Hiking the Ice Age Trail Grassy Lake Segment

beaver lodge in wetland

The Grassy Lake Segment of the Ice Age National Scenic Trail is an 8.2-mile long easy-to-moderate two-track footpath in Washburn County. This trail segment has earned a reputation of being wet, muckey, ugly, buggy, and generally disliked. I couldn’t have found it to be more the opposite. My hike along this trail was beautiful, breezy, and my feet were dry the entire way.

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grass footpath beside lake
Along the Ice Age Trail Grassy Lake Segment

I have been sharing a lot of information about camping along the segments of the Ice Age trail as I describe these segments in my posts. This is because I was plotting out a multi-day backpacking trip that would start at the Bear Lake Segment and continue through to the McKenzie Creek Segment. I had planned to do this multi-day hike over Labor Day weekend and into the following week. But many severe weather events passed through Northwestern Wisconsin including a monster derecho. I started to become nervous that there would be such frequent blowdowns that the trails may become impassable. And I was having a difficult time plotting out a course with regularly spaced breaks for camping overnight as I was not familiar with these trails. But it turns out that the trails here were spared storm damage, were dry, and in perfect condition, and along my hikes I found many opportunities for primitive camping.

In the week before this trip I rapidly formed a new plan. I decided to find a campsite anywhere in Wisconsin where I could find one available and use it as a base for exploring day hikes. In that last week before Labor Day weekend every campsite in the State Park System was reserved save for one and the one happened to be at Straight Lake State Park. For me, being an Ice Age Trail hiker, this opportunity to camp at Straight Lake was a perfect fit. I even managed to tempt a friend into joining me there for the weekend.

As a quick interlude, I’ll fill you in on the details of the Straight Lake campground even though it is not part of this particular segment. If you do end up camping at Straight Lake State Park understand that the sites are remote and not just walk in, but instead consider them to be backpacking sites. It is at least a ¼ mile walk from the parking lot to a campsite. If you are lucky enough to find one of the carts provided in the parking lot you’ll be able to haul your gear out, but know that if you use the cart you will make one trip out, then a return trip to return the cart, and then an additional walk back out to the campsite. This can make a ¼ mile hike into a ¾-mile hike, and you may do this several times before getting settled in. These extra trips can add up to several mile by the end of a day. And I tell you this from experience. It would have been much easier for me to consider this a backpacking trip, but I was more prepared for a car camping trip. With that note I’ll jump back into my description of Grassy Lake.

My hiking partner and I were able to knock out this long segment as a shuttle hike. There are large parking lots at both ends of the trail. You’ll find additional parking at Lehman Lake Road and another at the end of Shingle Camp Road. We hiked this trail from the western trailhead at Pershing Road heading eastbound.

The beginning of this trail was very gentle terrain, and the forest was very thick on either side of the trail. This area around Grassy Lake was one that I had earmarked as a place to set up camp on a potential backpacking trip. That would have not worked out very well as the young forest surrounding this lake on this western end of the trail was incredibly thick where it was not swampy, and it would be difficult to find a place to set up a tent.

The trail bed was dry and firm and followed a two-track grass-covered road. I found this trail to be easy and delightful as it gently curved from lake to lake. At Lehman Road Intersection the trail follows the gravel Shingle Camp Road forward as it curves beside picturesque Lehman Lake. The trail then turns off onto a grassy two-track lane and begins to climb slightly into some uplands.

The higher hills around the next set of lakes was another area I had identified as a potential place for some backpacking camping and I can confirm now that I have seen it, that these hardwood covered hills offer plenty of clearings where one could raise a single tent for the night. The lakes in this area are more like mucky wetlands and are covered with lily pads and algae. I would be concerned with filtering water from these lakes about the potential for blue green algae toxins in the water as there is substantial agriculture, dairy, and pork farms in the area. But perhaps that concern is unjustified. (Side note, there are blue green algae test kits available that will fit in a backpack and if you do most of your hiking and backpacking along the IAT it could be worth your time to spot check your water sources for this deadly toxin).

The best option for finding moving water would be along Boyer Creek which happened to be dried up along our hike through this area. Near the end of this trail not far from Boyer Creek there is a meadow where a short side trail leads to a mowed grass circle which I presume is intended to be a dispersed campsite. This small area would fit one tent, does not have a fire circle, and is exposed without trees so it would not work if you were planning to hammock.

We found this hike to be delightful and easy to walk without much elevation change. I would also note that it appears that the volunteers for this section seem to take exceptionally good care of it.

view through trees to prairie flowers
Along the Ice Age Trail Grassy Lake Segment

Ice Age Trail Grassy Lake Segment

1245 AMSL
1520 AMSL
1400 FT

In the Washburn County Forest 50 ft from trail roaads and water, campsite established near east trailhead

Directions and Trail Map

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Address for your GPS: County Line Road, Sarona, WI 54870
| coordinates: 45.638890, -91.878715 |

From Milwaukee 5 Hours
From Madison 4 Hours
From Green Bay 3 Hours
From Wausau 2.5 Hours
From Minneapolis 2 Hours
From Chicago 6 Hours


grass footpath in sunshine
Along the Ice Age Trail Grassy Lake Segment

grass footpath through shaded woodlands
Along the Ice Age Trail Grassy Lake Segment

wetlands beyond trees
Along the Ice Age Trail Grassy Lake Segment

road snaking between trees
Along the Ice Age Trail Grassy Lake Segment

wetland with lillypads
Along the Ice Age Trail Grassy Lake Segment

two gravel roads intersecting
Lehman Lake Road trail intersection

gravel road
Along the Ice Age Trail Grassy Lake Segment

footpath through woodlands
Along the Ice Age Trail Grassy Lake Segment

wetland beside trail
Along the Ice Age Trail Grassy Lake Segment

Along the Ice Age Trail Grassy Lake Segment
Along the Ice Age Trail Grassy Lake Segment

mowed grass circle
Small area mowed out for campsite

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