Up for the Newport Hiking Challenge?

Hiking challenge explores Newport State Park

Even on the nicest of days, we sometimes need a little extra motivation to get outdoors and move. OutWiGo, a statewide program whose purpose is to get more people outdoors, is trying to do its part by offering trail challenges: weekly hikes that explore the trail systems of some of Wisconsin’s state parks. In Door County, both Peninsula and Newport state parks are offering trail challenges this summer.
I’ll be exploring the latter by participating in several hikes as part of the Trails of Newport State Park Challenge. To kick off the challenge, I began with two fairly approachable trails that clocked in at a little more than a mile apiece, and each with its own distinctive characteristics. 

The Fern/Europe Bay Trail Loop: 1.2 miles

The challenge starts on the Fern Trail, the shortest trail in Newport State Park. Picking it up in parking lot 3 (and after getting turned around briefly), I began at the trailhead. 

Though it took me a few minutes to realize it, the Fern Trail is much wider than most trails, which are normally single-file lanes. Instead, this loop could easily fit two or three people side by side at some points. 

When I went through, Fern Trail was in the midst of renovations, so all the boardwalks were pulled up. When they’re in place, however, the loop is wheelchair accessible. 

The trail is quite flat, considering the low-lying hills alongside it, and the roots and rocks that are prevalent on many of the forest trails in the county were missing. Even without the boardwalks (and with the mud pits they left behind), the trail was easily traversable by foot.

Though I was out there at 3 pm on a too-hot day, I was cool on the completely shaded trail. Emerging on the other side onto the bright, sandy beach at the end of the Europe Bay Trail, however, had me scrambling for my sunglasses.

It took me only a half-hour, and if I’d remembered bug spray, it would have been a perfect hike.

The Fern Trail Loop ends at one of the beaches on Newport Bay – a great place to hop in for a swim after a hike. It’s also right next to the park’s night-sky viewing area.

The Sugarbush Trail: 1.3 miles

I tackled this trail with roughly 25 other people, but one of the great things about the hike challenge is that you can still go at your own pace. One staff member leads the hike, and one walks at the end to make sure everyone’s on the right path and to help clear any debris.

The Sugarbush Trail was mostly clear, but because I was near the front, there were a few tree branches to clear out of the way and one dead tree that snagged my keychain. It’s a wooded path, unlike the Fern Trail, so there were rocks, tree roots and other obstacles on our walk.

Though I normally prefer hiking alone, I enjoyed striking up conversations with the others who were participating in the trail challenge. Whether you choose to join the group or hike the paths yourself, though, you’re guaranteed beautiful views of the forest around you.

Park staff and hike leader Lynn Reuter likened it to a deciduous forest trek, with the leaves coating the dirt paths and nature roving over the top of them. It got my heart rate up without tiring me out, and it was a great jump start for my morning.

Next Up

June 30: Monarch Trail, 1.75 miles

July 7: Upland Trail, 2 miles 

If you’d like to join the trail challenge, show up any Thursday at 9 am at the trailhead that’s designated for that week’s hike. Check the Newport State Park Facebook page or for the exact meeting locations and hike details.