Photo Credit: Holly Thompson

Dogs on the Trail: Guidelines & Regulations

If you feel an adventure on the Ice Age National Scenic Trail is not complete without your furry friend, you’re probably wondering: what are the regulations and guidelines for dogs on the Ice Age Trail?

Is my dog allowed on the Ice Age National Scenic Trail?

Yes, generally, dogs are allowed on the Ice Age National Scenic Trail. However, in some areas dogs are prohibited entirely; in others, they must be leashed by law.

General Guideline: Dogs Should Be Leashed

The general guideline for hiking with dogs on the Ice Age Trail is that the dog should be leashed (8-ft maximum length) and under control at all times.

Why do we encourage leashes?

Safety and Comfort of Fellow Hikers

A common complaint we hear from hikers is that an off-leash dog bounded up to them, with no owner in sight. These encounters with unfamiliar dogs are nerve-wracking and can ruin the tranquility of a hike.

Not all Ice Age Trail users are comfortable with dogs and may be quite frightened when an off-leash dog rushes towards them, even when the owner assures them their dog is “super-friendly.” Leashing your dog ensures the safety and comfort of fellow hikers on the Trail.

Wildlife Considerations

Off-leash dogs are a greater disturbance to wildlife than those on the Trailway. Dogs cause wildlife to be more alert, which reduces feeding, sleeping, grooming and breeding activities and wastes vital energy stores that may mean life or death when resources are low.

This is especially true during winter or nesting seasons. In fact, the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (DNR) requires all dogs be leashed on state wildlife areas from April 15 through July 31 to protect nesting birds.

Ice Age Trail Alliance, Ice Age National Scenic Trail, Dog off Leash, Storrs Lake Segment, Rock County
Off-leash dogs can startle unsuspecting hikers and wildlife. Photo by Lori Frison.
Ice Age National Scenic Trail, Ice Age Trail Alliance, Fall, Blaze Orange, Hunting Season, Hiker, Woman, Dog
Hikers and their pets are encouraged to wear blaze orange, especially during hunting seasons in October through March. Photo by Paulette Walker Smith.

Your Dog’s Safety

Keeping your dog within sight and under control with a leash reduces the chances of dogs being harmed. Dogs can be attacked by startled or predatory animals, and wildlife can transmit diseases to dogs and vice versa, including rabies, Giardia, distemper and parvovirus.

Loose dogs can also be accidentally harmed in areas where hunting and trapping are allowed near the Trail Corridor. See a list of DNR hunting season dates here.

Private Landowner Requests

Sections of Ice Age Trail pass through or adjacent to private land. Be mindful of using dog leashes near private land: many landowners do not want loose dogs running on their property.

Dogs wandering on private land near the Ice Age Trail can lead to strained relations between landowners and the Ice Age Trail Alliance. It can even result in parts of the Trail closing permanently if landowners no longer wish to host the Trail.

Dog Leash Requirements and Prohibitions

Certain segments may also have special regulations above and beyond the general leash requirement. These are in place due to the wishes of the landowner, a city, a county, or the State.

Dog Regulations on Ice Age Trail Segments by County

Click on each county name to view segments with dog regulations. In some areas, dogs are prohibited entirely; in others, they must be leashed by law.

Polk & Burnett Counties
  • Croix Falls Segment: By law, dogs must be leashed in Interstate State Park
  • Gandy Dancer Segment: By law, dogs must be leashed on the Gandy Dancer State Trail.
  • McKenzie Creek Segment: By law, dogs must be leashed April 15 to July 31 in the State Wildlife Area.
Barron & Washburn Counties
  • Timberland Hills Segment: Dogs should stay off portions of Trail overlapping with groomed ski trails in winter.
  • Tuscobia Segment: By law, dogs must be leashed while hiking on the Tuscobia State Trail
Lincoln County
  • Camp 27 Segment: By law, dogs must be leashed April 15 to July 31 in the State Wildlife Area.
  • Newwood Segment: By law, dogs must be leashed April 15 to July 31 in the State Wildlife Area.
  • Averill-Kelly Creek Wilderness Segment: Dogs must be leashed at all times.
Langlade County
  • Lumbercamp Segment: By law, dogs must be leashed April 15 to July 31 in the State Wildlife Area.
Marathon County

Ringle Segment: No dogs allowed between Mole Brook Road and the State Ice Age Trail Area (private landowner request). Please pay attention to property boundary signs.

