Hiking the Ice Age Trail Highland Lakes West Segment

rushing river past stones

All six miles of the Highland Lakes West segment are along a dirt road connecting between the Parrish Hills Segment and a paved road connector to the Highland Lakes East Segment.

Camping is allowed anywhere in the Langlade County Forest which surrounds much of this route except for a short area of woodlands owned by the Knights Templar. Perhaps the best area to choose a site would be along the West Branch of the Eau Claire River.

This is an easy trail to hike but there is one obstacle, a very short river ford of the West Branch of the Eau Claire River. You could almost jump across it.
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After hiking the Parrish Hills Segment, the day before I was glad to be on the much easier Highland Lakes Segment. A friend and I had rented an Airbnb for the weekend that is only a few blocks north of the trailhead for the Highland Lakes East Segment. These relaxing accommodations were a comfortable base for several Ice Age trail hikes that we filled our days with on an early spring weekend.

We began the Highland Lakes West segment at the parking lot at Townline Lake and hiked this trail from west to east. The trail starts off on a flat two track road. I had imagined that this road would give way to a single-track trail, but it remained road the entire distance.

There is not great scenery to report from this segment but being able to walk side-by-side with my hiking partner was a relaxing way to start the day. As mentioned, the only obstacle on this trail is a short river ford of the Eau Claire River. The river is just wider than a width that I can leap across with a running start. We decided to walk upstream and find a dry rock hop to cross the river. However, we would have been better off just getting our feet wet and walking across the ankle-deep water at the trail crossing. There is always a greater risk of injury when attempting to jump from rock to rock. But it is tempting to cross a river this way as it is a chore to take off your shoes and socks, change into water shoes, and then back into hiking shoes.

Just after crossing the river, we came to the Five Points. I think there were more than five points in reality. At any rate, there are number of trails that cross each other at a single intersection. The Ice Age Trail is well marked with yellow blazes, and you’ll continue on this wide grassy road through an area of private property owned by the Knights Templar. There are frequent signs indicating that this trail crosses through private property and you are strongly encouraged to stay on the trail in this area.

You’ll pass a couple of gates, and you’ll stop seeing yellow trail blazes marking the Ice Age Trail. However, the rustic road and scenery along it does not change in a way that indicates precisely where the trail ends and the driving road begins. There are not many places to park on this end of the trail as the terrain is quite swampy on either side of the road. We parked our second car in a school bus parking turn around which I thought was okay because it was a weekend. I would not advise parking here on a weekday when the school bus needs it.

This short and easy six-mile-long trail took us two hours to complete. One could continue on along the quiet paved roads from the trailhead for the west portion of this trail to the trailhead for the Highland Lakes East trailhead. There is virtually no traffic in this area. The roads lead to a few scattered residences that are mostly used as vacation cabins.

I mentioned earlier that me and a friend shared an AirBnb cabin just down the road from the trailhead. This cabin is a bit pricey and requires a two-night minimum stay but I would gladly come back to stay here again. Its proximity to major sections of the Ice Age Trail in Langlade County is unbeatable. The cabin itself easily sleeps 6 people. It is a beautiful log cabin with two stories and a basement, three bedrooms, two full baths, and a complete kitchen. There is a wonderful remote control gas fireplace in the living room and there is a large fire circle outside on top of a hill overlooking a lake.

If you are looking for a proper drive-in campsite nearby these trails there is a recommended campground at Jack Lake. The campsites at Jack Lake are large and spaced apart and the campground offers amenities such as flush toilets and showers. The Ice Age Trail crosses through the Jack Lake campground on the Summit Moraine Segment which is the next segment that connects to the Highland Lakes West Segment.

I will be returning to this area in Langlade County a few more times as I have a few more segments in the area to hike, so I will let you know in a future post what I think of the Highland Lakes West segment.

rocky gravel road going downhill
The trail along this segment follows roads the entire distance

Ice Age Trail Highland Lakes West Segment

1622 AMSL
1722 AMSL
900 FT

Directions and Trail Map

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Address for your GPS: Highway T, Summit Lake WI 54485
| coordinates: 45.375821, -89.294825 |

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


picnic area beside highway
Trailhead at the west end of the Highland Lakes West Segment

dirt road and trail sign
The Ice Age Trail Highland Lakes West Segment

road with river flowing over it
A short river ford of the Eau Claire River on the Ice Age Trail Highland Lakes West Segment

large rocks in river rapids
A rock hop across the Eau Claire River on the IAT Highland Lakes West Segment

grassy intersection between many trails
The Five Points on the IAT  Highland Lakes West Segment 

grass covered road
The Five Points on the IAT  Highland Lakes West Segment 

grass covered road in woodlands
Along the Ice Age Trail Highland Lakes West Segment

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