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Mauthe Lake at Kettle Moraine
Mauthe Lake at Kettle Moraine. For more photos, check out the gallery »



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If you are planning a fall getaway to the northern part of Wisconsin’s Kettle Moraine State Forest, I can offer only two words of advice: Get lost.

That’s what happened to me during one of my first visits to the 30,000-acre forest, an area crisscrossed by narrow county highways with a tendency to abruptly change either their direction or the letter designations that serve as their names. In the days before GPS tracking devices, I spent an autumn afternoon gloriously disoriented by the alphabet-soup array of roads and the kaleidoscopic display of colors reeling by my car window. Enthralled, I pulled over and set off on a trail through the forest, where I wandered beneath a golden canopy of yellowed leaves brilliantly backlit by the October sun. My only regret? I found my way back home.

Getting lost may be a bit extreme, so begin your exploration of the northern Kettle Moraine by visiting its website, where you can download a map of the forest and its trails, as well as detailed instructions for following the 115-mile Kettle Moraine Scenic Drive. You can gather more information at the forest headquarters in Campbellsport and at the Henry S. Reuss Ice Age Visitor Center, which explains the forest’s geologic origins and topographic features.

Although the drive is alluring, be sure to get out of your car and take a hike. Ditch your auto, for instance, at the small parking lot on Highway U and walk the three-and-a-half-mile Parnell Tower Trail, which features a 60-foot observation tower. Cyclists will want to check out the off-road Lake-to-Lake Bike Trail, which runs between Mauthe and Long lakes. A photographer’s dream, the lakes serenely mirror the brightly hued trees clustered along the shoreline.

Kettle Moraine offers several worthwhile camping options that work in any season. But 25 miles to the southwest, the 32,000-acre Horicon Marsh—the largest fresh-water cattail marsh in the country—is a magnet for migrating birds in the fall. Set up camp at one of four little Dodge County parks (perched on the Niagara Escarpment, Ledge Park overlooks the marsh) and spend the next day exploring the marsh. Tired, hungry, and in need of a hot shower, get lost in a little luxury with a pampered night at the American Club in Kohler, with its opulent spa, world-class golfing, and a wide range of dining options.



American Club 419 Highland Dr., Kohler; 800-344-2838,

Dodge County camping 920-386-3700,

Horicon Marsh is divided into a national wildlife refuge (W4279 Headquarters Rd., Mayville; 920-387-2658, and a state wildlife area (N7728 Hwy. 28, Horicon; 920-387-7860,

Kettle Moraine State Forest (northern unit) N1765 Hwy. G, Campbellsport; 262-626-2116,

Henry S. Reuss Ice Age Visitor Center is half a mile west of Dundee on Highway 67.


Photograph: © Spring Images/Alamy