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“There’s no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothes.”
If you ever heard that Scandinavian saying, you know there’s no excuse for not putting on an extra layer or two or, OK, three, and getting outside to enjoy a Wisconsin winter in all of its snow-covered and sometimes bone-chilling beauty.
Brisk, fresh air, the crunch of snow under your feet and time out in nature during the quiet of January and February can be the ultimate unplug from the noise of social media, pandemic headlines and daily stress. Nobody does a mental health break like Mother Nature.
So get out your warmest socks, put on your boots, maybe grab the dog and bundle up for a hike — by day or by candlelight — at one of these scenic spots in Green Bay and Brown County. You might be surprised by what you see.
L.H. Barkhausen Waterfowl Preserve, 2024 Lakeview Drive, Suamico
Trails: Barkhausen’s 9 miles of trails that take hikers through woods, wetlands and meadows the rest of the year are groomed for skiing in winter. In addition, another 8 or 9 miles of trails in areas of the park not accessible other times of the year are set up specifically for winter hiking and snowshoeing. Trails are clearly marked so that hikers don’t walk on the ski trails (a big no-no at any natural area with groomed trails).
It’s a 50-50 mix of skiers and snowshoers/walkers at the 920-acre park along the west shore of the bay of Green Bay when snow conditions are good, said Jason Petrella, Brown County Parks program and natural resource manager. Hikers are also welcome to venture off the trails to explore other areas of Barkhausen.
What you’ll see: Several birds that spend their summers farther north come down into Wisconsin for winter, including the rough-legged hawk and the northern shrike. The latter is a predatory bird with a black mask that catches its prey, impales it on thorns and then eats it. If you were thinking something a little kinder, gentler, look for signs of activity from the otters that roam the grounds.
“You’ll see where they’re sliding on their bellies in the snow. You’ll see where they’re rolling around in the snow. You’ll see where they’re going through the ice to get fish,” Petrella said. “Sometimes, if you’re really lucky, you get to see the otter scat. Sometimes that happens right on the ski trails.”
Upcoming candlelight hikes: 5 to 8 p.m. Jan. 21, Feb. 10 and 11. Walk or snowshoe more than a mile of trails illuminated by torches. Cost is $5 per person; ages 2 and younger free. Registration required; no walk-ins. Snowshoes available for rent for $3 child and $5 adult; call ahead to check availability at 920-434-2824.
Insider tip: Consider an evening visit even without the candlelight. On a starry night with the moon out and snow on the ground, the natural lighting makes for a cool after-dark experience, Petrella said. Also, wear boots that shed snow and dress in layers. You’ll get warmer than you think as you move.
What about dogs: Leashed dogs are allowed on hiking trails south of Lineville Road only. One exception: They’re welcome at the candlelight hikes.
Hours and fees: Sunrise to 11 p.m. daily. A Brown County Parks daily ($5) or annual ($40) pass is required for ages 12 years or older for cross-country skiing. An annual family pass is $85.
More info: browncountywi.gov, Facebook and Instagram.
Baird Creek, 324 Baird Creek Road, Green Bay
Trails: A hikers’ delight, Baird Creek has at least 12 miles of trails. Trailheads are marked with distance and degree of difficulty. Choose from the advanced terrain of the Woodpecker Trekker to the easy paved trail of Crayfish Crawl.
Charles Fisk, president of Baird Creek Preservation Foundation, hikes the greenway daily and has two favorite trails this time of year.
Hickory Trickery begins at Christa McAuliffe Park and offers a 90-minute casual hike over 1.2 miles through some of the area’s biggest trees and most spectacular vistas, with good chances for seeing wildlife.
He also likes the workout that comes with the longer, 1.7-mile Cedar Speeder loop. It begins off Superior Road, on the south side of the railroad tracks, and has some steep ups and downs at its start. The payoff for the more physical hike is that you get up high to see out over the valley, while the low wetlands have springs and a mature oak forest. If you’re feeling especially ambitious, the two trails connect for a 2- or 2½-hour adventure.
The wider asphalt trail that runs 1.6 miles one way is groomed on one side for cross-country skiing and on the other for biking and walking. It’s accessible from Danz Avenue or the lower parking lot off Baird Creek Road, about 300 yards from where Interstate 43 crosses. Visitors will also find waterfalls near that lot.
What you’ll see (and maybe hear): With so many trees, particularly white and red oaks as well as dead wood, to support a diverse population of insects, downy, hairy, yellow-bellied and pileated woodpeckers are common. You’ll have to look harder and listen carefully to spot a golden-crowned kinglet.
“They’re a teeny weeny little bird, and a lot of times they’re high up in the trees, so you’ll hear them before you’ll see them,” Fisk said. “A chickadee looks robust compared to a kinglet.”
The tiny songbird with a soft call is at Baird Creek year-round but Fisk sees them more often now. They stay warm enough to survive by eating at least half their weight in insect larva every day.
