John Muir Loop

One of the best trails in Southern Wisconsin.

Hiking Moderate

17 km
222 m
222 m
3-4 hrs
Low Point
262 m
High Point
305 m
John Muir Loop Map

The Southern Unit of Wisconsin's Kettle Moraine State Forest is home to an extensive trail system known alternatively as the "John Muir Trails" or "Emma Carlin." The two names come from the respective trailheads and trail loops at either end of the trail network. Despite having distinct names, singletrack runs between the two networks, effectively creating a lengthy network that is quite rare in this region of the Midwest. Easily accessible from three major metropolitan areas (Chicago, Milwaukee, and Madison), the high-quality singletrack attracts thousands of trail users every year.


To help keep up with the demand on the facilities and trail maintenance, out of state trail users will have to pay $11 for a day parking sticker. However, if you're an in-state local and plan to ride here often, an annual parking pass is just $28.

So, are the trails worth the cost to hike? Compared to most other trails in the region, the short answer is "yes!”

The trails at John Muir run through a beautiful forest despite having been built in relatively flat Southern Wisconsin terrain. The singletrack swoops and flows through the tight trees. Deeper into the network, the trails get a little steeper and offer a bit more climbing to keep you honest. A few small pothole lakes provide a delightful respite from the thick woodlands.

If you’d prefer a shorter hike, John Muir provides several shorter loops and bailout options than the one mapped here. The Brown Loop is just 1.25 miles; the White Loop is 3.05 miles; the Rainy Dew Pass trail is 4.66 miles; the Orange Loop is 4.95 miles; and the Green Loop is 7.07 miles. The route mapped here primarily follows the Blue Loop, but feel free to modify this route to your heart’s desire!

Note: trail users on foot must travel counter-clockwise, against the direction of bike travel.



Hiking along trails with some uneven terrain and small hills. Small rocks and roots may be present.

Low Exposure

1 out of 4

The path is on completely flat land and potential injury is limited to falling over.


2 out of 4

Away from help but easily accessed.

Best time to visit

April, May, June, July, August, September, October, November


  • Family friendly
  • Forestry or heavy vegetation

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