GO, SEE, EXPLORE: Lions Den Nature Preserve


If there’s anything I’ve learned to appreciate about our great state in the last 18 months, it’s how much our lakefront has to offer. This summer, my kids and I made a goal of visiting and rating as many beaches on good ol’ Lake Michigan as possible. It was so. Much. Fun. That said, when all was said and done, it wasn’t surprising for us to realize one of our top Lakefront experiences has literally been in our Cedarburg backyard all this time: Lions Den Nature Preserve in Grafton.

We’ve hiked Lions Den dozens of times, and yet if I ask my kids “want to go on a hike?” their instant response is always “can we go to Lions Den?” Lions Den is our family favorite, and if you’ve never visited this local hidden gem, it won’t take you long to discover why.

Location and Hours:

511 High Bluff Dr, Grafton, WI

Lion’s Den is open year-round from 6:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m. The park is dog friendly, and features a sandy beach that accessed by hiking trail and a long set of stairs. Parking and portable toilets are only located at the entrance to the park at High Bluff Drive (so make sure you go potty before you hit the trail).

You do NOT need a sticker to get into this park – it is free to the public.

Lion’s Den Gorge Nature Preserve offers breathtaking views; start at the boardwalk from the parking lot and from there you can choose your own adventure: would you rather hike along the 100 foot bluffs on a more rugged yet well maintained trail, or would you prefer to venture through the woods on the wheelchair (and stroller) friendly gravel path? Whichever you choose, either trail will lead you to the roughly 100 step wood stairway which leads down to the sandy Lake Michigan beach.

No matter how many times I try to tell myself, “we’ll just go for a hike: no swimming today,” the truth is, the Lake Michigan waves are completely irresistible. Take a note from me, and be sure you bring a change of clothes, if not a bathing suit and towel. Your kids WiLL get wet.

Be sure to bring a snack and water, to refuel before starting your climb back up the staircase and back to the parking lot. Or enjoy a picnic lunch on one of the picnic tables or benches along the bluff trails.

Lions Den is a fabulous visit all year long. The fall colors are gorgeous in the autumn, the snow-covered bluffs are absolutely striking against the aquamarine Lake Michigan waves in winter, and the earliest, hope-filled signs of spring can be found along the Lions Den trails.


Regardless of when you visit, Lions Den Gorge Nature Preserve offers a gorgeous respite from the everyday humdrum and a visit is sure to renew your appreciation for everything our beautiful lakefront has to offer.

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A Milwaukee native, Heather married her best friend 10 years ago, and has lived something of a nomadic lifestyle ever since. Schooling, family, disaster relief work, and a sense of adventure have moved them fourteen times (via 5 states) in 10 years. Regardless of her immediate location, Heather has continually heard Milwaukee calling her "home". Now raising a six year old, four year old, and two year old twins, and a newborn, she and her husband finally decided to plant roots, and are thrilled to be calling the Milwaukee area their (maybe) forever home. When she's not chasing around her growing brood or sweeping up cheerios, Heather can be found experimenting with recipes, failing at the Pinterest life, or finding new outlets for her singing and theatrical passions. Heather is currently working on her Masters in Marriage and Family Therapy and has a special interest in community development and adolescent issues.


  1. Was just there last week-Lion’s Den now has a permanent facility with indoor toilets and running water and drinking fountains. There is a covered open air area with a concrete base that has picnic tables. AS slways they continue to offer Poop bags- yet they do not have them at the start of the trail-but along the way.


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