Not every park or preserve is blessed with miles of hiking trails or sandy beaches. But every bit of green space is beautiful and bountiful in its own way. There are times when I want a varied adventure in my day trips. Or maybe I don't have a full day to spend. These are the days I double up on smaller preserves and parks. I look for two parks within a defined location, and get outside and explore. Here are a few of my favorite combos.
Trinity Creek Wetland Habitat and Grasslyn Nature Preserve
Trinity Creek and Grasslyn are two of my most recent discoveries. Just minutes from each other in Mequon, they are not large in stature, but they both have plenty to offer. I would start with Trinity Creek, as there's a bit more area to cover, and finish with a stroll through Grasslyn, and a bit of relaxation and contemplation on one of the benches along the trail. These are two "Treasures of OZ", and it's easy to see why.
Lulu Lake Preserve and Crooked Creek Preserve
Lulu Lake and Crooked Creek are within minutes of each other in the East Troy area. Both preserves are managed by The Nature Conservancy. Of the two, Lulu Lake is the easiest hike. So, I would start there, then move on to Crooked Creek. Both are great spots for bird watching. Crooked Creek can be muddy after a rain, but the trails are nicely marked, and the hills are a good workout. Both offer respite from a busy world.
Mauthe Lake State Recreation Area and Spruce Lake Bog
Mauthe Lake is perfect for a weekend getaway. Just over an hour from Milwaukee, you can immerse yourself in nature - hiking trails, beach, picnics, and camping. If you're spending time at Mauthe Lake, carve out an hour for a trip over to Spruce Lake Bog. It's a nice easy boardwalk trail bathed in green. Wildflowers, ferns, the sound of birds. About 15 minutes from Mauthe Lake, it's an easy side trip. And worth the effort.
Glacier Hills County Park and Bobrowitz Sculpture Garden
Bordering Friess Lake, Glacier Hills County Park encompass 140 acres of glacial formations, forest, wetlands, hiking trails, and a beach for swimming. A perfect place for a summer picnic, and a day of hiking, bird watching, and swimming. When you're done here, take a short drive to Bobrowitz Sculpture Garden for something a little different. Works of art displayed in a nature setting. This outdoor art gallery (all art created by Paul Bobrowitz) is brimming with creativity and whimsy (and all pieces are for sale). A visit to the sculpture garden is free, but donations are accepted.
I don't know about you, but when it comes to spending time out in nature in Wisconsin, I have a hard time deciding where to go. There are so many beautiful spaces in our corner of the state, it is so hard to choose just one. That's part of the reason I began The Park Next Door three years ago. And one of the things that drives my husband crazy. "Where are you taking me this weekend?" He often asks. And I tell him one or two places I'm considering, only to change my mind another two or three times before we head out the door. I've actually changed my mind while already in the car. Turn right or left? North or south? Oh, for pete's sake!
So, in an effort to make it easier for you to decide, following is a list of five places to consider for an outdoor Southeastern Wisconsin adventure this weekend.
Location: 4513 W. Bonniwell Road, Mequon, WI
These 155 acres of preserve were formerly owned by the order Sisters of the Sorrowful Mother. Purchased by the Ozaukee Washington Land Trust in 2015, the preserve is fast becoming a local treasure. The Sisters' retreat cabin is still on the property, but not open to the public. The preserve has a one-half mile tributary that flows to the Milwaukee River, upland hardwood forest, lowland hardwood forest with ephemeral ponds cattail marsh, fresh (wet) meadow, and a small, restored grassland. There is space for a picnic, and an abundance of bird life. Parking is in a small lot next to Bonniwell Road. You'll need to walk a short distance along the dirt road in to arrive at the preserve.
Location: Stringers Bridge Road, East Troy, WI
I'd start out with a hike along the Beulah Bog trail and boardwalk, then finish with a picnic on the scenic Beulah Bluff. Both are great spots for bird watching, and the views from the bluff overlooking Beulah Lake are stunning, and peaceful. The locations are about five minutes apart, by car.
Location: 4907 Carvers Rock Road, Clinton, WI
This Rock County park, along Spring Brook Creek, clocks in at 53 acres. But it packs a lot of beauty into 53 acres. The 1.5 mile trail is sometimes steep, but worth the climb. There are plenty of picnic spots available as well.
Location: 2405 Door Creek Road, Stoughton, WI
Just 90 minutes southwest of Milwaukee, Lake Kegonsa is a perfect spot to spend a summer weekend. With a beach for sunbathing and swimming, trails for hiking and birding, and a total of 96 camping sites available, Lake Kegonsa is the perfect fit for a weekend away, or an afternoon picnic.
Location: 1664 Friess Lake Road, Hubertus, WI
From rugged, hilly hiking trails, to picnics, to beach, Glacier Hills has it all. Just 30 miles northwest of Milwaukee, you'll find wooded trails, birdsong, and sport courts and playgrounds to keep the kids busy all day.
Tick-tock, the days are flying by, and the holidays are fast approaching. You need gift ideas, fast.
Do you have nature lovers, birders, or hikers on your gift list? Check out the list (and links) below, for some great, quick, and easy ideas.
The gift that lasts all year...
A Wisconsin State Park Sticker
A subscription to Wisconsin Natural Resources Magazine
A National Park Sticker
Nature Center Memberships:
Schlitz Audubon Nature Center
Wehr Nature Center
Boerner Botanical Gardens
River Bend Nature Center
Nature Centers across the state
Gifts for Hikers:
Explorer's Guide - 50 Hikes in Wisconsin: Trekking the Trails of the Badger State
Best Easy Day Hikes - Milwaukee
Ice Age Trail Guidebook
Hiking Boots, Socks and Accessories at Stan's Fit For Your Feet
Yaktrax Traction Devices for winter footwear
Mile, Mile & a Half - DVD
Wild - DVD
Into the Wild - DVD
Gifts for Birders:
The Big Year - DVD
Birders: The Central Park Effect - DVD
A Birder's Guide to Everything - DVD
Birding Field Guides
Kingbird Highway - by Ken Kaufman
Zooburbia - by Tai Moses
The Urban Bestiary - by Lyanda Lynn Haupt
Subirdia - by John M. Marzluff
Birdfeeders, seed, and supplies
Cameras and Outdoor Photography Workshops
Camera Monopods and Tripods
This summer I set out to find some new (to me) adventures in nature. My goal was to find them within 30-60 minutes of Milwaukee. Turns out it was an easy reach, as Wisconsin is blessed and abundant with the beauty of parks and trails across the state.
Stigler Nature Preserve
A traveler, singer, novice photographer, humane gardener, and nature lover.