Ice Age National Scenic Trail–Six Segments

Photo by Bob Kasper

The Ice Age National Scenic Trail courses 1,200 miles throughout Wisconsin, roughly following the path where the last glacier ended. Along the way, it takes hikers, backpackers, trail runners, and walkers through some of the most scenic areas in the state, including spots right here in Dane County.

Brooklyn Wildlife Segment
East of Belleville in the Brooklyn State Wildlife Area. Trailhead and parking lots on Highway DD and Hughes Road.
This pleasant 3.3-mile hike offers a little bit of everything: woodlands (including a small pine grove), prairie, marsh overlooks, and a nice boardwalk. It’s a great place for birdwatching. In fact, don’t be surprised if a pheasant crosses your path.

Photograph by Becky Greiber

University Ridge Portion of Madison Segment
Parking available at Noer Turfgrass Research Center on Highway M or off-road parking on Woods Road.
Did you know a National Scenic Trail runs directly through University Ridge Golf Course? For two miles, the Ice Age Trail takes you through wooded areas of the course. During late spring and early summer, wild geraniums are in full bloom and blanket the woods, making it magical. Except for when you pass by a cart path and the clubhouse, you’ll barely notice you’re on the golf course. It’s a lovely hike any time of day, particularly right before sunset. Be mindful and quiet if you’re out when golfers are playing.

Valley View Segment
Madison. Parking at trailhead on Moraine Ridge Road and lot on Timber Lane.
An absolutely stunning segment to hike during late summer or early fall when wildflowers are in bloom, this 2.6-mile portion of the segment takes you through a restored open prairie from which you can see the Blue Mounds on a clear day and a residential area featuring prairie-style homes. Your feet will stay dry and out of the mud thanks to an impressive 400-foot boardwalk, completed by volunteers last year.

Photograph by L. Unruh

Table Bluff Portion of Table Bluff Segment
Just outside of Cross Plains. Parking lots at trailheads on Scheele Road and Table Bluff Road.
This 2.4-mile portion of the Ice Age Trail is a true jewel of the trail and a prime example of ecological restoration. What was once agricultural land plotted for development is now a beautifully restored prairie, marsh, and oak/hickory woodland. At the right time of year, you’ll encounter rare purple coneflower, shooting stars, hoary vervain, prairie smoke, cream gentian, and cream baptisia. Depending on where you start your hike, it’ll either end or begin with dramatic views from atop the bluff area. For more amazing prairie, head to over to the short 1.1-mile lollipop loop portion of the segment, which takes you through the Liebetrau Prairie (parking off Pine Road). During the summer, you’ll experience an ever-changing explosion of prairie flowers, like monarda, coneflowers, coreopsis, and more. It’s something to see.

Lodi Marsh Segment
South of Lodi. Parking at trailhead on Lodi Springfield Road.
Lodi Marsh is one of the more popular segments of the Ice Age Trail in the county. As you hike this 1.8-mile portion, you’ll understand why. It winds you through glacially sculpted landscapes, along the edge of a marsh, through lowland prairie, and over limestone bedrock ridges and drumlins. A spring 2022 boardwalk building project means hikers can now enjoy the marsh’s flora and fauna without traversing through mud and muck. As you hike, be sure to watch and see if you can spot the beaver dam or any variety of waterfowl. Expand your hike and follow the Ice Age Trail across Lodi Springfield Road for an additional 3.1 miles toward the Ice Age Trail Community of Lodi. Make it a day—hike through Lodi on the trail (another 2.2 miles) and stop for a snack or drink.

Photograph by Makenzie McDermit

Prairie Moraine Portion of Verona Segment
Located southwest of the Ice Age Trail Community of Verona. Parking at the trailheads on Wesner Road or Highway M.
Of all the places in Dane County to imagine glacial history, the trailhead at Wesner Road is the place to do it. That’s because the ridge you see just yards north from the parking lot is the terminal moraine, where the last glacier ended. To get an idea of how thick the glacier was, glance at the 911 tower you see protruding into the sky to the east. The ice reached about the same height as the top of the tower. With this in mind, begin your 1.7-mile trek. You’ll pass through prairie and oak woodlands, which include an oak that’s nearly 400 years old. After you cross Highway PB, you’ll pass several kettle ponds in the Ice Age Trail Alliance’s Moraine Kettles Preserve. Stop at the trailhead on Highway M or continue the trail through the Ice Age Trail Community of Verona for a 6.4-mile hike, which ultimately takes you to the trailhead at McKee Road.

Once you’ve hiked one or more of these segments, there’s a high likelihood you’ll want to hike the entire trail. For an interactive map of the entire Ice Age Trail, visit iceagetrail.org. While there, check out itineraries created to help plan your hiking trips. As you hike the Ice Age Trail, remember it’s created, supported, and maintained by volunteers. To get involved in trail building or trail maintenance projects, visit iceagetrail.org/volunteer.

Melissa Pierick is the director of marketing and community relations at Ice Age Trail Alliance.