike rides, bird watching, and other activities can be done while using appropriate social distancing measures. We encourage you to take advantage of the natural beauty surrounding us and the wonder of this transitional season. Here are some excellent recommendations from our staff on local, accessible natural areas where you can enjoy nature right now:


South Shore Line

Recommended by Mike Larson, Visitor Services Manager 

WG CircleFrame cupertinoOne of my favorite bike trails to explore is an eight mile stretch of the Oak Leaf Trail known as the South Shore Line. It starts in Cupertino Park in Bay View near the Coast Guard station and then follows the shoreline all the way south to Grant Park in South Milwaukee. Along the way you can enjoy beautiful views of Lake Michigan while remaining completely off-road on the safety of the bike path. At Cupertino Park you can stop to sit on a bench and enjoy views of the marina and downtown Milwaukee across the bay. South Shore Park is a favorite gathering place during normal times, but even now you can enjoy skipping stones with perfectly flat rocks. Following the path past the beaches you eventually work your way up to the top of the bluff and continue south on a pretty section of trail that winds behind some lakeside condominiums in St. Francis. From there you can enjoy the trail through Sheridan Park, Warnimont Park, and Grant Park, all three with beautiful vistas overlooking Lake Michigan and trails that meander through forests and meadows along the way. You won’t be disappointed!

How to get here: Check out this map.


Kettle Moraine North 

Recommended by Drew Vandegrift, Land Steward

Kettle Moraine North is where I have recently been exploring. Thirty-one miles of trail run through the park, and the networks of trails make it easy to create your own hiking loop.

How to get here: Check out this map.


Falk Park 

Recommended by Glenna Holstein, UEC Menomonee Valley Branch Manager and Chris Steinkamp, Volunteer & Evaluation Coordinator

WG CircleFrameGlenna: This park is an ecologist’s dream! It’s home to some rare plant species, and great habitat for native birds. Great place for a forested hike, and maybe even some spring wildflowers before long!

Chris: Falk Park is small and amazing in the spring. A few ephemeral ponds host some wonderful life.

How to get here: Accessible by the #52 bus. Find directions by using this map.


Havenwoods State Forest

Recommended by Glenna Holstein, UEC Menomonee Valley Branch Manager

One of my all-time favorites. Havenwoods is 237 acres and over 6 miles of trails so there is plenty of space to spread out. You’ll wander through diverse habitats—forest, prairie, savannah, ponds, all of it beautiful. A number of the trails are crushed gravel, so suitable for wheelchairs or strollers (but use caution if it’s rained recently—mud might make them less suitable!). 

How to get here: Accessible by the #35, #30, and #63 bus lines. Find directions by using this map.


Lapham Peak

Recommended by Meghan Forseth, UEC Riverside Park Branch Manager

WG CircleFrame laphamI grew up five miles from Lapham Peak State Park and in fifth grade my twin brother and I were assigned to bring our dad’s video camera to the park to capture signs of spring. I’ll never forget it because we walked around Lapham Peak with a giant video camera in the middle of March and all we saw was brown leaves and trees. We looked everywhere for buds and signs of life. We found nothing.

24 years later I’m back at Lapham Peak in the middle of March and looking for signs of spring. I love Lapham Peak because of the rolling hills, kettles and moraines. The paths that wind around the pine forests are my favorite. The soft crunch of the needles and the distinct smell of pine trees are intoxicating. While walking the 1.8 mile paved Plantation Path under the pine trees, I can hear birds chirping and teeny tiny patches of grass trying to pop up from under the dead leaves. Spring is here and Lapham Peak is the most beautiful place to visit in April!  

How to get here: Find directions by using this map.


Little Menomonee River Parkway

Recommended by Glenna Holstein, UEC Menomonee Valley Branch Manager

This segment of the Oak Leaf trail is a great option because you can pick it up anywhere along the Little Menomonee between Hampton and Bradley (Hampton & 110th, Silver Spring & 107th, Good Hope & 91st, Bradley & 91st), and then just explore for as long as you’d like! The wheelchair/stroller-friendly trail follows the curve of the river and is good for hours of fun walking or biking

How to get here: Accessible by the Blue Line, #12, and #63 bus lines.


Cudahy Nature Preserve

Recommended by Glenna Holstein, UEC Menomonee Valley Branch Manager

this is a lovely set of trails through a woods that is adjacent to Mitchell International Airport. GREAT place to explore if you have a kiddo who likes planes, because you can often see planes taking off and landing through the trees as you hike!

How to get here: Accessible by the #80 bus. Find directions by using this map.


 What other hidden gems belong on this list?

Getting outside can be an essential remedy to cabin fever! Keep in mind, when you venture outside, to practice good social distancing so our parks can remain open for everyone to enjoy. Where have you been exploring? Share your adventures and discoveries with us on social media using the hashtag #myuec!

Urban Ecology Center

Urban Ecology Center

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