July 18, 2024


Obey Your Travel.

15 Best Hikes in Door County, Wisconsin

20 min read


Guide to the best Door County hiking trails, including best winter hikes and easily-accessible hikes

“I took a walk in the woods and came out taller than trees,” stated American naturalist Henry David Thoreau in the nineteenth century.

Any avid hiker or climber will know exactly what you’re talking about if you quote that line.

Hiking and climbing not only immerse you in nature, but they also provide excellent exercise.

There are plenty of hikes in Door County to choose from, that offer beautiful landscapes and a fully relaxing experience.

best places to hike in Door County, rocky cliffs along shoreline next to clear blue water
Beautiful hikes in Door Country

Door County is without a doubt one of the best-kept secrets in Wisconsin.

There are many amazing things to do in Door County, and the hiking in Door County is particularly amazing.

In fact, it has some of the best hiking trails in Wisconsin!

When visiting the peninsula, you’ll be just minutes away from some of the best outdoor activities in Wisconsin, stunning Lake Michigan beaches, and lovely offshore islands.

Hiking in Door County is a great opportunity to discover the area’s unspoiled natural splendor.

Bring your hiking boots and a camera since you won’t want to forget these incredible hikes in Door County!

Thanks to affiliate links, I pay my bills. If you make a purchase through them, I may receive a small commission at no cost to you. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases. All opinions are always mine. Merci!

Useful Travel Information for Wisconsin

Plan the ultimate Wisconsin road trip (no backtracking!) with the Perfect Wisconsin Road Trip itinerary – Get it here

✈ Book cheap flights to Wisconsin with Skyscanner

✔ Book tours in Wisconsin with Viator

➳ Book holiday and vacation rentals in Wisconsin with VRBO

Rent a car at the best rates with DiscoverCars

☘ Get the best discounted outdoor gear (outlet) at REI.com

$ Get Wisconsin hiking guides and maps at REI.com

✎ Never leave without travel insurance. I get mine at SafetyWing. It is easy to set up, cheap, and reliable.

Where to Stay in Door County, Wisconsin

If none of these work for you, please check out my guide on the best resorts in Door County.

1. The Eagle Trail at Peninsula State Park

  • Length: 2.5 miles
  • Difficulty: Moderate
Top Door County hiking trails, Eagle Bluff Lighthouse
Eagle Bluff Lighthouse

You can’t afford to miss out on the Eagle Trail that’s one of the most beautiful places to hike in door county.

The Eagle Trail Door County hike can be found in the beautiful Peninsula State Park, one of the best state parks in Wisconsin.

Peninsula State Park is Wisconsin’s third-largest state park, with 3,776 acres for visitors to explore.

This is one of the best Door County hiking trails for nighttime hikes.

It boasts around 8-miles of Green Bay beachfront which allow you to see for miles at night, and enjoy the stunning, clear sky.

During the day, the views are equally impressive, especially on a bright sunny day.

Visitors may also climb to the top of Eagle Tower, a freshly restored observation tower in the park.

The primary attractions are Eagle Bluff and the Eagle Bluff Lighthouse, which is one of the best lighthouses of Wisconsin.

However, while not incredibly difficult, the Eagle Trail is one of the most difficult hikes in Door County.

Parts of this 2.5-mile loop also trail along a coastline with breathtaking 148-foot cliffs – so don’t look down if you’re scared of heights!

Any rock climbers will be delighted to visit the steep rocky portions.

But be careful, because the rough terrain is braided with loose stones and tree roots.

Because this is Door County’s most popular hiking path, it may get very crowded during the summer.

In fact, during peak seasons, this Door County trail is very busy and can feel quite crowded.

Additionally, the extra foot traffic can make some of the stones looser, and the path more strenuous.

Because of the rough terrain and elevation climb, this is a relatively tough hike in parts.

This path may be done at any time of year, although because of the ice conditions in the winter, it’s best done between March and October.

Only experienced hikers should attempt the hike in harsh winter conditions.

You follow the rocky lakeshore close to the Niagara Escarpment from the trailhead at Eagle Bluff.

The walk winds through the woods and along Green Bay’s rocky shoreline.

You’ll get the opportunity to explore the caverns and climb a lookout tower.

