Baby, it’s cold outside, but that doesn’t mean you can’t still enjoy Mother Nature. Bundle up and head out on foot to one of these parks or hiking trails, where you can decompress and chill out (literally!).

Also, watch social media for candlelight hike opportunities at the state parks mentioned here. Keep in mind that cabin fever often results in an overwhelming response and parks sometimes fill to capacity for these nighttime hikes. Day hikers, though, have a lot more elbow room.

Geneva Lake Shore Path: Just a short drive from Chicago or Milwaukee, the Geneva Lake Shore Path is open to the public 365 days a year. Locals love hoofing it in winter for about one to two miles—east or west—from Library Park downtown and then returning for a warm beverage at one of Lake Geneva’s many eateries.

Lapham Peak: A favorite of Midwestern hikers, Lapham is close to civilization, yet a world away. Just 25 miles west of Milwaukee in Delafield, Lapham offers a number of trails and an observation tower. The park also features snowshoe trails and a lighted nighttime ski trail.

Pattison State Park: Want to really get away from all? Head north to Pattison State Park, twelve miles south of Superior. The park boasts nearly 1,500 acres of forest and Big Manitou Falls, which at 165 feet is Wisconsin’s highest waterfall. Many also come to check out Little Manitou Falls, which are gorgeous in winter. The park offers nine miles of hiking trails.

Peninsula State Park: Located in Door County’s Fish Creek, this park offers high bluffs, sandy beaches (possibly dusted in snow), lighthouses, a nature center and an array of hiking trails. Eagle Trail is a favorite and offers a two-mile loop.

Schmeeckle Reserve: Part of the UW–Stevens Point campus, this 280-acre conservancy includes five miles of peaceful trails and boardwalks and a 24-acre lake. An outdoor classroom for learning, it supports a diverse range of wildlife.


Lisa Schmelz is an award-winning freelancer writer, whose work has appeared in major daily newspapers, national magazines and books. She lives in Delavan, where she also works as a special education teacher.

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