Hiking the Ice Age Trail East Lake Segment

Lake shore beneath pines

The East Lake Segment is a 6.4-mile point-to-point single-track footpath of the Ice Age National Scenic Trail in Taylor County Wisconsin. The trail is easy to follow as it rolls up and down over many hills with some steep climbs. The East Lake Segment does not directly connect to another segment, but it is separated by short road connections from the Pine Line Segment going westbound and the Rib Lake Segment heading eastbound.

Dispersed camping is allowed in the Taylor County Forest along the trail – which is most of the trail, all but a brief section of private land which is indicated by signs along the trail. There is also an established wilderness dispersed site just off the trail on the shore of East Lake.

This Segment gets high marks for scenery, with features that include Moose Mountain, East Lake, the headwaters of the Black River, a very old stump with a sign indicating that it is a very old stump, and “Dramatic high relief hummocky terrain.” There are large off-the-road parking lots at each end of the segment and a restroom and water pump at the wayside at the west trailhead.

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stream flowing through woods with ferns

COVID-19 wrecked a lot of summer plans – except for us hikers … our summer plans might have been enhanced by the 2020 pandemic. With the economy in shock I was forced to take all my Fridays off as furlough in July and August … Well, there’s a silver lining to every dark cloud. Trying to find that silver lining wasn’t difficult for me and a friend who are trying to find the time to reach the northern segments of the Ice Age Trail. I let her know I was willing to camp and hike every weekend. There are few less expensive ways to spend a weekend, and there’s few safer ways in a pandemic than to leave all the crowds behind and hike off into the isolation of a forest.

Our first excursion was to Wood Lake County Park. The IAT passes right through the Wood Lake campground, and there’s a nice beach. Wood Lake is also a perfect little kayaking and fishing lake. There are only around ten first-come-first-serve campsites in the park, and camping here is serene and quiet … you can have a quiet campfire and listen to a family of loons that live on Wood lake and enjoy a peaceful starry sky.

Wait … you probably aren’t hearing my sarcasm. Yes, there is a talkative loon that lives on Wood Lake, but you’ll have trouble hearing it over the DJ. This county park is a local hang for summer blowout parties. We knew we were in for it when we saw the neighbors unloading a massive sound system. They were not the only ones. Three of the ten sites hosted parties. They all got to bed around 1am … so there was enough time to get some sleep for next day’s hike. Some things just are what they are. If you are looking for quiet sites in the area check out Mondeaux Dam Recreation Area, and if you can’t get in there try the Camp 8 Flowage sites which are popular with the ATV crowd. Or, as a last resort there are three first-come-first-serve sites at Stille Nacht Campground in the Rusch preserve (Also directly trailside to the IAT).

At our breakfast the next morning we decided to hike the East Lake Segment. It was a bright and sunny day and the shade of the forest was a welcome shelter on that hot summer weekend. We started the trail at the east trailhead. This is also an entrance to the Rib Lake Nordic Ski Area which is a labyrinth of trails. Be sure to take a quick right turn to hook onto the Ice Age Trail.

The trail rapidly climbs a number of steep grades and pushes up to Moose Mountain. It doesn’t look like a mountain, but that’s what they call it. At the “peak” there is a sign to your left and one to your right on the trail. I was initially confused by these signs, but then I realized that they were calling out locations in the distance that might be seen from this high point in the leaf-off season. There are no such sights in summer.

The trail is typical of Taylor County trails with hills, dense forest, mud pits, and dramatic high relief hummocky terrain, as they say. The trail eventually eased down to the shore of East Lake where there is a dispersed campsite tucked into some dense pine trees along the shore. There is a feeble attempt at a fire ring and enough room for a tent or maybe two. There is also direct lake access where you can dip into the lake for water to filter.

Further down the trail from the lake there are interpretative signs celebrating the logging history of the area, with call outs for white pine, hemlock, and birch trees. It is important to know the difference between a hemlockery and a pinery, words that are no longer frequently used in our language, but nonetheless represent the foundation of Wisconsin’s economic privilege.

As the trail continues a few small bridges over streams cross the headwaters of the Black River. The trail then enters a maze through thick young growth of aspen that has filled in a large logging site. It would be difficult to navigate off-trail in this thicket. Then the trail ends at a stately pinery of tall white pines surrounding a highway wayside where there is a water pump and restrooms.

Along the Ice Age Trail East Lake Segment

Ice Age Trail East Lake Segment

1575 AMSL
1860 AMSL
1200 FT



Dispersed Camping along most of the trail in the Taylor County Forest - 50 feet from a trail or road

Taylor County Forest, Rib Lake Nordic Ski Area, Moose Mountain, East Lake, Headwaters of the Black River

Directions and Trail Map

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Address for your GPS: N7951 State Hwy 13 Westboro, WI 54490
| coordinates: 45.321184, -90.290669 |

From Milwaukee 3.5 Hours
From Madison 3 Hours
From Green Bay 2.5 Hours
From Wausau 1 Hours
From Minneapolis 3 Hours
From Chicago 5 Hours


East Trailhead of the Ice Age Trail East Lake Segment
East Trailhead of the Ice Age Trail East Lake Segment

East Trailhead of the Ice Age Trail East Lake Segment
East Trailhead of the Ice Age Trail East Lake Segment

Map of the Rib Lake Ski Trails
Map of the Rib Lake Ski Trails

Top of Moose Mountain Ice Age Trail East Lake Segment
Top of Moose Mountain

Along the Ice Age Trail East Lake Segment

Possible Campsite at East Lake
Possible Campsite at East Lake

Along the East Lake Segment of the Ice Age Trail

Headwaters of the Black River
Headwaters of the Black River

West Trailhead for the Ice Age Trail East Lake Segment
West Trailhead for the Ice Age Trail East Lake Segment

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