Hikers on the hunt for the cheery sight of a robin in winter will find one of the best spots in the city by the long boardwalk on the paved path. The spring-fed creek stays open most of the winter, making it a magnet for bath-loving robins. A grove of white cedars offers a place for them to roost at night, and juniper berries, wild grapes and common sumac provide food sources.
Upcoming events: Fisk is leading an animal tracks hike for kids and adults at 1 p.m. Jan. 15 from Christa McAuliffe Park. Free; registration required. There will be a heart health hike at 1 p.m. Feb. 19 and spring hike to be announced in March.
Insider tip: If there’s a lot of freezing and thawing, trails get icy. Fisk recommends people use traction cleats or grips that strap onto their boots, such as Yaktrax, for safer footing.
What about dogs: Allowed on a leash no longer than 7 feet. Keep dogs off groomed ski tracks.
Hours and fees: Open 24 hours a day but parking on the road is prohibited after 10 p.m. and before 6 a.m. Free.
More info: Trail maps at bairdcreek.org and upcoming events registration at facebook.com/BairdCreek.
Bay Beach Wildlife Sanctuary, 1660 E. Shore Drive, Green Bay
Trails: Most of the sanctuary’s 5-mile trail system, about 4 miles of it, is groomed for cross-country skiing. Signs are posted asking visitors not to walk on those trails once groomed. The blacktop paths that make up the Woodland Building loop and the area between the Nature Center and Observation Building are open for winter walking. They’re usually plowed to make them stroller- and wagon-friendly.
What you’ll see (and maybe hear): The cross-country trails offer views of the enclosed deer yard and the wolf yard. If you’re lucky, you may also hear the wolves. They tend to howl first thing in the morning as kind of a wake-up call “to let the world know we’re here” — or when they hear a police siren, said Kim Diedrich, chief naturalist at the 600-acre refuge. She also frequently sees wild deer, turkeys, squirrels and occasionally owls on the trails. Pay attention to the snow and you’ll see opossum and fox tracks and areas where turkeys have scratched for food and deer have bedded down.
Want to snowshoe? While no snowshoe trails are open to the public, Bay Beach does offer naturalist-led snowshoe hikes limited to 20 or fewer people on back trails at 10:30 a.m. every Tuesday through March 15. Register in advance at 920-391-3671; snowshoes available for rent or bring your own. Hike cost is $5. If snow conditions are poor, it will be a hike without snowshoes. A night snowshoe hike is scheduled for 6 p.m. Feb. 16.
“Oh my gosh, snowshoeing on a beautiful winter day is just awesome,” Diedrich said. “It’s so quiet, and you can really appreciate things a little bit differently on snowshoes.”
Other upcoming events: Ski & Tea is scheduled for 2 p.m. Thursdays through March 17. Ski for an hour and then enjoy a hot beverage and treats indoors. $5 per person; register at 920-391-3671. Night ski from 6 to 8 p.m. Jan. 18.
Insider tip: A favorite tradition at Bay Beach in summer, visitors can still feed the ducks and geese from a bag of corn purchased at the Observation Building in winter. In fact, the the birds would love it if you would. “They’re really hungry right now,” Diedrich said. “They’ll literally come right up to you.”
What about dogs: Not allowed.
Hours and fees: Open 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. daily. Free.
More info: Check facebook.com/BayBeachWildlifeSanctuary for updates on trail conditions and the status of weather-dependent events. Maps at baybeachwildlife.com.
Hilly Haven Golf Course, 5911 County PP, town of Wrightstown
Trails: The 18-hole golf course actually started as a ski business in 1964. Trails groomed for classic and skate skiing (beginner, intermediate and expert levels) wind through the 200-acre property, including the golf course, backwoods, Niagara Escarpment, Sand Creek and covered bridges. Snowshoers can bring their own or rent a pair by calling in advance at 920-336-6204.
Last year’s addition of separate fat tire bike trails and bike rentals brought an influx of new visitors, said general manager Kristin Stelzer.
Insider tip: After you burn off all those calories on the trail, fuel back up with something warm — or cold — from the Hilly Haven bar and grill. It opens at 10 a.m. weekdays and 9 a.m. weekends and is known for its burgers and made-from-scratch soups.
What about dogs: Dogs are welcome during daylight hours and are not required to be leashed if owners so choose. “We just ask that you keep our snow white,” Stelzer said.
Hours and fees: Open dawn to 8 p.m. Monday through Friday and dawn to 6 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. Trail fee is $6 adults to ski, snowshoe, hike or bike; free ages younger than 16 with paid adult.
More info: Trail conditions, trail map and bike rental costs at hillyhaven.com and updates at facebook.com/HillyHaven.