Not only is this one of the best hikes in Door County, but it’s also some of the best hiking in Northern Wisconsin.

Buy here the best hiking maps of Wisconsin

2. The Ice Age National Scenic Trail – Sturgeon Bay Segment

  • Length: 13.8 miles
  • Difficulty: Easy
places to go hiking in Sturgeon Bay, view over Sturgeon Bay on clear sunny day
View of Sturgeon Bay

The Ice Age Trail’s Eastern Terminus is Potawatomi State Park near Sturgeon Bay, and it has some of the trail’s most aesthetically magnificent sections.

Sturgeon Bay is also a proud member of the Ice Age Path Community, which has strong links to the Ice Age Trail Alliance and a number of villages along the 1,200-mile trail.

The Ice Age National Scenic Trail is a 1,000-mile pathway that passes through some of the state’s most attractive natural locations, highlighting various landscape elements.

The Trail is one of only eleven National Scenic Trails that run wholly throughout Wisconsin.

Due to the epicness of its length, people from all across the entire USA visit to hike parts of the Ice Age National Scenic Trail, including this segment.

This is one of Door County’s quietest trails, but it is also one of the best hikes in Door County. Plus, despite its length, the terrain is not particularly difficult.

You might want to visit the observation tower before starting your journey to take in the stunning views.

The trail’s first-half leads you through woodlands and towards the city of Sturgeon Bay.

Hiking in Sturgeon Bay is a delight because the route then continues around the lake, and you may want to make a stop at the beach if you choose.

The final stretch of this path follows part of the Ahnapee State Trail until you reach the Forestville Segment Trailhead.

Together, the Ice Age Trail Alliance and Trail Communities promote the distinct traits that distinguish the Trail and the communities through which it passes.

The Trail also intersects with some of the best Sturgeon Bay bike trails on occasion.

Keep in mind that bike riding is permitted only on certain parts while riding a horse is not authorized anywhere.

Book here the best cabins in Door County

3. The Black Trail at Cave Point County Park

  • Length: 3 miles (full loop)
  • Difficulty: Easy
Best Things to do in Door County, WI, Spectacular view of Lake Michigan from Cave Point County Park
View of Lake Michigan from Cave Point County Trail

Cave Point is quickly becoming one of the most popular natural attractions in Door County.

Lake Michigan waves pound the rocky coastline, forming magnificent sea caves that are a unique and stunning feature.

There are a few short paths along the cliffs at Cave Point that are worth exploring.

But the Black Route – a loop trail that explores the hardwood forest set back from the sea and links to the Whitefish Dunes State Park trail system – is a favorite.

The Black Trail is an experience in and of itself, as well as one of the greatest wildlife excursions in Door County.

It’s a 3-mile lollipop across flat terrain. It starts and finishes at the parking lot of Whitefish Dunes State Park.

The Black Trail follows a calmer stretch of shoreline to Cave Point County Park.

Short offshoot paths along this initial portion provide views of Lake Michigan, one of the most important lakes in Wisconsin.

Along the route, there are also various picnic spots, including one with shipwreck artifacts.

The route winds through a hardwood forest set back from the beach that is home to animals and beautiful wildflowers.

Buy here the best road trip itinerary for Wisconsin

4. Plum Island Hiking Trails

  • Length: 3 miles of hiking trails
  • Difficulty: Easy
best Door County hiking trails, house and lighthouse surrounded by trees near sandy coastline
Plum Island

Plum Island is located between Northport and Washington Island in Door County.

Until recently, it belonged to the Coast Guard, which ran a range of light and life-saving stations between the front and rear entrance channels of the Port Des Morts route (translated to Deaths Door).

Once there, there are various recognized hiking paths totaling 5 miles in length.

While on the island, you may tour all of these hiking paths in half a day and select your own route.

The island is a nature lover’s paradise since it is a protected wildlife sanctuary and home to Bald Eagles and some of Wisconsin’s rarest flora.

The routes also pass through marshes, lighthouses, beaches, and historic sites.

It is possible to finish these beautiful Door Country hiking trails in three hours, but you may want to leave more time to take in all of the views.

One of two trails in Door County that cut across the island between the life-saving station and the lighthouse keeper’s residence is the most popular.

