One of the best ways to enjoy the vibrant autumn colors, crisp sunny skies, and lingering warm temperatures of a Milwaukee fall is by hiking through the many parks and preserves the city has to offer.
Southeast Milwaukee is home to an abundance of hiking options with big-name trails like the Ice Age and the Oak Leaf trails frequented by hikers year round, but hidden among the suburbs of Milwaukee lies a collection of shorter, more accessible trails perfect for a morning stroll with a loved one and a hot pumpkin spiced latte.
This fall, experience the picturesque transition of Milwaukee’s woodlands on one of these roads less traveled:
100 HAWTHORNE AVE., SOUTH MILWAUKEE
Seven Bridges, located in South Milwaukee’s Grant Park, offers about two miles of wooded and paved hiking trails with multiple access points and ample parking. The park entrance has a beach, a children’s play area, and a beachside grill open mid-May through mid-September. Build your adventure customizing a hike that meets your ability level and length preference. (You can even extend your trip by connecting to the Oak Leaf Trail .) For some panoramic lake views, make sure to check out the bluff bordering Lake Michigan.
5902 W. LOOMIS RD., GREENDALE
Scout Lake Park hosts a half mile loop around a five-acre lake with connections to a variety of trails and walking paths throughout historic Greendale. Admission is free, and the park is easily accessed with a small lot off of Loomis Road.
W264 S4500 RIVER RD., WAUKESHA
This 257-acre park along the Fox River offers varying degrees of difficulty, from leisure hikes to those with a bit more challenge for a more seasoned walker. Venture among wooded, paved, or river-front trails that range from 0.5-2.25 miles, or extend your hike by connecting to Waukesha’s Fox River Trail. If you’re walking as a family, stop at the authentic nature play area with nature-inspired play experiences built right into the landscape. Park admission is $6 per car, or you can purchase a Waukesha County annual entrance sticker to use for future hikes.
17400 W. LIBERTY LN., NEW BERLIN
Smack in the middle of a concrete business park, wooded tranquility awaits. This free nature preserve features an easy wooded trail almost a mile long with attractions like a lush wooded landscape, active wildlife and a creek flowing through the park. This small canopied forest makes a great quick Saturday morning hike.
9701 W. COLLEGE AVE., FRANKLIN
Whitnall Park in Franklin is home to a plethora of outdoor recreation including the Boerner Botanical Gardens, Whitnall Park Golf Course, the Whitnall beer garden and the Wehr Nature Center. The nature center surrounds Mallard Lake and offers over five miles of trails (most in the “easy” range) in a variety of terrains among its woods, wetlands and prairies. Extend your hike by connecting to the Oak Leaf Trail along the Root River Parkway. The entrance even has a small play area with a wooded cabin for kids. Parking is $4 per vehicle, but entrance into the park is free.
1111 E. BROWN DEER RD., BAYSIDE
Schlitz Audubon Nature Center offers six miles of trails throughout 185 acres nestled on the shore of Lake Michigan. Access breathtaking views of both Lake Michigan and colorful fall foliage from the 60-foot observation tower. Schlitz offers a variety of accessible routes for those traveling with a wheelchair or stroller. Admission is $8 for adults and $5 for kids, and there’s a discount for veterans and those on active duty. If you’re looking to frequent the park, they also offer an annual membership.
1800 FOREST EXPLORATION DR., WAUWATOSA
Just last year, a nonprofit organization by the same name alongside the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resource Division of Forestry opened this accessible self-guided nature trail among 60 acres of one of southwest Wisconsin’s urban hardwood forests. Along the one-mile nature hike, you’ll find educational boards with information and media interactives about trees, plants and wildlife throughout the area. If you’re looking for a longer hike, drive east down Swan Boulevard to the Underwood Parkway and access miles of natural trails or drive over to Milwaukee’s best-kept hiking secret, the informal trails of Sanctuary Woods.
2028 S. 124TH ST., WEST ALLIS
If you’re seeking a hike to suit a variety of ability levels, ages or interests, this 150-acre county park offers a little something for everyone with quiet park benches, play areas for children, and paved walking paths. Take a stroll around the fishing pond, stop at a play area, pass through the Greenfield Park Golf Course, or join up with the New Berlin Recreational Trail and hike through a paved fall canopy. The route also joins with the Oak Leaf Trail , so there are many possibilities for this fall outing.
Tips for the Explorer
- Double checking the park information before visiting. Confirm pet restrictions and park hours.
- Minimizing your impact as you explore. Stay on the marked trails, don’t remove anything from the trails (or leave anything behind), and do your best to leave things as you found them.
- Being courteous to other hikers. Keep your noise to a minimum (as many hikers may be on the lookout for wildlife), and follow CDC recommendations by keeping your distance from other hikers.