Have you heard of the “slow travel” movement? The premise is that there is so much to be gained by simply slowing down and fulling immersing oneself in a vacation destination.
We’re on board with that trend and suggest testing it out with a hiking adventure in and around Wisconsin Dells. It’s a perfect way to escape the stresses of everyday life and really get to know the Dells. Here’s some ideas to get you started.
Favorite Hiking in Wisconsin Dells
The variety of Wisconsin Dells hiking trails is as vast as the great outdoors itself, with the area defined by the Wisconsin River, sandstone rock formations, quartzite cliffs, gorges, canyons, towering pines, and clear lakes. Exquisite natural areas beckon hikers who embrace the joy of slowing down, being fully present, and showing gratitude to Mother Nature.
As summer winds down and fall begins to paint the landscape, here are eight great spots for hiking near Wisconsin Dells.
- Mirror Lake State Park, Wisconsin Dells
As the name implies, this slow-no-wake lake is like one big shimmering mirror of outdoor splendor. There are more than 19 miles of hiking trails here. Fern Dell Trail is the longest at three miles. Don’t miss the Echo Rock Trail, a short .6 miles that delivers a vista of the lake and connects to the Ishnala Trail across a span bridge over the Mirror Lake Gorge. Pack a lunch and enjoy at one of the three designated picnic areas within the park.
- Chapel Gorge Trail, Wisconsin Dells
A trailhead located just off River Road is good for all skill levels. This two-mile loop winds through a hardwood forest as it takes you to a small beach with big views of the Wisconsin River and the cliffs that shadow the shore. It is one more way to see the famous “dells” of Wisconsin Dells.
- Scenic Wisconsin River Walk, Wisconsin Dells
This ¼-mile paved path opens to magnificent views and offers ways to make the experience last a bit longer by sprinkling in some game tables and comfortable benches along the way.
- Rocky Arbor State Park, Wisconsin Dells
If you’re looking for a little seclusion and an easy hiking experience without giving up that up-close feeling to pines and bluffs, try Rocky Arbor State Park. There’s a one-mile self-guided nature hike that just begs for you to slow down, stop often, listen, and watch for wildlife.
- Chimney Rock Private Park, Wisconsin Dells
The rock climbing guides at local outfitter Vertical Illusions-Zip Line/Kayak/Rock Climbing Adventure Center will help you expand your horizons with rock climbs of 20 feet to 100+ feet at Chimney Rock Private Park, accessible only to customers of Vertical Illusions. They offer guidance for beginners and a push to experienced climbers. If you like what you see, book an eco-canopy zipline tour too. Note: Be prepared for a 25-minute scenic hike to the zipline summit.
- Devil’s Lake State Park, Baraboo
There’s a reason we’re leading with this park – it’s the most popular one in the state and for good reason. It’s a 13.7 mile-long stretch of the Ice Age National Scenic Trail, a must for any serious hiker. There are breathtaking views from the 500-foot-high quartzite bluffs that tower above the 360-acre lake. Visitors can hike as much of the 30 miles of hiking trails as they like. If you’re a seasoned hiker, scale the Balanced Rock Trail on the East Bluff's south face. There are 1.5 miles of trail accessible for people with disabilities too.
- Roche-A-Cri Wisconsin State Park, Friendship
This park offers six miles of hiking trails with its defining feature of a 300-foot-high rock outcropping made of Cambrian sandstone. A wooden stairway takes visitors all the way to the top where spectacular views await them. Native American petroglyphs and pictographs can be easily viewed from an accessible platform at the base of the southern face.
- Parfrey’s Glen, Merrimac
Parfrey's Glen is Wisconsin's first State Natural Area. Its distinguishing feature is a spectacular gorge deeply incised into the south section of the Baraboo Hills. Glen is a Scottish word for a narrow, rocky ravine, and, in this case, the rocks are sandstone embedded with pebbles and boulders of quartzite, with a fast, cold stream flowing through the gorge. There are rare plant and insect species here, so tread lightly and stay on the designated trail. When the designated trail ends, carefully proceed into the glen but stay within 20 feet of the bed of the creek and do not venture past the base of the waterfall.
Four More Wisconsin Dells Hiking Hidden Gems
Wisconsin Dells hiking trails come in lots of different shapes and sizes, as evidenced by these four hidden gems.
- Land of Natura
This newly opened attraction features the world’s largest naturally filtered lake with a floating waterpark and North America’s longest suspended tree canopy tour. During your day visit, explore the 10+ miles of hiking and biking trails through the woods paralleling the Wisconsin River.
- Sundara Inn & Spa
While Sundara is known for its many hydrotherapy features including heated outdoor and indoor pools, a purifying bath ritual, and water-enhanced spa treatments, it also has several miles of scenic hiking trails winding through its 80-acre fragrant pine forest, open to both day and overnight guests.
- Path Around Lake Delton
Runners, walkers, and bikers, try the full five-mile loop around Lake Delton, comprised of multi-use paths, bike lanes, and sidewalks.
- Witches Gulch
This geological wonder with mossy sandstone walls and hidden whirlpools is accessible only by Upper Dells boat tour offered by Dells Boat Tours. The shore landing here takes you right into this dramatic passage carved by wind and water.
For a full rundown of outdoor recreation opportunities, with a convenient option to sort by season, just click here.
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