A Beginners Guide to Snowshoeing in Milwaukee

Strap on some snowshoes and step into one of these local spots for an invigorating low-impact workout that’s perfect for newbies.  

Like certain rabbits’ large hind feet, snowshoes evenly distribute your weight so you can walk (mostly) on top of snow. Once you don your gear, all you need to try out this beginner-friendly activity are snow and open terrain – both locally abundant during the winter months. Milwaukee County parks provide the ideal conditions to start. “They’re relatively flat with plenty of open spaces,” says Cassie Bauer, the community programs manager at Milwaukee’s Urban Ecology Center and an avid snowshoer. Here are the best spots to hit the trails in and around Milwaukee. 

1. Washington Park

1859 N. 40TH ST.

Snowshoe around the lagoon, then warm up with a cup of hot cocoa at the Urban Ecology Center. Members can borrow snowshoes free for use on-site – or anywhere. 


 

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2. Sheridan Park

4800 S. LAKE DR., CUDAHY

Take a short jaunt along Lake Michigan, or venture all the way to Bay View Park 2 miles up the shore. Bring your own gear. 

3. Havenwoods State Forest

6141 N. HOPKINS ST.

Wisconsin’s only urban state forest, Havenwoods boasts 6 miles of trails that overlook snowy prairies and forests of old-growth oak trees. Borrow snowshoes for free anytime the nature center is open (Tues-Sat, 8:30 a.m.-4 p.m.).

Photo by Getty Images

4. Seminary Woods

3257 S. LAKE DR., ST. FRANCIS

On the grounds of the St. Francis de Sales Seminary, this 68-acre beech-maple forest is home to an old, gated grotto and cemetery and plenty of quiet trails. Bring your own snowshoes. 

5. Schlitz Audubon Nature Center

1111 E. BROWN DEER RD. 

Challenge your endurance with 6 miles of flat or hilly trails, many overlooking Lake Michigan. Snowshoes are free for members and $10 for guests. 


Tips for First-timers: 

Certain conditions and equipment can make your winter adventure more enjoyable (and less chilly). Our top pointers:

❄️ One step at a time. Do expect to ‘sink’ a bit in the snow. You won’t feel graceful and that’s OK – remember you’re walking with longer and wider feet. Take small steps and keep your feet parallel. 

❄️ The optimal depth is 4 inches of hard-packed snow or at least 6 inches of fluffier snow. 

❄️ Go for snow or hiking boots, which are sturdier than normal shoes or rain boots. “Most winter boots have a little ledge on the back of the boot so you can hook a snowshoe strap,” says Bauer. 

❄️ Tuck snow pants into your boots to avoid a snowy surprise in your socks. (Speaking of socks, you may want to wear an extra pair to stay warm.)

❄️ Keep your arms engaged. Ski poles or hiking sticks aren’t a must, but they can help prevent falls.


 

This story is part of Milwaukee Magazine‘s January issue.

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