This is the Eagle View Trail, so named because there is a bald eagle nest near its halfway point.

However, the eagles have migrated to another nest on the island, so there is now little possibility of seeing them on the Eagle View Trail.

Plum Island provides stunning views and is a route that can be accessed at any time of year, so come and prepare to be impressed!

Book here the best tours of Door County

5. Ellison Bluff State Natural Area

  • Length: 1.2 miles
  • Difficulty: Easy
Door County hiking trails, view from Ellison Bluff with bit of tree covered cliff face and clear blue water stretching for miles
View from Ellison Bay

Ellison Bay – near the northernmost extremity of Door County – is considered one of the most straightforward and easily accessible hikes in Door County.

Ellison Bay is a basic route that even inexperienced walkers may appreciate because it is short and just traverses flat terrain.

Many people appreciate this short circular hiking route because it allows them to sit and take in the beautiful views from the observation point.

The remainder of the trail follows an established path through woodland.

Depending on the time of year, you will be treated to the sight and perfume of a variety of flowers along the journey. 

The park’s steep limestone cliffs are part of the Niagara Escarpment, which was produced by debris deposited by glacial inland seas.

There is no access to the water since the bluff is almost 100-feet high and runs parallel to the beach throughout the park.

This is one of the best things to do in Northern Wisconsin if you’re passionate about nature.

You’ll find a stairway leading to a viewing platform offers breathtaking views, including sunsets and picture possibilities of the cliffs, Green Bay seas, and the numerous Green Bay Islands.

There are also many different types of plants along the path, including some rarer species that will interest visiting botanists.

A wide diversity of species live in the forest, and the peninsula serves as a migratory bird flyway.

The Ellison Bluff State Natural Area is home to 26 species of land snails, including five uncommon species and two glacial relicts.

The park provides calm picnics in the park’s eastern end, which is accessible through the service road that circles across a section of the park’s property.

Book here the best RV rentals in Wisconsin

6. Thordarson Loop at Rock Island State Park

  • Length: 6 miles
  • Difficulty: Moderate
unique places to visit in Wisconsin, rocky coastline of Rock Island Wisconsin
Rocky coastline of Rock Island, Wisconsin

To get to Rock Island, take a ferry to Washington Island and then an additional boat to Rock Island.

You should generally allocate a whole day for this excursion because of the added driving and boating time, even though you will probably complete the hiking trails in roughly three hours.

The route begins near the rocky beach and winds its way around the island, traversing both flat and difficult terrain.

You may enjoy the beach, lighthouses, and a historic boathouse in addition to the stunning surroundings.

If you’re camping in the region, you might wish to spend the night on the island because there are various backpacker campsites.

You’ll come across the Pottawatomie Lighthouse in about an hour.

Take a break here, fill your water bottle at the pump, and if you have time, take a brief tour of the century-old building (courtesy of the Friends of Rock Island State Park).

At the top, visitors can get a close look at the lighthouse’s lamp and lantern.

You’ll also be able to enjoy a beautiful view of Lake Michigan surrounded by trees and other flora.

From here, continue on the route to round the island. You’ll eventually find yourself back on the south side of the island, near the ranger station and boathouse.

You may cut across the island via the Fernwood Trail or Havamal Trail for a little shorter version of the Thordarson walk.

This is one of the most spectacular hiking trails in Door County that you need to experience!

Buy here the best hiking maps of Wisconsin

7. The Red Trail at Whitefish Dunes State Park

  • Length: 2.8 miles
  • Difficulty: Easy
places to hike in Door County, wooden boardwalk leading to sandy beach on cloudy day
Whitefish Dunes State Park

The massive Whitefish Sand Dunes, which are beautiful, are one of the outstanding attractions along Door County’s shorelines.

This state park has various trails, but the red path is probably the nicest.

It leads from the nature center to the top of Old Baldy Lookout and then into the Whitefish Dunes State Natural Area.

There are three locations along the trip where you may access the beach. The trail then loops back to its starting position.

The lovely environment makes any outdoor exercise delightful, therefore this trail is also frequented by runners and bikers.

The red route continues to zigzag along the beach, gaining in height between unexpectedly enormous dunes that are densely forested and home to a healthy forest.

