Admittedly, I was a little daunted by planning the logistics of my hike on the Ice Age Trail. I didn’t find much information online. To help you plan your trip, I’ve gathered up the resources I used and added a bit from my own experience to aid you in your planning.
Ice Age Trail logistics – Resources
Ice Age Trail – Mobile app
You can download the Ice Age Trail app for free. From there you will be given three options for in-app purchases. The app divides the trail information into three sections – the west, central or east sections of the trail. Currently each section is available for $9.99. The app details the trail and differentiates between official and non official sections. All shelters, toilets, parking areas, water faucets, and geological points of interest are mapped out. I found this to be very helpful because each way marker is also labeled with a mile number making it easier to decide daily distances. The phone number is also provided within the app to reserve the shelters. Another beauty of this app is that you can also view the elevation map of a particular segment. Maps are available for use offline as well. If nothing else, use this option to plan your hike.
Ice Age Trail – Guide book
The Ice Age Trail guide book provides maps of each trail section as well as a written segment of “what to expect visually.” At around $30.00, I was able to find it at an REI in Wisconsin, on Amazon, and online at the IATA’s website. After flipping through it, I passed on purchasing it because I believe it provided a lot of information that didn’t impact my hike or interests. I prefer being surprised about the hike with only shelters and water points known. No matter how short a hike is I always question the need of extra weight from a book. However, if you have a love for geology or are planning a thru hike this would be a great purchase.
Ice Age Trail – Atlas
I decided to purchase the atlas, a collection of loose leaf 8 x 10.5 map pages. The IAT is divided into 106 sections and each section is given its own page. The maps provide the same information as the mobile app minus elevation and numbered mile markers. Printed double sided, I found it helpful to see the map in relation to the larger area (i.e. trail in relation to surrounding cities) The cost of the trail maps is cheaper than the book and listed for $22.50 here. Despite my addiction to my mobile phone, I prefer to have a printed copy of my planned hike. For this reason, I highly recommend purchasing the atlas.
Ice Age Trail – Other resources
Ice Age Trail Alliance – These are the folks that keep the trail going. They sponsor the educational groups as well as manage the trail building teams of volunteers. If you are on Facebook, I recommend that you follow the Ice Age Trail Alliance. Visit their website at www.iceagetrail.org for additional information and history of the trail.
Ice Age Trail logistics- Where to stay
I visited in October. This is the perfect time for the fall color change. It is also the perfect time for unpredictable weather. So I went into this hike with one plan, and ended up doing another.
Initially, I was going to section hike for three days staying at two shelters. I had made the shelter reservations for each night, prepared my trail meals, and drove up to North Kettle Moraine State Park to begin my hike south.
Then the weather changed. It went from being lows at night of 50 degrees to lows of 32 degrees. I just didn’t have the right gear with me to make that a safe option so I decided to scrap my initial plan and move to day hikes instead. In place of the shelters, I stayed in a B&B that had a fire place and a jacuzzi tub. If you are in the North Kettle Moraine area, I highly suggest that you look into Tauschek’s Bed and Breakfast Log Home. Amazing breakfast and rooms, and your achey bones will thank you for that jacuzzi tub. No matter where you decide to hike, if camping isn’t your “thing” there are various B&Bs along the length of the trail as well as hotels.
Ice Age Trail logistics- What to expect on the trail
The trail itself was very well done. Yellow blazes are well marked. The team at the IATA deserves a large round of applause for their maintenance of the trail. The IAT moves from public property to private land so of course courtesy is a must. Within the Kettle Moraine area there were various other loop trails marked with different colored blazes. I opted to follow the yellow blazes of the IAT itself and then backtrack my steps back to my car. If you are a non-Wisconsinite, you will need to pay a parking fee of $11.00 per day to park in the forest. This is done on an honor system by the parking areas.
Pit toilets are very nicely maintained. Most are located at main trail heads and nearby shelters. I was surprised to find them fully stocked with toilet paper even after a busy weekend.
The shelters were better than I expected. I couldn’t find photos of them going into the trip so I didn’t know what I’d be in for. I was pleasantly surprised to find a fully enclosed barn like shelter whose only opening was the doorway. I visited two shelters during my hikes and both had the same rectangular structure. The only difference between them was the floor. One shelter had a poured concrete floor while the other was dirt. Campfire rings were located outside the shelters with a pit toilet a distance out into the woods.
Ice Age Trail logistics – Suggestions
If you are on Facebook, I suggest that you look to see if the county that you are hiking has it’s own group. Some counties have trail angels to help make your logistics slightly easier. This will also be your go to for current condition questions. If you aren’t on Facebook, call up the Alliance during normal business hours and they will be able to assist you with any questions you might have.
I highly enjoyed my time on the Ice Age Trail. Whether for a few hours, a few nights, or for 1200 miles get out there and enjoy all that the IAT has to offer. For another tale about the trail click here.