Waushara County
  • Greenwood Segment: By law, dogs must be leashed April 15 to July 31 in the State Wildlife Area.
Sauk County
  • Baraboo Segment: By law, dogs must be leashed in city parks.
  • Sauk Point Segment: Dogs are not allowed in Parfrey’s Glen State Natural Area (SNA) except on the IAT. By law, dogs must be leashed when hiking on the IAT in Parfrey’s Glen SNA and Devil’s Lake State Park.
  • Devil’s Lake Segment: By law, dogs must be leashed in Devils’ Lake State Park.
Southern Columbia County
  • Eastern Lodi Marsh Segment: By law, dogs must be leashed April 15 to July 31 in the State Wildlife Area.
Dane County
  • Lodi Marsh Segment: By law, dogs must be leashed as much of this segment traverses a State Natural Area.
  • Table Bluff Segment: Dogs must be leashed.
  • Valley View Segment: Dogs must be leashed.
  • Madison Segment: Dogs are not allowed between Woods Rd. and CTH-M (area of UW-Golf course).
  • Brooklyn Wildlife Segment: By law, dogs must be leashed April 15 to July 31 in the State Wildlife Area.
Rock County
  • Arbor Ridge Segment: By law, dogs not permitted in Janesville Parks May 15 to Sept. 15; must be leashed at other times.
  • Devil’s Staircase Segment: By law, dogs not permitted in Janesville Parks May 15 to Sept. 15; must be leashed at other times.
  • Janesville Segment: By law, dogs not permitted in Janesville Parks May 15 to Sept. 15; must be leashed at other times.
  • Janesville to Milton Segment: By law, dogs must be leashed on the multi-use path.
  • Milton Segment: By law, dogs must be leashed on the entire segment.
  • Storrs Lake Segment: By law, dogs must be leashed April 15 to July 31 in the State Wildlife Area.
Walworth & Jefferson Counties
  • Clover Valley Segment: By law, dogs must be leashed April 15 to July 31 in the State Wildlife Area.
Waukesha County
  • Stony Ridge Segment: Dogs must be leashed.
  • Eagle Segment: Dogs must be leashed.
  • Scuppernong Segment: Dogs must be leashed.
  • Waterville Segment: Dogs must be leashed.
  • Lapham Peak: Dogs must be leashed.
  • Delafield Segment: Dogs must be leashed.
  • Hartland Segment: Dogs must be leashed and are not allowed on portion between Hartbrook Park and Centennial Park.
  • Merton Segment: By law, dogs must be leashed at all times.
  • Monches Segment: By law, dogs must be leashed at all times.
Washington County
  • Loew Lake Segment: By law, dogs must be leashed April 15 to July 31 when crossing the Kettle Moraine State Forest Loew Lake Unit.
  • Holy Hill Segment: Dogs must not stray from the Trail.
  • Pike Lake Segment: Dogs are not permitted at park facilities.
  • West Bend Segment: Dogs must be leashed in Ridge Run Park and on portions of the Trail between Washington St. (STH-33/144) and CTH-D.
Manitowoc County
  • Dunes Segment: By law, dogs are required to be on leash. Dogs are permitted on the Ice Age Trail through Woodland Dunes but are not permitted on other trails through the preserve.
  • Point Beach Segment: By law, dogs are required to be on leash and not permitted within Point Beach State Forest facilities.
Kewaunee & Door Counties
  • Kewaunee River Segment: By law, dogs must be on leash on the Ahnapee State Trail.
  • Forestville Segment: By law, dogs must be on leash on the Ahnapee State Trail.
  • Sturgeon Bay Segment: By law, dogs are required to be on leash on the Ahnapee State Trail and in Potawatomi State Park. Dogs are not permitted in Potawatomi State Park facilities or on groomed ski trails.
Please note:

While leashes are required by law on some sections of the Ice Age Trail, leashes are still encouraged year-round on the Ice Age National Scenic Trail.

Special Leash Exemption:

Dogs may be unleashed in state parks, forests, and wildlife areas when they are being used for hunting purposes in areas open to hunting during an established season. Check with the individual DNR property for more information.

The Do-Do's and Don'ts of Dog Waste

Dog waste is more than a nuisance to hikers on the Trail: it also causes water quality issues and negative health effects for humans and wildlife. Please pack out all dog waste.

Why should you pick up dog waste?

Ice Age National Scenic Trail, Ice Age Trail Alliance, Dog, Water, Pet
A dog hydrates on the Ice Age Trail on a winter day. Photo by Holly Thompson.

Poop on the Trail Affects Hikers’ Experiences

Dog waste can negatively affect visitors’ experience in a natural area. Remember to ‘Leave No Trace‘ and carry your dog waste bags with you, even if you are hiking out and back on a particular segment. The hikers sharing the Ice Age Trail with you do not want to encounter what looks like litter (and irresponsible dog owners).

Dog Poop Affects Water Quality

Pet waste doesn’t just decompose. It adds harmful bacteria and nutrients to local waters when it’s not disposed of properly. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, animal waste contains two main types of pollutants that harm local waters: nutrients and pathogens.

Even if the waste is off Trail and not visible, large quantities of dog waste travel with snowmelt and rainwater to nearby water bodies. When this waste ends up in water bodies, it releases phosphorous and nitrogen, which cause excessive growth of algae and weeds.

This nutrient pollution disrupts fragile freshwater ecosystems and reduces biodiversity in sensitive environments.

Dog Waste Can Cause Negative Health Effects

Dog waste both pollutes water and transmits harmful parasites and diseases to people. Humans can catch parasites and diseases such as hookworms, roundworms and salmonella from dog waste.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) estimates that waste produced by just 100 dogs can contain enough bacteria to temporarily close a beach to swimming and fishing.

Poop Can Impact Volunteer Work

Volunteers have noted that leaving dog poop and dog poop bags on the Trailway makes it difficult to maintain the Trail. They do not want to step on or mow over a bag of poop while they are clearing Trail corridor.

Proper Disposal Matters!

As per Leave No Trace principles, make sure to pack out trash and waste, including dog waste bags. Don’t leave baggies on the Trail or by the trailhead. Dispose of dog waste bags by placing it in a trash can or compost it at home using compostable dog waste bags.

Ice Age National Scenic Trail, Ice Age Trail Alliance, Dog Waste Sign, Dogs
Always clean up after your pet! Photo by Holly Thompson.

Thank you!

The rising number of Ice Age Trail users requires a higher level of personal responsibility and accountability to reduce the cumulative impacts of off-leash dogs and dog waste on the Trail.