The route leads to the third beach access, which is also one of Door County’s pet-friendly beaches.

The Red Trail branches out to the west just after reaching the pet beach, going farther into the tallest group of dunes.

Book here the best cabins in Door County

8. Door Bluff Headlands County Park

  • Length: 2.5 miles
  • Difficulty: Moderate
Where to go hiking in Door County, cliff drop into water
Door Bluff Hike

Door Cliff Headlands is a county park located at the end of the Port Des Morts Passage between Gills Rock and Washington Island on a bluff overlooking Green Bay.

This county park has multiple unmarked trails that crisscross it, but I prefer the blue route, which is a 2.5-mile moderate loop.

Door Bluff County Park is one of the quietest and least frequented natural beauties in Door County.

It’s just a wilderness at a gorgeous place near the ominously named Deaths Door.

There is a circle drive parking area, a portable bathroom, and a small information kiosk.

From there, you must negotiate the park’s unsigned but well-traveled pathways.

This Blue route loop begins by climbing along the bluff’s edge through a thick cedar woodland.

One bald outcropping provides beautiful clear views over Green Bay. The route then begins to descend through a rich hardwood woodland.

I have not plotted all of the branch paths that connect to this mainline.

There appears to be a network of cross-country ski routes here that crosses private property as well as Door Bluff County Park.

This park is a beautiful and pristine environment that begs to be explored!

The yellow trail on my GPS map allows you to easily descend the front of the bluff to the water’s edge.

Fishermen may find this to be a secluded and good fishing area.

Buy here the best road trip itinerary for Wisconsin

9. Ridges Sanctuary in Door County

  • Length: 5+ miles of trails
  • Difficulty: Very Easy (also wheelchair accessible)
best hiking trails in Door County, wooden boardwalk surrounded by trees leading up to small red and white lighthouse
Lighthouse in the Ridges Sanctuary

Conservationists were drawn to Bailey’s Harbor because of an unusually textured landform.

As Lake Michigan receded, it left behind a pattern of parallel sand dune ridges and marsh swales that resembled wave impressions.

This terrain was challenging to develop, but it proved to be an ideal habitat for uncommon flora and spectacular species of animals.

The Ridges were protected as Wisconsin’s first land trust in 1937, and a total of 1600 acres of natural land and native ecology have been conserved.

The majority of visitors are hosted at a nature center in Bailey’s Harbor, which serves as the starting point for a network of Door County trails totaling more than 5 miles.

Many of these hikes are on boardwalks, making them quite easy to traverse.

This is one of the best places to hike in Door County for those who are less fit or unable to hike difficult terrain for any reason but still want to admire the beauty of nature

Book here the best tours of Door County

10. Toft Point Natural Area

  • Length: 2.4 miles
  • Difficulty: Easy
Amazing Door County hiking trails, rocky coastline lined with trees
Toft Point Natural Area

This out-and-back hike is in a quiet area of Door County called Bailey’s Harbor, so it is frequently overlooked by tourists.

However, this is both a beautiful place to visit and an interesting historic site!

There are plenty of things to do in Door County, especially around the region of Bailey’s harbor.

The basic trail begins at the Toft Point State Natural Area parking lot and leads through fields and forests to Toft Point on Moonlight Bay.

This land was once the homestead of the Toft family and is now used to educate people about conservation.

There are log cabins near Toft Point that offer both guest accommodation and event space.

Although the trail is short, there is an option to hike off into the wilderness – but you will, however, need a compass and a map.

Book here the best RV rentals in Wisconsin

11. Tower Trail, Potawatomi State Park

  • Length: 3.9 miles
  • Difficulty: Easy
where to see fall colors door county, view of Potawatomi State Park
Potawatomi State Park

Tower Trail is located at the southern end of Door County, and many locals consider it the gateway of Door County.

Established in 1928, it houses 123 campsites, some of which have electrical hookups and even a shower building.

The Tower trail leads to the observation tower located at the highest bluff in Potawatomi State Park.

Visiting the observation tower is a cute idea for romantic getaways in Wisconsin.

The landscape is breathtaking! Parking and restrooms are available at the old tower site.

The trail loops through the park before going through the campground. It’s a great spot for picnic or group camping too.

