Hike around Lake Geneva, WI
May 18, 2007

Lake Geneva is a very popular vacation spot located in southern Wisconsin. It is surrounded by beautiful homes. Very few visitors are aware that there is a footpath which goes around the entire lake. Property owners are required to maintain a pedestrian right-of-way. This right-of-way doesn't have to be nice, just passable. In some cases the property owner will simply mow the grass, while in other cases the right-of-way was clearly designed by an architect and is beautifully landscaped. Occasionally the trail will leave the lake, but I'd estimate that 90% of the time you are close enough to the water to hear the waves lapping up on the shore. If you choose to complete this walk you will walk over grass, cement, asphalt, bricks, flagstone, crushed red granite, plank decking and more.

One thing to keep in mind: a hike around a lake is pretty much an all-or-nothing kind of thing. If you choose not to finish your hike, you have only one choice: to turn around. If you have any doubt about your ability to do the entire hike then go with some friends and drop off a car half way around the lake in case you need to bale.

There are very limited opportunities to get a drink or to go to the restroom. I'd guess that in some parts of the lake you will be five miles between water faucets and restrooms. Carry plenty of liquids. I carried 2 quarts of water and 2 quarts of gatorade and drank most of it. I had perfect conditions on the day of my hike - approximately 70 degrees and low humidity. If you go later in the year, you'll definitely need appropriate liquid refreshments. And don't think you can just duck into the woods to go to the restroom: this is expensive real estate and most of it is developed.

A friend recently gifted me with a pair of Keen's sandals. These things are so comfortable. I've wanted a pair for a long time but couldn't justify spending that much money on sandals for myself. I decided they might be good for a long walk, so I tried them on this hike. Now I'm not recommending that you try anything new on a 21+ mile walk, but that's what I did. They worked well for me. I don't know that I'd wear them on a long walk over rough terrain, but for this walk they worked fine. I did wear some Smart Wool socks as well. I had a couple of blisters which didn't come to the surface until I got home.

I'm not really sure how long this hike is. On the internet I see mileages ranging from 21 to 26 miles. I finished the walk in 7 hours 45 minutes. I was very pleased with the results, especially when I consider that just two months ago I needed my wife or son to help me walk from the bedroom to the bathroom while I was recovering from cellulitis in my leg.

Post script, July 2010. I received an email from Ann Day of Paddock Lake, Wisconsin, who shared the photos from her hike around Lake Geneva. She consented to me posting this link to her photos: http://www.associatedcontent.com/slideshow/56002/the_21_mile_shore_path_around_lake.html?cat=32

I started my walk just west of downtown Lake Geneva.
Note the hotel -- I'll point it out again later.

A perfect day!

Floating dock house.

One of very few stretchs of the path which is sidewalk.

Example of brick right-of-way.

This mansion is a Lake Geneva landmark for obvious reasons.

Very few boats are in the water yet. Just wait a couple of weeks!

It's a big lake! Bigger than it appears in this picture!

An example of guest room / boat house.

This reminded me of my sister Diana's wedding on Chesapeake Bay.

Sometimes the path goes so close to peoples' homes that I actually felt like an intruder!

As you can see, it's strictly legal.

Occasionally you get just a little higher up and you get an entirely different view of where you've been and where you're going.

Outbuilding made of landscape timbers. This is the closest to something I could afford!

Cheryl's and Emma's favorite. It's the screened porch.

Sometimes quaint signage.

It's not a boat! It's for entertaining on the lakefront. Built to look like a boat!

Country club.

The arrow points to the hotel near where I started my hike.
How far have I gone? I have no idea!

Path actually goes right under the club house!

Me, enjoying a perfect hike on a perfect day.

Baby geese with mom and dad.


Looks like I might be getting to the other side of the lake. NOT! Just like mountain climbers have to deal with false summits, when walking around a large lake you have the same thing. Go around the corner and there's what appears to be another whole lake! It happended several times to me!

Only at Lake Geneva would you find this old joke on an engraved plaque!

One of the more fancy parts of the "foot path".

The boat docks are taken out of the water in the winter. This amphibious vehicle is used to lift the docks from the shore and position them in place in the water. There was lots of dock work going on today.

The dome is the Yerkes Observatory, which I believe is owned by the University of Chicago.

This beach at Fontana is the approximated half-way point.

This property owner has a private lift to transport someone from the home to the lake. I saw several of these around the lake.

On the west side of Williams Bay looking east.

This beach at Williams Bay is our family's favorite.

Now I'm on the east side of Williams Bay looking west.

In some cases the footpath crosses large grassy common areas shared by many homes.

I don't imagine this guy is too popular with his neighbors, but as a native of southern California I was pleased to see my home state's flag!


Crushed red granite walkway.

Three story boathouse with railroad tracks to winch the boat in or to roll it out!

I'm almost done!

Columbine is a personal favorite.

This statue reminded me of my daughter Cora, a flute performance major at Michigan State University.

My Keens served me well!

Copyright © 2007 by Bill Qualls. Last updated July 11, 2010.