New Glarus Woods is an adorable Wisconsin state park that is the perfect half-day or day trip with kids! The park is fairly small but beautiful. There is an easy biking trail that leads 2.5 miles to town. New Glarus, which is only 45 minutes south of downtown Madison, has a unique downtown with plenty of food options. The kids and I had a great time.
The Playground at New Glarus Woods
First of all, New Glarus Woods State Park hosts an impressive play set. It includes slides, rock climbs, tunnels, and bridges. A rocky border around the park gives a perfect place for caretakers to sit and observe. There are plenty of surrounding tables if you plan on having a picnic.
Hiking with kids at New Glarus Woods
There is a beautiful and bite-sized hike that leaves right from the playground. The Basswood Nature Trail is a 1/2-mile loop that returns you right back to the play area and parking lot. It slopes down first and then gently back up. There are interpretive signs along the way for those looking to learn a bit more about the trees and ecology. One thing that always makes hiking with kids easier for me is a hydration pack and great snacks! I use a Gregory Miwok 18. It’s big enough to carry a light extra layer for everyone as well as snacks. The hydration straw is easier to use than always getting out a water bottle.
If you want a longer loop I recommend taking the Basswood trail, to the Chattermark trail, to the Fox Trail, the the Havenridge trail. Check out the map here. That leads you back to the Basswood trail. Another good option would be he Bison Nature trail. You can bike or walk to the trailhead which is just past the walk-in camp sites.
Bike to New Glarus
If your family is up for a bike ride, follow the trail from the play-set area to the walk-in campgrounds. That leads you to the Sugar River Trail Spur which is approximately 2.5 miles. It connects to the Sugar River Trail at 11th ave and State Highway 69 which is right in the town of New Glarus.
There are several great options to grab lunch. We chose Glarner Stube which is a quaint Swiss Bar/Restaurant. The waitress kindly split a plate for my kids. For the adults, I recommend the Reuben and Roesti. For pizza, I would check out the Sugar River Pizza Company. If you want a sweet treat try the New Glarus Bakery or Kennedy’s for ice cream. If you need a little pick me for the adults, check out Fat Cat Coffee. They serve a limited breakfast and lunch as well.
Many people recommend the New Glarus Brewery. While I certainly enjoy their brews, I haven’t been to the brewery itself. You have to ride along a fairly busy road to bike there. It is only for a short time but it wasn’t right for us at this time. You could stop by with your car if you have some time as it it right next to New Glarus Woods State Park.
Nearby Activities for Kids
There are so many things in this area to do with kiddos! If you have a train lover in your group, check out the Toy Train Barn Museum. It’s only about 20 minutes away.
Madison is filled with things to do for all ages! One of our favorites is the Henry Vilas Zoo. It is free so there is no pressure to stay long enough to “make it worth it.” They have plenty of animals including orangutans, tigers, polar bears, meerkats, and more. There is a large playground inside the zoo. Madison also has a fantastic children’s museum. If you are looking for more outdoor and free fun, check out Winnequah Dream Park. It is a large fantastical playground.
If you are heading Northwest, don’t miss Cave of the Mounds and Havens Petting Farm.
Nearby State Parks
Here at WiscoExplorer, we LOVE state parks. There are plenty nearby. Yellowstone Lake is 35 minutes west. There is a small play set, hikes of varying lengths, a beach, and a campground. Blue Mounds is 35 minutes northwest. There is a great playground, a pool, some short hikes, and two observation towers.
This cute park is great for a short trip. New Glarus Woods State Park is perfect for kids. The playground is top notch, the hiking is manageable for little legs, and the near-by town of New Glarus is adorable. We also loved how bike-able the area is. If you’re looking for a fun day trip this could fit the bill! What did I miss? Anything you love to do with your kids at New Glarus Woods State Park?