Friday, December 9, 2016

Forked Aster Hiking Trail System

Did you know that the Milwaukee County Parks has a 43-mile Natural Areas hiking trail system? If you like natural spaces and have a good pair of hiking boots, these are really fun to explore this time of year.  After all, there's a German proverb which says, "there's no such thing as bad weather, just unsuitable clothing."

Called the Forked Aster hiking system, there are 28 different county parks to explore. These trails are not improved with blacktop, but might have wood chips or some natural topping.  This week I went with my son to explore a couple. We saw mostly just layers of delightful fallen leaves.

We did the hike through Kohl Park, up at the northern side of Milwaukee county.  In fact, it's on County Line Road, just down the street from Mequon Nature Preserve, which is also a great place to do some hiking. Kohl Park used to be a farm. You can even see an old silo and go inside if you dare. Some artist has painted a few gems inside.
Kohl Farm silo

graffiti inside the silo

The trails are quite wet most of the year, and this has been improved by the addition of wooden planks to help you get over some really muddy spots.  You could hike in your regular shoes, but hiking boots make it much more comfortable. What I love about this spot is the pine forest.  You can smell it before you see it.  It's also a good place to spot hawks and woodpeckers.  If you do the entire circuit, which means backtracking on a piece from Fairy Chasm, it's two miles.
Fragrant pine forest

Wet areas are navigated by using the planks

Greene Park is at the southern end of the county in St. Francis.  Though the park is large, the hiking system is small and tucked away on a narrow strip of woods on top of a hill. I parked along Lunham, which is right off KK. This trail system is just under one half mile. Mostly oaks here, it's fun to hop over fallen trees, or try to balance on them if you're a kid. I haven't been here in spring, but it's supposed to be a good place to see migrating warblers then. This park has a playground, so if the hiking doesn't wear out your kids, you can head over there and play.

These trails are probably even worth doing after snow, so put them on your to do list this season when you need some fresh air and exercise. Thinking about a hike elsewhere in the USA?  There's an app/website I use when we travel, but it also has local trails in Milwaukee.  You can see the website at All Trails.  You can subscribe when you use it, but it isn't required.  Because it is GPS based, when you use it on your phone, it will automatically show you a map or a list of all trails near you. Then you can see notes about each trail's highlights and difficulty level.

Here's another blogpost that will get you dreaming about hikes at a bigger level- Top 50 Long Distance Hiking Trails in the USA.  And if you need help finding just the right hiking boot, that blog has some useful information.  Happy hiking!

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