Leaving our cousins’ house outside of Chicago, we had some time to kill before our flight out of Milwaukee so we wanted to find a great place to explore. At the recommendation of our cousin, we decided to visit Grant Park in Southeast Milwaukee to hike the Seven Bridges Trail down to Lake Michigan. It was an amazing morning and we really loved it. It is definitely worth the stop for anyone with some time between Milwaukee and Chicago.
What is the Seven Bridges trail
The Seven Bridges Trail is a beautiful and easy trail (about 2 miles total) through a beautiful forest along a small stream that eventually reaches Lake Michigan at Grant Park Beach. It is located in the beautiful and spacious Grant Park in South East Milwaukee, Wisconsin.
There are technically two trails of the Seven Bridges Trail, but there are actually dozens of small trails that branch off and explore the forest, go up and down stone stairs, offer fantastic views and cross a small stream.
It was so fun to hike the old stone stairs around the hills and explore with our girls, who played all kinds of imaginative games in this great place. This particular set of stairs led to a fantastic view of the lake.
How to Get to the Seven Bridges Trail
The Seven Bridges Trail is just southeast of the MKE airport. From the I-94, you will want to take the College Avenue exit, heading east. You will take College Avenue pretty much until it ends, then turn right (south) on Lake Drive. A short drive later, turn left (east) at the second right on Grant Park Drive. There will be a few places that look like pullouts on Grant Park Drive, you will know you are at the right parking area because it has a bridge with a big arch just a stone’s through from the parking spaces. The bridge you will see from the road is below.
Which trail to take?
The first decision to make when you reach the Seven Bridges Trail is which trail to take. If you are like us, you will immediately assume you should cross the bridge and just head straight. Doing so will leave you at a pavilion with tables and benches, but little else. You can see us about to make our mistaken choice in paths below.
There are four trails at this parking spot. Three of the trails fork off right after you cross the bridge. The trail heading left will take you along a small bluff over the stream and eventually down to the stream and the beach. This trail is decent, but it isn’t the best one.
The best trail to the beach is the trail you don’t even recognize at first because it veers left from the parking lot before you even reach the bridge. You can see us posing on the right trail above. This trails immediately drops downhill and follows the stream to the beach.
What to expect on the trail
The trail has some easy elevation changes with good stairs, but the level parts of the trail are easy-to-maneuver dirt paths. You can expect to find plenty of beautiful trees letting just enough sunlight through.
The trail follows a very peaceful little stream that tumbles downhill through lots of big rocks toward the lake.
Along the trail, there are several points where the stream widens up a bit and offers little sandy areas that are great for the kids to play. On a warm summer day, my kids would have absolutely loved stopping to play every five minutes (not that they didn’t ask to play in the water every 20 feet anyways).
If you go in the spring like we did, not only are the trees a beautiful shade of green, there are plenty of little pockets of wildflowers.
Of course, the picture opportunities are abundant around every corner if you have a willing model.
The beautiful trail opens up to a very scenic opening where the majestic Lake Michigan is in sight.
From a photographer’s view, Grant Park Beach is not very scenic. The compositions are not very plentiful as it is just a small beach and the lake without interesting foregrounds, although I bet it does frequently get good sunrises. We weren’t there during great lighting so I didn’t try too hard.
Despite not being the most scenic beach, the kids still had fun running around. There are lots of rocks to throw and sticks to play with.
The downside is you can expect a lot of wind coming off the lake. We were there on a pretty chilly spring day and the family couldn’t make it too long on the beach before it was time to head back. The trail even looks awesome from the beach.
Visit the Playground
If you are heading to the Seven Bridges Trail with kids, it is well worth a quick drive down the street to visit the playground. From the Seven Bridges trail head, head south a couple miles down Grant Park Drive and you will see the playground on the west side of the road.
The playground was empty when we went, but I would imagine it gets a bit busier during better weather on weekend afternoons. As far as playgrounds go, it was a pretty good set of equipment.
Our kids loved the zipline, swings, and unique climbing structures. There are also bathrooms at the playground, which can be a welcome site after some hiking, so if you need a bathroom after your hike, this is your place anyway.