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Think hiking is an activity that has to wait until the kids are older? Think again. Local mom Amber Storm is an outdoor adventurer who takes her four kids, ages 3 through 7, right along with her.

Read on for her tips for hiking Kettle Moraine State Forest's Lapham Peak, at W329 N846 County Road C in Delafield, based on her family's recent excursion, and check out her blog, Milwaukee by Storm, for more of her family adventures!

There are quite a few things about Lapham Peak that make it a great place to hike for families. It’s accessible, there are lots of trails to choose from and there’s shade! I often plan our adventures around sun exposure because I’m not the only one who gets crabby in the hot summer sun.  

 

On a recent adventure, I packed up my four kids and some snacks, and headed west from Milwaukee. The drive to Lapham Peak takes only 30 minutes, and it’s easy to find. After stopping at the park entrance, we drove to the Homestead parking lot. There are bathrooms near an old metal windmill and a large shelter with picnic tables.  
 

Some things to remember: 


•    You’ll need a Wisconsin State Parks pass ($28 annual) or a daily vehicle admissions pass ($8). The Department of Natural Resources (DNR)’s website, dnr.wi.gov, lists all prices for both in and out-of-state residents.
•    Lapham Peak is a carry-in/carry-out park. That means that there are no garbage cans, and you’ll need to bring a bag for any of your trash.
•    Bring water, snacks and sunscreen. Wearing hats & pants and staying on the marked trail will help you to avoid ticks.
•    Grab a trail map at the office for guidance.

Setting out: Hiking through the prairie

 

We started out on the paved Plantation Path, which is 1.8 miles round trip. It begins at the parking lot and quickly turns into a prairie, which has many wildflowers varieties and even some benches for rest stops. The DNR has worked to restore prairie land at Lapham Peak, which helps visitors see what vegetation in this area was like before European settlers and modern agriculture moved in.  

Rest stop: Hanging out at the nature center

After the prairie, the paved path winds into an evergreen forest filled with tall, beautiful trees. It’s very shady here, and includes a small path up to the Hausemann Nature Center, which is open on weekends June through November. Inside you can speak with volunteers about the park, check out the children’s interactive area and view exhibits.  

The payoff: Climbing to new heights

If you stay on the paved path, though, you’ll eventually find a dirt trail off to the right. You can take this a short distance to get to the observation tower. This is a great time to refer to the trail map from the office! There are quite a few steps up to the base of the tower, so if you’re unable to walk or have a stroller, you can park at the Tower parking lot at the base of the tower.  

 

On top of the 45-foot tower, you can see Holy Hill, Milwaukee and the lakes of Lake Country in the distance. It’s a pretty tall tower, so if you have kids that are uneasy, just take it slow, hold a hand or railing and remind your kids that they’re safe. Looking up or forward helps too.  

 

Lapham Peak is part of the Ice Age Trail, one of only 11 national scenic trails and the only one completely within the State of Wisconsin. The land features on the trail were formed by the last continental glacier, which receded over 12,000 years ago.

You and your kids will notice a sign with a yellow rectangle, the symbol for the Ice Age trail, at the bottom of the tower's steps.

 

Here are some other great places in Wisconsin to catch the Ice Age Trail and spot that yellow trail marker:
•    Pike Lake
•    Parnell 
•    Gibraltar Rock
•    Scuppernong
•    Point Beach
•    Devil’s Lake

More: 6 kid-friendly hikes in metro Milwaukee

Ideas for a successful trip:


•    Bring a comfortable backpack that can hold water, a small first aid kit, an “emergency” snack, (which, in my house, is something like cookies when I need a bribe). Parents don’t need to carry everything, though! Divide up gear, and have kids carry a small pack with lighter objects.
•    Bring a physical map and practice reading it with your kids. Have them carry a compass, binoculars or magnifying glass to start learning about tools that explorers and adventurers use.
•    On the way to the observation tower, have your kids be on the lookout for things like pine cones, wild turkeys, pileated woodpeckers and flowers like Jacob’s ladder and columbine.
•    Put a few pieces of paper, pens and cardboard (cereal boxes are great) in a Ziploc bag.  When you climb the observation tower, take a few minutes at the top to draw the view of the treetops and any plants or animals you may have seen!
•    Start learning about the Ice Age Trail so you can reference it here and on the many other family-friendly hikes in Southeastern Wisconsin. The website, iceagetrail.org, is a great resource!

 

 

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