Neshota Park, 5757 Park Road, Denmark
Trails: Located in the southeast corner of Brown County, it’s not as well-known as some of the area’s other hiking destinations. The 260-acre park offers wooded hills, open prairie, sloped valleys and the beauty of King Creek. You’ll find classic and skate ski trails (with hills for those looking for a challenge) as well as hiking and snowshoe trails. There’s also a sledding hill near the warming shed, which has tables, chairs and a fireplace.
What about dogs: Leashed dogs allowed.
Hours and fees: Open sunrise to 11 p.m. daily. A Brown County Parks daily ($5) or annual ($40) pass is required for ages 12 years or older for cross-country skiing. Leashed dogs are allowed.
More info: browncountywi.gov and Friends of Neshota Park Facebook page at facebook.com/NeshotaPark.
Cofrin Arboretum and former Shorewood Golf Course, University of Wisconsin-Green Bay
Trails: With the closure of the 90-year-old Shorewood Golf Course last summer, there’s a new opportunity this winter to enjoy the scenic piece of land on campus. Three miles of groomed cross-country trails on the former 9-hole course go up and down the fairways, onto the greens and between some of the holes. A side track offers a space for hiking, snowshoeing and fat tire biking. Plenty of hills make for intermediate-level skiing.
What you’ll see: “What’s nice about being about there is it’s really pretty and really wide open with a bunch of old growth oak and other trees,” said Ethan Harvey, UWGB outdoor adventure recreation coordinator. “One of the things lately is there has been a lot more wildlife since there haven’t been a million people golfing, so I see eagles, hawks, deer, turkeys, all sorts of fun stuff out there.”
First-timer tips: The trails are in the early stages and still a work in progress, Harvey said. Signs and a map are still to come. Users can park in the Shorewood Center lot. Users are asked to stick to daylight hours. There is no fee. Skis and snowshoes are available for rent through the UREC Outdoor Adventure Center. More info on rentals at uwgb.edu/urec or call 920-465-2449.
Meanwhile, over at the Cofrin Arboretum: The university no longer grooms the trails for snowshoeing or skiing, but the 290-acre natural area that encircles the campus offers a beautiful spot for both with more than 6 miles of trails that wind through forests, prairies, ponds and creeks. Maps and more information at uwgb.edu/biodiversity/natural-areas/arboretum.
Brown County Reforestation Camp, 4418 Reforestation Road, Suamico
Trails: “That’s the mecca for cross-country skiing for Northeast Wisconsin out there,” Petrella said. Classic and skate skiers have 19 miles of groomed trails to enjoy, including 2½ miles of lit trails that come on at sunset and turn off in stages from 10:15 to 10:40 p.m. There are also 3 miles of trails for snowshoeing and endless opportunities to snowshoe off the trails in the 1,600-acre camp. But again, be sure to stay off ski and snowmobile trails.
Hours and fees: The Reforestation Camp is open sunrise to 11 p.m. daily. A Brown County Parks daily ($5) or annual ($40) pass is required for ages 12 years or older for cross-country skiing.
More info: Trail map at browncountywi.gov.
Enos Colburn Park, 1025 S. Fisk St., Green Bay
He-Nis-Ra Park, 1900 S. Point Road, has both winter hiking and groomed cross-country ski trails, and Perkins Park, 600 N. Fisk St., offers ski trails, but of Green Bay city parks, it’s Enos Colburn Park, with its wooded areas and more hilly terrain for working up some speed, that gets the most use for cross-country skiing, said James Andersen, deputy director of City of Green Bay Parks, Recreation & Forestry.
“It’s almost like a winter wonderland in the middle of the city that not a lot of people know about,” he said.
Fox River Trail, Green Bay, Allouez and De Pere
The popular year-round recreational trail stretches more than 20 miles from downtown Green Bay to the Brown and Calumet counties line. In winter, the asphalt trail from Green Bay through Allouez to Heritage Road in De Pere is plowed. The unplowed portions are open for cross-country skiing, biking and snowshoeing.
The trail is open 5 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily. More info at https://dnr.wisconsin.gov/topic/parks/foxriver.
Green Bay Botanical Garden, 2600 Larsen Road, Green Bay
The garden takes on a different beauty with a blanket of snow and the quiet of winter. There are paved paths for walking or trails for hiking and snowshoeing. The Fischer Visitor Center offers free snowshoe rentals for ages 6 and older with paid admission ($5-$12).
Guided snowshoe hikes are scheduled for 1 to 2:30 p.m. Jan. 21 and Feb. 24. Cost is $5 or free for GBBG members; register at gbbg.org. If not enough snow, events will be held as hikes.
Winter hours are 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Saturday.
Looking for waterfalls?
Wequiock Falls County Park, about 10 miles north of Green Bay off Highway 57, and Fonferek’s Glen County Park, 2825 Dutchman Road in Ledgeview, offer picturesque frozen falls along the Niagara Escarpment. Neither has designated trail systems so exploring is on your own.
Contact Kendra Meinert at 920-431-8347 or [email protected] Follow her on Twitter @KendraMeinert.