11 Worth the Drive Hiking Trails about One Hour from Appleton

Kohler-Andre State Park
Kohler-Andre State Park | Photo Credit: Catherine Scullion

It’s always cooler in the woods! Summer is a perfect time to explore all of the different natural areas that Wisconsin has to offer and to make a list of places that you want to head back to see the changes that other seasons bring. From warm sand dunes to chilly caves, your family can have a new adventure every weekend without a long drive waiting for you on either end.

Read More: 15 Awesome Wisconsin State Parks That Are Less Than Two Hours From Appleton!

Go Valley Kids Exploring Tips

  • Don’t forget your bug spray and sunscreen.
  • Sun hats and/or sunglasses can really make an impact on comfort outside.
  • Keep a first aid kit and tick removal tool handy; nothing can quite spoil a hike like a bleeding knee or embedded tick!
  • Tuck identification cards or books into your day pack or print out nature scavenger hunts to add some learning and excitement to your hikes.
  • Stay on the trails and watch out for poison ivy. “Leaves of three, let it be.
  • Snacks can really motivate little feet on that last mile.
  • Start slow. If your family is new to hiking, start with a short trail to get a feel for how far your kids are able to go before the excitement of adventure gives into “how much farther.”
  • Think about bringing a long a cooler with water to refill your water bottles, not all trails will have water filling stations and you’ll sometimes find that a nature center is not open.
  • Keep a change of clothes in the car. It is remarkable how often having a change of clothes saves a day!
  • We’re not above an ice cream cone incentive to make a trip go smoothly and invite you to test out the effectiveness.
  • Check for ticks when you return home. Remember that ticks like “hotspots” – anywhere that is warmer (armpits, behind knees, at the waistline, in ears, hair). Showers when you get home is also a great idea.

Read More: 12+ Beaches in Northeast Wisconsin

CORONAVIRUS/COVID-19 NOTE: The availability of rentals, loans of equipment, and hours nature center buildings are open are variable. Please check with locations before you venture out if there are specific things that you are looking to do while you visit.

1. Mosquito Hill Nature Center, New London

Climb to one of the highest elevation points in the area at Mosquito Hill Nature Center. This Outagamie County Park is located in New London on the Wolf River on 441 acres. There is a well-developed system of trails, including a three-mile loop to the scenic vistas at the top of Mosquito Hill. Find hand-on learning and natural history displays in their visitors and educational center, including a cool beehive installation.

Read More: Finding Murals in Unexpected Places in New London!

Day 293/365, 10.20.2017 Green and Gold, Hartman Creek State Park

Posted by Barb Stutson Photography on Friday, October 20, 2017

2. Hartman Creek State Park, Waupaca

This Wisconsin State Park sits on 1,500 acres in Waupaca near the Chain O’Lakes. We love the beach here for swimming, and there are kayaks and paddleboards available for rental. This is a great spot for beginners to try out paddle sports as the water is generally very calm. Check out the Hellstad House Log Cabin for a little history lesson.

BONUS: Sand beach for swimming!

vehicle admission sticker is required for entry into all Wisconsin state parks, recreational areas, and forests. Annual passes are available for purchase online or by contacting the Wisconsin DNR at 1-888-305-0398.

3. Stevens Point Sculpture Park, The Green Circle and Schmeeckle Reserve, Stevens Point 

Stevens Point Sculpture Park is a 20-acre sculpture park with a wooded trail linking rotating environmental exhibits by local artists. The park connects with The Green Circle, a 27-mile scenic hiking and biking trail that loops through the Stevens Point area and connects with over 45 miles of additional trails through forests, parks, wetlands, along the Wisconsin and Plover Rivers and historical landmarks.

Schmeeckle Reserve is a 280-acre conservancy area on the campus of UW-Stevens Point. Explore 5 miles of trails and boardwalks, a 24-acre lake, and a large diversity of habitats that support numerous wildlife species.

Read More: Day Trip – Art, Nature and Fun at Stevens Point Sculpture Park!

4. Horicon Marsh

Horicon Marsh is located near Fond du Lac and includes miles of trails. It is both a national and a state wildlife refuge area

The Horicon Marsh Education and Visitor Center is open daily and includes many items to borrow for visitors including binoculars, field guides, snowshoes, and nature-themed backpacks (Insects, Birds, Nature Art, Nature, Pond & Stream, Tracking) that can really take a visit to the next level. Families can also visit the Explorium for history on the European Settlement and the marsh. The Explorium does require an admission.

Explore the marsh by canoe or kayak with Horicon Marsh Boat Tours in the city of Horicon.

Also visit The Marsh Haven Nature Center (private non-profit).

BONUS: Scenic Drive-thru

Read More: 25 Picturesque Scenic Drives to Enjoy From Your Car Window

5. Navarino Nature Center, Shiocton

Hike through 15,000 acres of wetlands, forests, prairies, and agricultural fields on the trails at Navarino.