There are multiple group camping sites and some cozy cabins in Door County, right in the park.

Buy here the best hiking maps of Wisconsin

12. Hotz Loop, Newport State Park

  • Length: 2.9 miles
  • Difficulty: Easy
Best Beaches in Wisconsin, view of Newport State Park, Ellison Bay, Lake Michigan
The gorgeous Crystal Cove in Newport Beach

There are miles and miles of some of the best hiking trails in Door County, Newport State Park.

Fortunately, you can get a brochure marking the trails and explaining the park’s history at its headquarters.

The best hiking in Door County is the Hotz loop. Running 7 miles, it is also the longest.

The approximately 7-mile Europe Bay Trail is part of Newport State Park’s large trail system and the ambient setting is lined with many inviting plants and trees.

This north-to-south running loop trail is unique in that it takes hikers across the majority of the park and provides a nearly complete tour of everything it has to offer.

Visitors will find dense and untouched old-growth conifer forests, shoreline lookouts, hidden coves, and even a large inland lake (Europe Lake)!

There’s also an abundance of wildlife such as squirrels, chipmunks, deer, and birds.

The route may be accessed from a variety of locations across the park, although most visitors begin at the southern end, near the main parking lot.

It can also be connected at the trailheads off Europe Bay Road at Liberty Grove Town Park on its northern end.

The trek can easily be extended by adding additional side paths that split off the main track.

The trail winds through a lovely forest between Europe Lake and Lake Michigan, giving the impression that you are going through a tunnel of trees.

This trek is especially lovely in the fall when the leaves change color and you can enjoy all the stunning fall colors in Wisconsin.

At various spots along the path, you will be able to enjoy the splendor of Lake Michigan’s shoreline as well as the tranquility of Europe Lake.

Hotz Loop is truly one of the best hikes in Door County for getting “lost” in nature.

Book here the best cabins in Door County

13. Lynd Point Fern Loop at Newport State Park

  • Length: 2.4 miles
  • Difficulty: Easy
best hiking in Door County, rocky cliffs with many boulders having fallen into surrounding water
Lynd Point Fern Loop

With its massive trees, frequent terrain variations, ecological niches, and rarely another trail-goer in sight, the Lynd Point Fern Loop is the quintessential Newport State Park experience.

Although it does not cover every inch of the park – something that the seven-mile Europe Bay Loop comes close to doing – the trail does serve as a condensed sample of what Newport has to offer.

It also overlaps with two sections of the Europe Bay Loop near the park’s center.

As the Fern Trail enters Lynd Point, it begins to parallel the shoreline, which is as varied as the hiking path terrain.

Here you’ll find flat, walkable rocks similar to those found at Cave Point County Park and water sloshing between jagged boulders.

There are also some of the most beautiful beaches in Wisconsin with fine sand, pebble, and shell mixtures.

The trail then follows the shoreline of Lake Michigan and Newport Bay.

The trek is 2.5 miles long but may appear longer because something constantly piques the curiosity or diverts attention away from the landscapes.

And once you get close to the water, it’s difficult not to step off the trail at every opening to enjoy a new vista. 

The Lynd Point Trail concludes – or begins, depending on your hiking route – by intersecting with the Europe Bay Loop, which drops you off at Newport Bay’s beach.

From here it’s just a short walk back to the parking lot.

It diverges from Europe Bay Trail and follows the rugged, rocky shoreline, with stunning lake views and vistas.

The trail leaves the beach on the northern shore and heads inland to an ancient shoreline.

This dolostone ledge invites you to explore its small caves and outcroppings, which are covered in mosses and rare ferns.

The terrain is moderate, with rocks and tree roots.

This is a great trail in the winter because wildlife is quieter, but you may still see signs and tracks of porcupines, deer, coyotes, squirrels, weasels, and shoreline and inland birds.

So if you wonder what are the things to do in Door County in winter, admiring the frozen landscape and the pureness of the fauna is a blessing.

Buy here the best road trip itinerary for Wisconsin

14. Ahnapee State Trail

  • Length: 48 miles (12 miles within Door County)
  • Difficulty: Moderate
Top Door County walking trails, two bikes in distance on paved trail surrounded by trees and grass
Biking along the Ahnapee State Trail

This moderately difficult 48-mile trail begins near Sturgeon Bay, Wisconsin, and takes an average of 14 hours and 27 minutes to complete.

