Backpacking

If you want to experience peaceful solitude on the Ice Age Trail, it’s hard to beat backpacking. After a day of hiking, you are rewarded with an evening at a remote location, usually with nothing more than the trees, wildlife and stars above as your companions.

Backpacking campsites

There are many camping opportunities for backpackers on the Ice Age Trail, though the type of camping varies depending on which part of the Trail you’re on.

Generally speaking, the types of camping accommodations for backpackers fall into 4 categories:

Primitive camping areas

In areas where primitive camping is allowed, no facilities are available and no permits or reservations are required. You may set up camp for the night anywhere provided your 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.

Dispersed camping areas

The IATA and our partners are establishing these areas 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. You 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.

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 southeast Wisconsin) and the backpacking sites at the Chippewa Moraine State Recreation Area (northwest Wisconsin).

Traditional, developed campgrounds

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.

Plan Camping Options in Advance

Because the Trail crosses a wide variety of land ownership with different facilities and regulations, not every segment of the Ice Age Trail has convenient camping options for backpackers. Advanced planning is required.

The Ice Age Trail Guidebook and Ice Age Trail Atlas are useful for planning purposes and on your trip itself. The maps show the locations of all the available types of camping described above, making them 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 a way to both ensure the availability of existing camping options and to help us create more and better options in the future.

Start Planning!

  • Visit our Recommended Backpacking Trips page for some popular itineraries.
  • Before setting out on these or any other Ice Age Trail backpacking excursions, refer to our online Trail map for updates and current trail conditions.
  • It’s also a good idea to consult with the local chapter coordinator in the area where you’ll be hiking for other insights on current local conditions.