6. Brillion Nature Center, Brillion

You’ll find more than 7 miles of hiking trails to explore at Brillion Nature Center that will take you through a prairie, marsh, and woodland habitats. The Nature Center has lots of displays that feature birds, fish, and mammals. They also have hands-on exhibits with live Wisconsin native reptiles, amphibians, and fish. They offer cool field packs for rent at just $5/each for use at the nature center during open building hours. In the packs, you’ll find binoculars, field identification guides, specimen bottles, large and small magnifying glasses, bug boxes, tweezers, scraper, ruler, compass, pencils, mini-clipboard, and a notepad.

7. Kohler-Andrae State Park 

Have an adventure day exploring near Lake Michigan at Kohler-Andrae State Park in Sheboygan along the sandy dunes cordwalk and boardwalks. You also find trails that take you through forests, marsh, and prairies. Bring along identification guides and have a blast naming the many songbirds and wildflowers you’ll see along your way. There is a nature center to visit in the northern part of the park to learn more about animals, plants, history, and sand dunes you’ll see at the park. 

BONUS: Sand beach for swimming!

vehicle admission sticker is required for entry into all Wisconsin state parks, recreational areas, and forests. Annual passes are available for purchase online or by contacting the Wisconsin DNR at 1-888-305-0398.

136/365 5.16.2019 along the Point Beach State Forest shoreline on the nicest day of the spring so far

Posted by Barb Stutson Photography on Thursday, May 16, 2019

8. Point Beach State Park

Two Rivers’ Point Beach State Forest has a beach, sand dunes trails, and a lighthouse. Rawley Point Lighthouse has been operated and maintained by the U.S. Coast Guard since 1853 and can be viewed and photographed from the beach.

BONUS: Sand beach for swimming!

vehicle admission sticker is required for entry into all Wisconsin state parks, recreational areas, and forests. Annual passes are available for purchase online or by contacting the Wisconsin DNR at 1-888-305-0398.

Read More: A Day at the Beach: Two Rivers, Wisconsin

9. Bay Shore Park, New Franken

At Cecil Depeau Bay Shore Park, you’ll find a fun nautical-themed park complete with a wooden ship. The park is at the top of the Niagara Escarpment and has a breathtaking view of the Bay of Green Bay. 

10. Ledgeview Nature Center, Chilton

Ledge View Nature Center is best known for its caves but the 105-acre Calumet County park and environmental education center located just south of Chilton, WI. also contains woodland, dolomite ledges, open prairie, and an inactive quarry. Explore the 3 miles of trails, a 60-foot observation tower, an arboretum, and gardens with native wildflowers. The nature center building includes displays and interactive exhibits for learning more about the area.

Cherney Maribel Caves County Park 10.9.17

Posted by Barb Stutson Photography on Thursday, October 19, 2017

11. Maribel Caves County Park, Maribel

Cherney Maribel Caves County Park has many caves and crevices that are open along a series of trails. Some of the park’s caves are gated and open only for set tours during certain times of the year. 

Maribel Caves Hotel has a rich and interesting history as you drive in!

2+ Hours Away But Worth the Mention

Other Hiking Trails You Might Like

Learn more about these Green Bay Area Trails

  • Fox River Trail, Green Bay / De Pere
  • Osprey Point, De Pere
  • Ken Euers Nature Area, Green Bay
  • UW-Green Bay Arboretum Trail, Green Bay
  • Fonferek Glen, Green Bay
  • Baird Creek, Green Bay
  • Bay Beach Wildlife Sanctuary, Green Bay
  • Green Bay Botanical Garden, Green Bay
  • Pamperin Park, Green Bay
  • Mountain Bay State Trail, Howard
  • Meadowbrook Trail, Howard
  • L.H. Barkhausen Waterfowl Preserve, Suamico

Learn more about these Fox Valley Area Trails

  • Apple Creek Trail / Thrivent Trail, Appleton
  • Bruce B. Purdy Nature Preserve (Apple Creek YMCA), Appleton
  • Newberry Trail, Appleton
  • Plamann Park, Appleton
  • North Island Trail, Appleton
  • Riverview Gardens, Appleton
  • Bubolz Nature Preserve, Grand Chute
  • Casaloma Conservancy, Grand Chute
  • Fox Valley Technical College, Grand Chute
  • Old Stone Bridge Trail, Grand Chute
  • Prairie Hill Park, Grand Chute
  • Wiouwash State Trail, Greenville / Hortonville
  • Fox Cities Trestle Trail, Neenah / Menasha / Fox Crossing
  • Heckrodt Nature Preserve, Menasha
  • Heritage Parkway Trail, Little Chute
  • CE Trail, Kimberly
  • 1000 Islands Environmental Center, Kaukauna
  • High Cliff State Park, Sherwood

Learn more about these Oshkosh Area Trails

  • Terrell’s Island, Omro
  • Sheldon Nature Trail, Oshkosh
  • Menominee Shoreline Trail to Menominee Park, Oshkosh
  • Waukau Creek Nature Preserve, Waukau
  • Mascoutin Valley State Park Trail, Rosendale

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