Falling for nature trails


Dane Sheehan

A UW-Whitewater Nature Preserve sign welcomes visitors on the north side of campus along Schwager Drive.

Matt Ellis

With the fall season upon us, the temperature is dropping and the leaves are changing colors. Now is the perfect time to take a stroll, hike or bike through Wisconsin’s trails and experience the fall folliage. Here in Whitewater, there are many trails available for community members and visitors to explore.

“The best thing about the trails in the UW-Whitewater Nature Preserve is that they are so close. It is a great resource to the campus and community to have such a large property with several miles of trails right here in Whitewater.  I think they stand out because there are trails that traverse both prairie and woodland habitats, and provide a great varied landscape for people looking to connect with nature and get some exercise,” said sustainability coordinator Wesley Enterline.

The UW-W Nature Preserve has over 100 acres, featuring many trails for UW-W students and community members to explore.

“The most popular trail is the main paved path that leads from Schwager Road, at the Hoffman Kiosk and heads through the original part of the reconstructed prairie.  This is a fully accessible part of the trail, so individuals with mobility impairments can more easily enjoy the very best part of the prairie environment.  The other popular trail leads from Perkins Stadium to the overlook platform,” said Enterline.

The Ice Age Trail in Whitewater is also a popular one to explore within the community. With four different segments within the Whitewater area, the Ice Age Trail actually offers multiple trails, and opportunities for community members and visitors to experience nature.

“Whitewater is one of the 13 official Ice Age Trail communities as many of the trails around us are part of the Ice Age Trail, which is a thousand-mile footpath that runs through the state. UW-Whitewater is also the only official Ice Age Trail Campus in the state. Whitewater is known as the gateway to the Kettle Moraine State Forest so the landscape and scenery on our trails is quite beautiful,” said Kellie Carper, Execute Director of the Whitewater Area Chamber of Commerce and Tourism Council. 

With the current pandemic still in full swing, enjoying the weather and exploring these trails is a great way to hang out with friends while still following the COVID-19 conduct that is set in place to keep everyone safe.

“In our current pandemic situation the one thing we know is that it is safe being outside. Whitewater has some of the best trails in the region and encourages visitors to take advantage of the peaceful and beautiful scenery to help them reconnect with nature,” said Carper.

There are also multiple picnic areas and lakes within the Ice Age Trails that are free to use.

“You got the people, the scenery and you walked out into the wilderness. It’s very relaxing,” said Andy Whitney, Ice Age Trail volunteer and Coordinator of the Walworth/Jefferson County chapter. “It’s really good exercise. We hike with people that are over 80 years old. It’s not just the beauty and the exercise, but also the comradery. It’s been one of the best experiences of my life.”