Wisconsin is considered the land of cheese and beer. And while that’s true, it is also the land of beautiful running terrain, especially in Door County, with 300 miles of shoreline and more than 50 beaches and parks. Rightfully so, it is considered one of the state’s top recreational destinations. If you’re heading to the area soon or are in need of some new adventures, here are some road and trail runs to experience in Door County.
Peninsula State Park, with 3,776 acres and eight miles of Green Bay shoreline, is a trail runner’s treasure trove with a variety of types of footing, including the Sunset Bike Trail, which is almost 10 miles of paved and gravel path that makes its way around the peninsula.
Eagle Trail is a short and famously scenic loop that can easily be integrated into longer runs or done on its own. The 150-foot cliffs and forested route include some rocky sections that run right along the shore of Eagle Harbor and is rich with some remarkable fall foliage.
There are also 20 miles of more rugged trails, some rather rocky, most in deep forest and all never too far from a cooling plunge in the Bay, should you feel you are overheating or want a post-run refreshing dip. In the winter some of the trails are groomed for Nordic skiing.
Whitefish Dunes Park, on the eastern shore of Door County and is home to Wisconsin’s highest sand dune and can be linked to nearby Cave Point County Park to get some sandy and flat running in, especially if you want to hammer out some quicker miles on shorter routes like Brachipod, Green or Black trails. Cave Point’s tide pools are worth visiting, where waves crash against the water-carved recessed rock walls and have created dramatic pools and watching the liquid violence is mesmerizing.
Other than the more trafficked main throughways of 42 and 57, Door County’s roads are runner friendly and quiet. As a prime example, you can run from Little Harbor to Egg Harbor, heading north for a flat, fast out-and-back or one-way by taking Bay Shore Drive to Horseshoe Bay Road then White Cliff Road to Island View Road. A pleasant mix of treelined roads and open shorefront allows for shade or a cooling breeze and compelling views of the Bay.
Nicolet Beach plays host to the scenic Door County Half Marathon, scheduled for May 4, 2019. The route goes through the quiet forested Peninsula State Park, along the shores of Green Bay, up the bluffs of Niagara Escarpment, offering an overlook of Eagle Bluff Lighthouse, Sven’s Bluff and Nicolet Bay.
When you aren’t running, there is plenty to do in Door County. Not surprisingly, many of the other activities center around water: swimming, kayaking, stand-up paddle boarding, parasailing and boat tours. But there is also plenty of hiking, biking, golf, and, in the winter, Nordic skiing, snowshoeing, and ice fishing. Not surprisingly, Door County is a favorite recreational getaway for Chicagoland residents.
Eating & Drinking
And, to fuel all those activities in what is considered a top-ten vacation destination in North America, there are some sensational food and beverage stops to make along the 70-mile-long peninsula jutting into Lake Michigan.
For breakfast, Julie’s Park Café is conveniently located near the entrance to Peninsula State Park, for a perfect post-run fill-up. And Door County Coffee & Tea is a coffee-lover’s homerun, especially for those into nitro and exotic roasts.
For lunch and dinner, Tomato Wood-Fired Pizza and Grille serves up a wide variety of gourmet pizzas, sure to please any a ravenous runner. Harbor Fish Market and Grille is known for, wait for it, its fish dishes but it also serves an incredible homemade garden burger and the berry and cherry pies are outstanding. And, as a Door County classic treat that harkens back to the area’s Scandinavian roots, a fish Fry at Rowley’s Bay Restaurant is both a feast and cultural, flame-filled experience, complete with a storyteller who colorfully plays out the history of the delicious tradition and Rowley’s Bay Restaurant.
Another not-to-miss venue in Door County is the Stabbur Beer Garden at Al Johnson’s, where goats are often seen grazing on the grass roof of this Swedish, family-owned establishment. And beer connoisseurs should also check out Door County Brewing Company.
But, a visit to Door County wouldn’t be complete without dessert and that’s where Wilson’s Restaurant and Ice Cream Parlor, a retro 50’s style diner, is sure to please with its ice cream cones, malts, milk shakes, sundaes and banana splits, all with a cherry on top.