Meandering the Root River

The Locale: A section of the Oak Leaf Trail, a 125 mile inter-connected, multi-use trail system in Milwaukee! This section is located in Franklin, WI and is part of what is known as the Root River Line.

Reasons to Love: This is a very beginner friendly paved hike away from the hustle and bustle of most of the Oak Leaf Trail. There are lots of parking areas along the way, which allows you to customize your hike for different lengths and views of the river.

(I’m in love with the birdhouses along this segment! Keep your eyes out for them!)

Quick Facts:

  • Fees: completely free!
  • Mileage: routes are anywhere from 2-7 miles
  • Accessibility: this is a 100% accessible trail as it is paved the whole way
  • Terrain: fairly flat, with just a few gentle slopes here and there, perfect for novice hikers (with grassy trail shoulders you can walk on easily if pavement hurts your feet)
  • Pet Friendly: dogs allowed on leash
  • Bathrooms: seasonal restrooms are available at Froemming park

Maps and Parking: There are several parking options along this segment. My personal favorite is to park on the south end at Froemming Park as it is the largest lot and has restroom facilities. However, there are small lots and roadside parking available at many of the roads the segment crosses.

Froemming Park: lot parking
Puetz Road: roadside parking
Drexel Avenue: lot parking
S. 68th Street (north of Rawson): lot parking

I have been unable to locate a good, detailed map of just this segment of the trail. However, you can explore the Oak Leaf Trail at the Milwaukee County Parks website. I’ve also created this slide show below showcasing the Google Maps trail route. The pictures start from the southern most point at Froemming Park and end at the top parking area at S. 68th Street.

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View of the Root River from the trail in winter.

Hiking Routes: Unless you go with a partner in a separate car, this will always be out-and-back hiking, meaning you will have to turn around at some point. But the great news is that you can start at several different points and choose your mileage, so you can change up this hike every time you do it!

Personally, I like to start at Froemming Park, as I’ve never seen this lot full. Sometimes the small lots off the side of the road can fill up if you aren’t there early enough. Bathrooms at a trail head are also always a plus! From Froemming Park you will head west for a short distance towards the MKE County Sports Complex and then hang a right at the trail map to head north along the Oak Leaf. From there, you can go as far as you like along a wide paved trail that takes you through some prairies, woods, and over some bridges along the Root River. I generally turn around at Drexel Road which is about 3.6 miles round trip. Approximate round trip mileages listed below:

Lots of great bridges on this hike!

Starting at Froemming Park (south to north)
Froemming Park to Rawson: 6.3 Miles
Froemming Park to 68th: 7.7 Miles

Starting at 68th Street Lot (north to south)
68th Street Lot to Rawson: 2.6 Miles
68th Street Lot to Drexel: 4 Miles
68th Street Lot to Puetz: 6 Miles
68th Street Lot to Froemming Park: 7.7 Miles

Starting at Drexel Avenue Lot
Drexel to Rawson (south to north): 2.6 Miles
Drexel to 68th (south to north): 4 Miles
Drexel to Puetz (north to south): 2.1 Miles
Drexel to Froemming (north to south): 3.7 Miles

Trail Condition Alerts: Head over to the Milwaukee County Parks website for potential updates to trail conditions and closures.

Other Recreation Opportunities: As the entire trail is paved, it is great for biking and rollerblading. Froemming Park in the south has a lot of options including a baseball diamond, softball diamond, sand volleyball court, a kids playground, and a reservable picnic area. The Milwaukee County Sports Complex is also located on the southern end near Froemming Park where for a small fee you can utilize the different basketball, softball, and volleyball courts. See the linked website for details.

Make a Day of It: When I do this section with friends, I like to hit up Mimosa down in Franklin on 27th and Ryan for brunch. This is frequently listed as one of the best brunch restaurants in the Milwaukee area, so go early or make reservations! Or, I’ll hit up O&H Danish Bakery which is also in Franklin near 27th & Ryan. They have the best Kringle to share (or not!) and the best chai latte I’ve yet to find anywhere in Wisconsin. If you are looking for something other than food, on Rawson Avenue you’ll find the Root River Center for bowling and off 68th is the Polish Center of Wisconsin where you can walk through the art gallery, play bingo, or take a class on Polish cooking and art. Oh, and special shout out to The Hill Has Eyes haunted attraction at the Rock Sports Complex off Rawson! One of the best I’ve been to and definitely worth the money. If you’re looking for something to do in October, you could make a great day out of doing this hike in the afternoon, hitting up a local restaurant for dinner, and then getting the pants scared off you at the Hill!


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