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.
Camping – Plan Options in Advance
When backpacking on the Ice Age Trail, camping is allowed only in designated areas. The Trail crosses a variety of land ownership types, and not every segment has convenient camping options for backpackers. You can read about the types of camping available for backpackers below. Advanced planning for camping arrangements is required.
The Ice Age Trail Guidebook and Ice Age Trail Atlas show the locations on and near the Trail of the available types of camping described below, making them indispensable resources 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.
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:
1. Primitive camping areas
Primitive camping areas are available on the Ice Age Trail in the northern portion of the Trail only, typically only on the large, remote tracts of public land the Trail passes through (e.g., county and national forests). 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.
Important note: there is no primitive camping on the Ice Age Trail south of Langlade County.
2. 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.
3. Camping areas 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).
- Southern Kettle Moraine State Forest Backpacking [PDF]
- Northern Kettle Moraine State Forest Backpacking [PDF]
- Chippewa Moraine State Recreation Area Backpacking [DNR Website]
4. 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.
- 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 to read any conditions reports for the section of the Trail you plan to hike.
- 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.
Please keep the following in mind…
- The Ice Age Trail is largely built and maintained by volunteers.
- Trail conditions vary depending on volunteer availability and Trail use on a given segment.
- The volunteers in our local chapters know the Ice Age Trail well in their region and are often a great source for current Trail conditions. Visit the chapter pages for contact information.
How was your hike?
If you take a hike on the Ice Age Trail, please let us know how it went. Give us a call at 800-227-0046, or send an email to [email protected] Your reports are key to making the Ice Age Trail one of the best hiking experiences in the country.
Note: Atlas and Guidebook page references refer to the 2014 editions of the Ice Age Trail Atlas and Guidebook.