Snowshoers tackle winter at the Riveredge Nature Center in Newburg. It is one of a number of local spots good for snowshoeing.

Snowshoers tackle winter at the Riveredge Nature Center in Newburg. It is one of a number of local spots good for snowshoeing. Photo By Courtesy Riveredge Nature Center

Snowshoes provide a better view of Wisconsin winter

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A friend recently told me, as we made a 10-kilometer trek across frozen Lake Superior, that she understands why a lot of people hate winter.

"If your only winter experiences are running from your house to your car and from your car to work, of course you're going to hate winter," she said. "But if you do things like this, winter is actually kind of awesome."

While I understand that some people will never like the cold, I can't help but agree with my friend. Snow is inevitable when you live in Wisconsin in the winter, so I think the adage "if you can't beat 'em, join 'em," applies here.

One of the easiest ways to get outside in winter is with a pair of snowshoes. If you can walk, you can snowshoe, and the added grip and leverage allows you to explore Wisconsin's snowy landscape in a new way.

Shake those winter blues and take advantage of the snow while it's still around on these five snowshoe trails in the area. 

Havenwoods State Forest

6141 N. Hopkins St., Milwaukee
Trail length: various loops for a total of 6 miles
Difficulty level: easy

I'm always surprised at how many people don't realize there is a wonderful state property within Milwaukee's city limits. Havenwoods State Forest is the state's only urban forest, with more than 200 acres of mixed woods, wetlands and grasslands.

More than 6 miles of trails wind through the forest, with a variety of loops allowing for a snowshoe trek as long or as short as you'd like. Follow the cross-country trail around the outer rim of the forest for a 2.7-mile trip, and don't miss the 120-foot bridge that crosses Lincoln Creek on the forest's western end.

The forest has snowshoes available to borrow at the nature center when it is open: Monday through Friday from 7:45 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. and Saturday from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Wehr Nature Center, Whitnall Park

6751 S. 92 St., Franklin
Trail length: various loops for a total of 5 miles
Difficulty level: easy

Explore more than 5 miles of trails in the 200-acre Wehr Woods, part of the 660-acre Whitnall Park. Trail loops ranging from half a mile to more than 1.5 miles travel through a mixture of woodland, wetland, prairie and oak savanna, and interpretive signs allow for an educational hike.

Stop by the Wehr Nature Center before or after your trek for a look at natural history displays, an indoor beehive and an active aquaponics display.

Snowshoes are available for rent at the Whitnall Park Winter Clubhouse for $15 per day. 

Emma Carlin Trails, Kettle Moraine State Forest

County Highway Z, south of Highway 59, Palmyra
Trail length: loops of 2 to 6 miles
Difficulty level: moderate to hard

Single-track mountain biking trails are some of my favorite to snowshoe. Because they're dominated by bikers in summer, winter is one of the few times hikers and snowshoers can take advantage of the trails' varied terrain.

The Emma Carlin trails are a challenge on a bike and snowshoes. Three loops ranging from 2 to 6 miles twist and wind up and down steep slopes in the rolling Kettle Moraine. The green (2 miles) and orange (4 miles) loops are good options for snowshoers.

A connector trail at a scenic overlook on the system's western edge links these trails with the easier (but still challenging) John Muir trails to the south.

Harrington Beach State Park

531 County Road D, Belgium
Trail length: various loops for a total of 7 miles
Difficulty level: easy

Lake Michigan's beaches aren't just for the summer months.

About a half-hour north of Milwaukee, Harrington Beach features a beautiful one-mile stretch of sandy beach along Lake Michigan. Ice rims the shore when the weather is cold enough, and brown and yellow grasses poke through the blanket of snow that covers the sand.

Seven miles of trails wind through the state park, including one that travels alongside the 26-acre Quarry Lake, lined with limestone and white cedar trees. Follow the nature trail to learn about the unique white cedar swamp in the park's eastern section, or snowshoe alongside the park's northern beach on the Lakeview trail.

The park also has a road that is used for a shuttle in the summer months but is open to snowshoers and skiers in the winter. There are also a few expansive picnic areas with nice views of the lake.

Riveredge Nature Center

4458 County Highway Y, Saukville
Trail length: various loops for a total of 10 miles
Difficulty level: easy

Ten miles of trails wind through this beautiful 380-acre property along the Milwaukee River in Ozaukee County. The trails pass through a mix of hardwood and pine forests, open prairie and wetlands.

Snowshoers can also explore trails on the western side of the Milwaukee River. Find parking and access to these trails on Hickory Road.

Visit March 1 for the Sugarbush Snowshoe event, when snowshoers can traipse through the property's sugar bush as the sap begins to flow. The event costs $10 for nonmembers if you're renting snowshoes and $5 if you bring your own.

Admission to the center is $4 for nonmember adults and $2 for children ages 4 to 13. Snowshoe rentals are $10 for nonmembers, which includes the center's trail fee.

Day Out features day trips within a two-hour drive of the Milwaukee area.

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