Winter Trails: Hike, Ski, and Snowshoe, 2023–24

Cross-country skiers on Curtis Prairie service lane

Skiers on Curtis Prairie service lane (Photo: Jeff Miller/UW–Madison)

The Arboretum is prepared for snow! For visitors, that means a season of winter hiking, skiing, and snowshoeing. The trail system includes footpaths, boardwalks, and fire lanes. We recommend sturdy, closed-toe, weather-appropriate shoes or boots. Trails may be uneven, muddy, icy, snow-packed, or flooded, depending on weather and season.

Winter hiking is permitted on all 17 miles of Arboretum trails unless otherwise posted in the field. We have designated more than 10 miles of ski and snowshoe trails. Ski and snowshoe trails are multi-use service lanes and are not groomed. Hikers may use these trails as well, and Arboretum crew vehicles may use them to access natural areas for winter restoration projects.

map of ski trails winter 2020–2021
The ski/snowshoe trail map is posted at trailheads. Click image for larger view.

The official ski and snowshoe map is posted outside the Visitor Center and at trailheads. (Download ski map PDF) For your safety and to protect restorations, use only designated and marked trails.

Below are some frequently asked questions about our winter trails policy. Enjoy winter at the Arboretum—and thank you for your cooperation!

Where Can I Ski or Snowshoe?

Please use only designated ski/snowshoe routes. Routes are marked in the field and on the winter trail use map. In Longenecker Horticultural Gardens, ski and snowshoe trails are marked with blue-tipped stakes. Throughout the trail system, most ski routes are on service lanes with some connecting trail segments. Ski trails are multi-use (including land care vehicles) and are not groomed.

Snowy trail in woods with brown sign that says "no skis or snowshoes."
Trail marked for hiking only, no skis or snowshoes.

Some trails are designated for hiking only and are not open to skis and snowshoes. These paths have “No skis or snowshoes” signs at the trailhead. Always stay on trails: going off trail compacts snow and ice, damaging plants—even in winter—and disrupting subnivian (beneath the snow) habitat for overwintering animals. Where possible, please avoid snowshoeing and hiking in ski tracks.

Where Can I Hike?

As always, hiking is permitted only on designated trails. Hikers may use the full trail system unless otherwise marked in the field. When using shared use trails that are open to skiing, please avoid hiking in ski tracks. Skiers and snowshoers should stay off “hike only” trails. To protect plant and animal habitat under the snow, please stay on trails at all times.

Why Are Some Trails Closed?

Trails may be closed due to hazards or frequently changing conditions. For example, a trail section may have a fallen tree, storm water flooding, or sharply broken ice patches. Trails through sensitive restorations or newly seeded areas will also be marked off limits to skiing, snowshoeing, and hiking.