The trail is ideal for hiking, horseback riding, and mountain bike riding. In fact, it’s one of the best mountain bike trails in Wisconsin.

It’s a quiet atmosphere, you won’t see many other people while exploring it. The trail is open all year and is a beautiful place to visit at any time.

The trail passes through a variety of evergreen glades, farmland, prairies, and wooded areas teeming with wildlife and native wildflowers, so put this one on your list without a doubt.

The trail branches off near Sunset Road in Kewaunee County in three directions: west to Luxemburg, northeast to Algoma, and southeast to Kewaunee. 

The tracks were removed as part of a “rails to trails” conversion.

Hikers, bikers, horseback riders, and horse-drawn carts and wagons share the trail in the spring, summer, and fall. 

As one of the best hikes Door County has to offer during fall, it is a great idea for fun Wisconsin fall getaways.

Be sure to make the most of your stay and explore all the other fun things to do in Door County in October.

Snowmobiles, fat bikes, cross country skiers, and snowshoers whiz across its frosty surface in the winter.

The Ahnapee State Trail connects Kewaunee, Casco, Algoma, and Sturgeon Bay hiking routes and is nearly 50 miles long.

The firm surface of the 8 to 10-foot wide trail is one of the ideal Door County hiking trails, trail biking, and horseback riding.

During the winter, the trail is primarily used by snowmobilers, though cross-country skiing is also permitted.

And it is undeniably home to some of the best snowmobile trails in Wisconsin.

So be sure you include Ahnapee Trail on your winter getaways in Wisconsin list!

Dogs are permitted but must be kept on a leash.

Book here the best tours of Door County

15. Brachiopod Trail, Whitefish Dunes State Park

  • Length: 1.5 miles
  • Difficulty: Easy (it is intended to be fully accessible, but can be more difficult to traverse in adverse weather conditions)
Best Things to do in Door County, WI, Beach coastline of Lake Michigan from Whitefish Dunes State Park in Door County
Sandy Beach coastline of Lake Michigan in Whitefish Dunes State Park

This 1.5-mile interpretive route will introduce you to some of the particular features of the park.

Byron, the brachiopod, will take you on an excursion around the interpretative route.

Byron is a one-footed clam-like creature that formerly lived here millions of years ago.

Brachiopods and other fossils from that age may be found all around Door County.

The route begins at a fossil rock wall along the picnic area’s coastline.

It is meant to be accessible to everyone, although weather and terrain fluctuations may make certain portions challenging.

To safeguard the unique plant and animal species that call Whitefish Dunes home, it is not allowed to climb the sand dunes.

So sticking to the park’s authorized routes and staircases is a must.

This waterside wonderland, located alongside Lake Michigan in Sturgeon Bay, is the ideal place to take in the natural beauty of Door County.

Swimming, boating, hiking, and picnicking are just a few of the activities available at Whitefish Dunes State Park.

There is also a recreation of the villages where the original settlers of Door County lived.

It’s the most authentic way to experience what life was like in Door County hundreds of years ago.

A nature center offers programs, exhibits, and displays all year.

The reservable picnic shelter at the park overlooks Lake Michigan and is close to the nature center, beach, and hiking trails. No camping, only day use.

This park provides adaptive equipment for people with mobility issues, such as a beach wheelchair and a special beach trail.

Pets may be prohibited from certain areas.

Book here the best RV rentals in Wisconsin

Hiking is such a wonderful way to maintain yourself fit but also to discover the world that surrounds us.

And when it comes to hiking Door County is a region so full of opportunities and experiences! 

Short FAQ About the Best Hikes in Door County

Where can I go hiking in Door County in the winter?

One of the best winter hikes in Door County is the Lynd Point Fern Loop at Newport State Park. The Ahnapee Trail is also great for winter sports.

How long is Eagle trail in Door County?

This popular Door County hiking trail is around 2.5 miles.

Where can I run in Door County?

Many of the best hiking trails in Door County are great for running. However, my top recommendations are Eagle Trail, the Ahnapee Trail and Hotz Loop.

Before You Go: Top Tips for your Trip 


Source link