Our perfect 48 hours in Kettle Moraine starts by setting up camp at the Pinewood Campgrounds in the Kettle Moraine State Forest – Southern Unit. Our family has camped there on multiple occasions and gave us easy access to all the great activities in the area. It is the perfect home base for exploring those interested in mountain biking, horseback riding, hiking, or geocaching.
We spend the first night getting camp set up and enjoying a campfire complete with the requisite S’Mores. The first full day is perfect for hiking and horseback riding. After breakfast at camp, we get the blood flowing with an enjoyable and family-friendly hike is the Scuppernong Springs Nature Trail. Our kids love the name Scuppernong, so we had to investigate it. Turns out it was a Ho Chunk word meaning “Sweet-scented land”. In several marked locations along the trail, you will find natural springs where the water table reaches the surface and bubbles into pools of water. Our family loves taking off our shoes and walking through springs and feeling the cool 47° F water bubbling up.
In addition to nature’s wonders, there is an interesting man-made site to check out as well. There is a big concrete wall that has been painted and graffitied on that is all that remains of the old Marl Plant that operated there from 1909 to 1915. It is a great spot to capture some fun photos. There is also a Geocache (All that’s left of the marl pit mines) not far from the location.
Travel Wisconsin has set up nearly fifty Wisconsin Scenic selfie stands scattered throughout Wisconsin and one of those is found along the Scuppernong Springs Nature Trails. Each stand has a ledge to hold your camera with a beautiful vista as the backdrop. You are encouraged to share your pictures with the hashtag #ScenicWisconsin. Make sure to capture your selfie before finishing off your hike.
A great way to enjoy the afternoon is on top of one of Wild 3L Ranch’s horses. They offer so much more than a standard trail ride. Call up Lisa and she will talk to you about how long of a ride you are looking for and ensure you get a ride that fits your desires. They set the bar high for trail rides and we will plan to drive up from Chicago again specifically to ride with them. The guides are friendly and encouraging. Most trail rides are a simple walk through the woods. With Wild 3L Ranch they work with you to do more if you prefer and if you are ready. We enjoyed trotting and cantering with our horses during our one and half hour trail ride.
After a day of hiking and horseback riding our family is usually content to return to the campsite to enjoy some downtime before dinner around the campfire. However, if you desire something more you could swim at Ottawa Lake, not far from the campsite or Scuppernong Springs Nature Trails.
On the final day, break camp early and then take a break from cooking and drive over to the Hen House Cafe for a freshly cooked breakfast. They have limited outdoor seating and ample indoor seating. The Hen House breakfast will provide you the fuel necessary to bike some of the 30 miles of bike trails available in Kettle Moraine South. Many people know Kettle Moraine South for the mountain biking trails which are fantastic. Check out the John Muir Travels which have plenty of parking at their trailhead and nice facilities. Enjoy the single-track one-way trails that meander through the pinewoods and kettle-like depressions for a beautiful ride where you will sometimes wonder if you are the only one out there. They have a variety of loops that vary in distance and difficulty making it a great biking destination. For younger riders, they have a 0.6 mile loop located behind the Muir Shelter. For any riders over 16 please be sure to purchase a Wisconsin State Trail Pass.
Check out the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources website for the Kettle Moraine Southern Region for more information on activities that you can substitute during your weekend visit. We have explored this area in the summer and fall but look forward to coming back and snowshoeing on the many trails found here during the winter!