Backpacking

Click here to download a table listing popular Ice Age Trail backpacking itineraries...then read on for important details.

If you really want to experience peaceful solitude on the Ice Age Trail, it's hard to beat backpacking. Backpacking is a popular activity in which the hiker fills a backpack with his or her shelter, food, water and clothing and hikes to a trailside campsite or camping area. After a day of hiking, your reward as a backpacker is an evening at a remote location with typically nothing more than the trees, wildlife and stars above as your companions.

There are many camping opportunities for backpackers on the Ice Age Trail, though the type of camping varies considerably depending on which part of the Trail you're on. Generally speaking, the types of Ice Age Trail camping accommodations for backpackers fall into four categories:

  • A primitive camping area. In such an area, no facilities are available and no permits or reservations are required. The hiker may set up camp for the night anywhere provided his or her site is 200 feet from water and 200 feet from the Ice Age Trail itself. Primitive camping is typically allowed only on the large, remote tracts of public land (e.g., county and national forests) through which the northern portion of the Ice Age Trail passes. There are no primitive camping areas on the Ice Age Trail south of Langlade County.
  • A dispersed camping area. These are areas being established by the Ice Age Trail Alliance and its partners to increase camping options for Ice Age Trail long-distance hikers in areas where there are currently no other convenient camping options. Similar to primitive camping areas, dispersed camping areas lack facilities and no permits or reservations are required. The hiker may camp anywhere within sight of a centrally located sign that defines the dispersed camping area. These areas are for long-distance hikers only and are not open for those doing single-night out-and-back hikes.
  • A camping area developed for backpackers. These areas have some level of development (e.g., fire ring, pit toilet, Adirondack-style shelter) and may require a reservation and/or fee. Examples include the trailside shelters in the Northern and Southern Units of the Kettle Moraine State Forest (east-central and southeastern Wisconsin) and the backpacking sites at the Chippewa Moraine State Recreation Area (northwestern Wisconsin).
  • A developed "traditional" campground. These areas are typically quite developed and accessible by vehicle as well as on foot. Sites at these campgrounds often require a reservation and/or fee. There are many public and private traditional campgrounds on or near the route of the Ice Age Trail.

Because the Trail crosses a wide variety of lands (e.g., private land, municipal parks, county parks and forests, state parks and forests, national forests, etc.) with varying facilities and regulations, not every segment of the Ice Age Trail has convenient camping options for backpackers. Advance planning is required. The Ice Age Trail Companion Guide and Ice Age Trail Atlas are extremely helpful for planning purposes and on your trip itself. Because Ice Age Trail Atlas maps use a special style of shading to mark the locations of primitive camping areas and point out locations of dispersed camping areas, developed camping areas for backpackers and traditional campgrounds, these maps are indispensable for Ice Age Trail backpackers.

Important note: Because the Ice Age Trail relies on the generosity of private landowners and the cooperation of many public land-managing agencies, it is vital that backpackers camp ONLY where camping is permitted, as both a way to ensure that existing camping options are preserved and to help us create more and better options in the future.

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