Peninsula State Park is the most popular of the five Wisconsin State Parks in Wisconsin and it offers one of my favorite hikes in Door County. Eagle Trail offers hikers a challenging and rewarding adventure through a variety of terrains and stunning scenery. The Eagle Trail is a 2-mile loop trail that takes hikers through forests, wetlands, and along the shoreline of Green Bay. It is a moderately difficult trail, with some steep climbs and rocky terrain. But the effort is well worth it for the breathtaking views of the water and the surrounding landscape.
My recommendation is to park at the Eagle Panorama parking area and begin your hike heading eastward. Your party will want to stop and get a photo in front of the “Difficult Trail” rating sign. I believe the sign is there to warn you of the steep and uneven terrain. But, it should also be your reminder to make sure you have adequate water and snacks to fuel you for this hike, which I would allow a couple of hours to enjoy.
Starting from Eagle Panorama you will enjoy a steady descent through the forest. You are gradually making your way down from the top of the Eagle Bluff to the water level 200 feet below.
My recommendation for hiking this loop is to park at Eagle Panorama and begin your hike heading eastward. The alternative is to park at Eagle Terrace which starts from an eastern portion of the loop for which you would likely hike westward. You can view a map on the Wisconsin DNR website.
I prefer the eastbound route of travel because after you have enjoyed the time by the water and exploring the caves you need to work your way back up. If you are traveling east you get the benefit of a beautiful spot to take a break on your hike back up to the top of the bluffs. There is a wonderful vista of Green Bay and Ephraim harbor about halfway up the bluffs. This is a great place to stop for a water break and to snap some photos.
As you descend the trail starts to run along the cliffs of the Niagra Escarpment, a geological formation that runs from New York to Wisconsin and is particularly prominent in the Door County region of Wisconsin. In Peninsula State Park, the escarpment creates a striking landscape of limestone bluffs and cliffs that overlook Green Bay. It is at this point that the trail starts to get more uneven from fallen rocks and exposed roots and my family usually seeks out a good walking stick. If you own one, this is a great hike to bust it out for.
As you make it down to water level the trail will track eastward with the Eagle Bluff cliffs on one side and Green Bay on the other side with Horseshoe Island on the horizon. There are several places where the trail offers great access to the rocky shores of the bay. On a recent visit, my daughter and I decided to pack towels and bathing suits and we broke up our hike with a beautiful swim in Green Bay looking up at the sunlit cliffs of Eagle Bluff. If you decide to do this, I suggest bringing some water shoes as the shores are very rocky. This bonus swim added to the hike turned out to be one of the highlights of our vacation to Door County.
The cliffs offer a fun place to explore and I believe are one of the most instagrammable spots in all of Door County. This trail with the glorious cliffs and caves makes this a popular destination, so I always make an effort to get out early to beat the crowds. I typically try to be at the trailhead no later than 9am to beat the crowds.
Sitting amongst the rocks and the caves is a perfect place to enjoy a snack before you need to start the hike back up the bluff. I prefer hiking eastward along the look because there is a natural rest stop on the way back up. As you near the top of the bluffs you come across Eagle Terrace which offers stunning views of Ephraim. This is another spot for photographs and to hydrate before completing the loop. The last segment of the loop will bring you past Eagle Tower which is a must-climb, even if you are tired. Muster up the energy and either take the ramp or the stairs. On most days you will be greeted with a nice breeze and a spectacular panoramic view of the bay and Horseshoe Island.
Overall, hiking Eagle Trail at Peninsula State Park is a challenging and rewarding experience. It offers a variety of terrains and stunning scenery, from forests to wetlands to the shores of Green Bay. If you’re up for a moderate hike with some steep climbs and rocky terrain, the Eagle Trail is definitely worth checking out. Just be sure to wear sturdy shoes, bring plenty of water and snacks, and allow yourself plenty of time to enjoy the scenery. I would not recommend this to young kids.
If you are looking for a more off-the-beaten hike in Door county, I recommend a visit to Rock Island or Newport State Park.