Milwaukee may be Wisconsin’s largest city, but that doesn’t mean it lacks natural beauty. After living in the area for more than twenty years, I’ve found some great spots to enjoy the outdoors in Cream City. Now I want to share them with you! Whether you want to hike, bike, kayak, or relax, these are some of the best places to get outside in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.
Ranked as one of the best urban beaches by USA Today, Milwaukee’s Bradford Beach is one of the best places to get outside during the summer. Spanning more than 28 acres, it is an amazing place to enjoy a beach day in Milwaukee and take in the views of Lake Michigan! As America’s most accessible beach, Bradford offers beach wheelchairs and ramps to the water. Sand volleyball courts and a public bathhouse can also be found on the grounds.
A walk along the Hank Aaron State Trail takes you back in time to discover some of Milwaukee’s industrial and architectural history. Park for free at the park and ride lot on 76th Street near State Fair Park and head east on the trail to see for yourself! You’ll pass the historic Milwaukee Soldiers Home and VA Medical Center, where informational signs share how these buildings came to be. Head under the bridge over 60th Street/Hawley Road for the fun photo-op pictured above on the road’s east side.
Havenwoods State Forest is a hidden gem located on Milwaukee’s northwest side. Spanning 237 acres, it’s easy to forget you’re in the city when you stand in the middle of the park and look across the prairies on all sides only to see rolling hills, marshes, and tall trees. This secluded grove has miles of hiking trails that come with beautiful changes in scenery. I recommend visiting in the summer or fall when the foliage is thickest to really appreciate the sense of wilderness here.
Unlike most Wisconsin state park sites, admission to Lakeshore State Park is completely free! You’ll find this Milwaukee hidden gem right in the heart of downtown just across the lagoon from the Henry Maier Festival Grounds where Summerfest takes place each year. Free parking can be found at the park’s south entrance where Erie Street ends by the Milwaukee Pierhead Light. You’ll find a surprising amount of wildlife on this small island, including two species of foxes and lots of birds!
The Oak Leaf Trail is Milwaukee County‘s premier trail system. Across its many sections (also called lines, loops, or connectors), you can enjoy hiking, running, inline skating, or biking along some of the city’s most scenic corridors. There are more than 125 miles of trail in total across a variety of Milwaukee neighborhoods and surrounding towns in the county, so you’re sure to find a great spot near you! I personally love the Kinnickinnic Line that runs through Jackson Park on Milwaukee’s southwest side. This is also one of my favorite spring hikes near Milwaukee.