Hiking the Ice Age Trail Parrish Hills Segment

The Parrish Hills Segment of the Ice Age National Scenic Trail connects between the Harrison Hills Segment headed westbound and the Highland Lakes East Segment headed eastbound. This 11.6-mile segment is rated as difficult with rugged terrain, a ford of the Prairie River, and many hills to climb and descend.

Most of the miles of the Parish Hills segment are blazed through the Langlade County Forest where primitive camping is allowed.

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For most hikers, crossing of the Prairie River will stand out as the most memorable moment of this trail, but for me what I recall most are the troads … two track logging roads winding through the Langlade County Forest.

I was lucky to have a hiking partner along with me for the segment. We parked a car at Townline Lake parking lot at the east trailhead, then shuttled over to Parrish and parked at the Prairie River State Fishery Area.

Our first obstacle of the day was fording the Prairie River. The river is wide and there are riffles in the area at the ford. I had brought a pair of lightweight old shoes that I swapped into just for this crossing. The crossing was never deeper than knee height and the current was noticeable but not overwhelming. Once across, I changed back into my primary hiking shoes which was premature because there are mud pits and puddles in the wetlands beside the river for a way before the trail elevates and dries out.

When fording any river, it is helpful to wear shoes to prevent yourself from snagging on fishhooks or sharp rocks unseen in the water. Another piece of essential equipment are trekking poles for stability. Unclip your backpack straps in case you tumble into the river so that you can quickly release your backpack. Keep your head up and focus on the points on the opposite riverbank that you are headed towards as looking down at the rushing water can make you dizzy and lose track of where you are in the crossing.

As many as half the miles of this trail follow logging roads or ATV trails. We were able to hike side-by-side and have a good conversation along the way which made the frequent small hills less noticeable.

There were a few scenic sections of the trail where it tightened to a single track through dense pines and overlooks of wetlands.

I recall a few minor stream crossings that were either rock-hops or short balances on logs. For the most part we were able to keep our feet dry the entire way.


Primitive camping is allowed on the segments in the Langlade County Forest which is the area between the Prairie River and Townline Lake. There were three spots that I noticed along our hike that would be ideal for camping. The first was along an ATV trail where there is an old picnic shelter and a pair of crumbling latrines where there is wide open ground to set up tents. Another area of open ground and a small fire circle can be found where the trail emerges at Five Cent Road. Keep in mind that you are not permitted to camp in the vicinity of the ATV shelter north of Five Cent Road. The trail doesn’t go in this direction so you shouldn’t even be tempted, however I would note that the restroom and water facilities at the ATV trail shelter are available for hikers to use.

There’s a small pond just west of the Nelson Fire Lane where the trail crosses beneath dense pines and I found a nice flat area where a couple hikers could setup tents with views of the scenic pond, and the pond as a source to filter water from.

The area around Townline Lake is the most scenic part of the trail. It is also the end of the trail and sadly there is no camping allowed around the shores of this lake.

person walking across a river
The foot crossing (river ford) at the Prairie River in Parrish

Ice Age Trail Parrish Hills Segment

1600 AMSL
1870 AMSL
2025 FT

Anywhere in the Langlade County Forest 50' from trail and water. Potential site at unnamed pond. No camping allowed near ATV Cabin off 5 Cent RD.

Directions and Trail Map

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Address for your GPS: 14700 Pine Drive, Gleason, WI 54435
| coordinates: 45.423117, -89.392340 |

From Milwaukee3.5 Hours
From Madison3 Hours
From Green Bay2 Hours
From Wausau1 Hour
From Minneapolis3.5 Hours
From Chicago5.5 Hours


spring mudpits on trail
After crossing the Prairie River there are muckey areas before the trail gains height

mud trap on a trail
Another view of the wet areas on the trail beside the Prairie River

old rusted sign
As the trail climbs in elevation it passes through the Prairie River State Fishery Area

wide trail
The trail mostly follows two track roads (troads) 

picnic shelter in grassy flat area
There is an old picnic area after the trail crosses an ATV trail. this area has space to setup a couple of tents

The IAT picks up in the woods after the picnic shelter

desolate trail
The trail crosses through several recently logged out areas that are beginning to regenerate

long water trap on a footpath
water traps continue to be a problem along this trail

overlook of a wetland lake
In some place along the Parrish Hills Segment there are views of wetlands and small lakes

person crossing a stream on logs
There are a few stream crossings that are easy to get across on the Parrish Hills Segment

freshly cut pine logs stacked up
Logging is active in the Langlade County Forest

footpath through dense pine forest
The trail approaches a pond

There is a nice area for a campsite beside the pond

Along the Ice Age Trail Parrish Hills Segment

More water traps on the east end of this segment

The picnic area at Townline Lake at the east trailhead for the Parrish Hills Segment

The east trailhead for the Parrish Hills Segment

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