One of our favorite things to do in Door County is to get out for a good hike. Natural beauty abounds in Door County and it is put to good use with miles of trails that meander through forests, nature preserves and along the extensive Lake Michigan/Green Bay shoreline. Through years of exploring we have come across some really spectacular hikes. Some are well-known and some are more of a locals’ secret, just waiting to be explored by you.
Peninsula State Park
Peninsula State Park is an obvious first choice. The park is so big, you could spend at least an hour just driving through it! Positioned on its own peninsula between Fish Creek and Ephraim, there are plenty of scenic overlooks that provide stunning panoramic views of the bay, Fish Creek, Ephraim and Chamber’s Island. Since it is a state park, there is an entrance fee. If you already have a Wisconsin state park pass you are covered. Otherwise, you can easily purchase a day pass at the drive-up window or self-service kiosk when you get there.
Our favorite trail in Peninsula State Park is the Eagle Trail. It is marked "difficult" because you will find some technical footing over a portion of the trail that runs along the water. This trail is nestled between stunning Bay views on one side and towering bluffs on the other. The setting is unlike anything else we've experienced in Wisconsin. If you’re looking for an easier, family-friendly hike, the Sentinel trail is perfect. You can park by the Eagle tower and jump on the trail there. The packed dirt trail is relatively flat and smooth, and runs entirely through the woods. In the fall you can find some really interesting mushrooms!
Newport State Park
Across the peninsula on the Northeast side is Newport State Park. The hiking here is both beautiful and easy going. Most of the trails run right alongside Lake Michigan with little cutouts in the trail where you can get to the beach. Our favorite hike at Newport is the Europe Bay trail. The trail runs along Lake Michigan, and towards the North end of the trail, you hike around an isthmus between Lake Michigan and Europe Lake. The picnic area at Newport State Park is also a treat, so be sure to pack a cooler and enjoy a picnic lunch while you’re there. Again, the State Park requires either an annual park pass or day pass.
The trails at Bjorklunden are one of our favorite hidden gems in Door County. Unless you’re staying at the Bjorklunden retreat center, you might not even hear about these trails. The trails are pretty secluded, so if you’re looking for some time to yourself, this is a great place to get away from it all. We typically take the North Trail, which hugs the Lake Michigan shoreline for the first mile and then meanders through a mixture of woods and prairie.
Hint: If you’re staying at either Arbor or Rockledge cottage, it’s a beautiful 1-mile walk to the trail. Cross highway 57 and walk down Frogtown Road along the lake for about half a mile, then turn left onto Chapel Lane. After about half a mile, Chapel Lane comes to a dead end and turns into a gravel path. Take the gravel path just a few feet and you will see a sign for the North Trail on your left.
Ellison Bluff County Park
We love Ellison Bluff County Park, not for its extensive trail system (there’s only one trail) but for the unique setting of the park and trail. It is located on the Niagara Escarpment, so it runs along the top of 100+ foot tall cliffs. There is a short stairway that leads to an observation deck where you can see beautiful westerly views of the Bay.
This Park is perfect for hiking with kids, as they can probably muster up the strength and stamina to hike the whole 1.2 mile trail themselves. It’s also great for bird-watching and sunset viewing. On date night, we love stopping at Ellison Bluff Park to see the sunset before continuing North to dinner at Wickman House in Ellison Bay!
You will see The Ridges Sanctuary pop up a lot on our blog as it is one of our favorite places to visit in Door County. The Ridges has so much to offer in terms of education and activities, especially for families with kids.
You can choose between a self-guided or naturalist-guided hike. The first mile of the hike takes you on a boardwalk through a beautiful wooded wetlands area to two different lighthouses. If that is all you cover during your hike, you won’t be disappointed. But if you’ve got more time I suggest taking any of the offshoot paths that take you on a tour of the ridges. The ridges have been formed by the movement of Lake Michigan over the past 1,400 years. The trail is also home to the famous Lady Slipper flower, which you can see blooming in late spring and early summer.
Hopefully these recommendations inspire you to get lost in the woods on your next trip to Door County. Let us know if you have any other favorite hiking spots in Door County! We're always looking for new trails to explore.