Oak Leaf Trail

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The Oak Leaf Trail is a paved trail system that stems 118 miles long throughout and around Milwaukee, Wisconsin. It was created by Harold Morgan in 1939 - originally only having 64 miles worth of trail, and has been continuously added on to since. The trail is a great place for hiking, as well as connecting the many attractions within Milwaukee. These include, but are not limited to, things such as museums, national parks, Lake Michigan, and many others.

Naming the Trail

Harold Morgan created the Oak Leaf Trail in 1939, where it then only went around the outside of Milwaukee county - primarily using Milwaukee's parkways. It was primarily used by bicyclists, and after a few decades, it was named the 76 Bike Trail. This was due to the fact that the trail had grown to 76 miles and due to the year 1976 that it was named. After many years of the trail being expanded and maintained by Milwaukee county, it no longer made sense to call it the 76 bike trail, and in 1996, it was renamed The Oak Leaf Trail.

Present Day

Today the Oak Leaf Trail spans across 118 miles, and loops around Milwaukee County. The original path is still included within the trail, and new sections are in plans to be added within the next decade. The trail is paved-off road, and includes streets within Milwaukee - as well as parkway drives. The trail also runs along one of the edges of Lake Michigan. The trail is currently being upheld and maintained by the Milwaukee County Trails Council. The trails network plan is also being updated once again, and is planned to be published in 2019 (last edited in 2007). After it is updated, it will have plans for the next five to ten years. The trail also serves as a gateway to the Route of the Badger trail system which is a trail system that spans 340 miles, and eventually will reach 500 miles and span across 7 counties in Wisconsin.

Trail Usage

The trail usage is relatively high year-round. During the winter, the trail is a large part of the paths that commuters can take, and a large majority of the trail is cleared and plowed within 48 hours of snow. During the other seasons of the year, the path has around 1,200 users daily; during the winter, this amount cuts a little more than half away - but still has 500 daily users. The trail also features bike share stations where users of the trail are able to take bikes and use them between two stations to bike throughout the trail.

Benefits of the trail

The Oak Leaf trail coexists with nature throughout the entire trail system. The trail runs along the lake shore, as well as through forested areas and many other beautiful areas. The trail gives a walk-able route between several museums, one of the botanical gardens, several sporting venues, multiple parks and a large amount of other areas. The continuing development of the trail allows more new access points from around Milwaukee and gives many areas an easier, and friendlier pathway to get from place to place that may not have been available prior. The trail promotes healthy, physical activities - allowing people more access for their exercise. The trail also brings in tourism, which in turn helps the publicity of businesses within Milwaukee county - helping them to flourish. A large part of the trail is separate from busy highways, making it safer for younger trail-walkers to use the trail. Certain parts of the trail are beneficial for studying river and lake ecology, including its invasive species. It is also a very peaceful walkway, and can help people to feel calm and collected.

What is to come

Along with the trails network plan being updated, there is another section of the Oak Leaf Trail being placed and the anticipated by the end of May, 2018. It will connect two previous trails that are included in the trail system. It will start at the old Root River Parkway section of the trail, and connect to the existing part of the trail that is at the intersection of Loomis Road and 68th St.


Stark, Laura. "Wisconsin's Oak Leaf Trail ." December 05, 2017.



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Format: Hafej16 (2017-12-12)