Wisconsin’s Potawatomi State Park, Door County, Hiking Along the Shoreline

Door County is one of Wisconsin’s better known tourist destinations, famous for it’s coastal towns, cherries, apples, and fish boils. If you’re looking for an activity a little more in touch with nature while visiting Door County, you don’t need to look far. With 300 miles of shoreline along Lake Michigan and Green Bay, a scenic park is never too far away. Among the numerous city and county parks, Door County is home to five state parks, making it the county with the most state parks in Wisconsin.

One of these parks is 1,200 acre Potawatomi State Park. Located on the southern end of Door County, this park sits on Sturgeon Bay (the water) and is near Sturgeon Bay (the city.) If you’re planning to camp at the park, check out my review of the campground and our campsite here.

In addition to camping, the park is popular for water sports and hiking. The park rents canoes, kayaks, and paddle boats, with a boat launch for easy access to the bay. The park does not have a swimming beach because of its rocky shoreline.

The park is also popular with hikers, both those planning to hike within the park and those planning to hike through the park. The park itself has nearly seven miles of trails but also contains the Ice Age Trail’s eastern trailhead with a 2.8 mile segment of the 1000 mile trail within the park boundaries. This segment is a good place to test out the trail and perhaps, someday, will be where you begin or end your 1000 mile journey.

Not feeling up to 1000 miles, we opted to try out some of the trails belonging to the park. While the Ice Age Trail has me thinking about my next great adventure, I’ll focus on Potawatomi’s trails for now.

Helpful links to follow along:

Park Website
Trail Descriptions
Park Map

We began our hike from the southern campground and took the Tower Trail to the Old Ski Hill Overlook, the Ice Age Trailhead, and back. Let’s hike!

Tower Trail

Length: 3.6 mile loop
Difficulty: Moderate – this trail has several hills, although none are overly steep
Description: This trail hugs the shoreline as it travels to the old observation tower and highest point in the park

We began this trail near the campground on the shore side. The first thing I noticed was the breeze coming off the water and the sound of waves.

Enjoy frequent views of the water as you go. This part of the trail had numerous tree roots on the path. It was hard not to trip as I wanted to stare at the bay the entire time.

In addition to the sound of waves, the sound of boats was a fairly frequent accompaniment.

Fair warning, most of the pictures on this page are of water.

Hiking this trail will allow you an up close view of a navigation marker for ships. If this is something you find neat and wanted to see, well, here you go!

Another boat cruising by.

Rocks line the trail in addition to frequent tree roots.

Since the trail is a loop, you can stay straight on it or curve inland towards the tower site. We opted for the inland route, which brought us up some stone steps. This direction on the trail heads to the highest point in the park so you should expect some elevation changes. The destination on this trail is called the old ski hill overlook, so that should be a clue about the impending hills too.

Away from the shore is like a different world. Tall trees line the trail. These trees might inspire you to find an obnoxiously long walking stick. Try to fight that temptation, lest you be like Nick here.

Forests of ferns with a majestic glow through the canopy.

I might be bursting some bubbles here but despite this trail being called the Tower Trail, there isn’t actually a functional tower for you to visit. An 89 year old tower still stands but it’s closed to visitors due to significant wood decay. It’s pretty sad, I bet the view is amazing from up there.

Since I didn’t have the option to visit the top, here is a borrowed photo from the Door County Pulse showing the view we can never have. Here’s to hoping for renovations and restoration.

Continuing on the trail brings you to the Old Ski Hill overlook which, as the name suggests, was a ski hill until 1998.

This area shares a parking lot with the Ice Age Trail’s eastern trailhead.

From here we looped back into the woods and back towards the shoreline. I admit, at this point my photo taking became lax. Not only was the trail more of the same, it was scarred with deep tread marks from some very heavy equipment and downed trees. It felt like I was hiking in a logging camp!

But soon enough we were back on the shoreline enjoying the sights and sounds of water.

Some of the areas open up enough to allow water access. Moxxi took advantage of this to cool down.

We enjoyed the views as we headed back to the campground.

Overall this was a very pleasant hike. I feel impartial whenever I get to hike next to water. The inland portions of the hike were…fine, but the views on either side were very nice. If you’re exploring the area, this park is definitely worth checking out. I don’t know that this park will be a draw for me for the hiking alone, unless I’m taking on the Ice Age Trail someday, but when visiting Door County it’s worth a stop.

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