Geneva Lake Shore Path
*** The Shore Path is OPEN ***
Please follow recommended social distancing guidelines. Also remember that the Shore Path runs through public and private properties, so please be respectful of homeowners as well as other path walkers.
The Shore Path around Geneva Lake offers you an up close view of historic estates and stunning homes with beautifully landscaped yards and gardens. As you enjoy a walk along the lake's shore, you'll be mesmerized by the clear blue waters of the lake and the tranquility of sailboats, excursion boats and even antique vessels as they glide across the pristine waters. Sunsets over Geneva Lake are as special as they come, and watching one from anywhere along the Shore Path is an experience you won't soon forget. There is so much beauty around Geneva Lake that you'll want to explore it over and over again, taking in new sights from different segments of the path. The shore line of Geneva Lake is approximately 21 miles, but the path reaches up to almost 26 miles as it weaves in and out of wooded areas along the shoreline.
WHAT TO EXPECT
While it may be tempting to admire the beauty of the homes and gardens you see around the lake a bit closer, homeowners politely request that visitors be respectful and remain on the path and not venture into their lawns, gardens, piers or boathouses. Here are a few more things to keep in mind to enjoy your the Geneva Lake Shore Path experience to its fullest:
- The ideal way to hike the Shore Path is to wear sturdy shoes with a good tread to prevent slipping.
- Path surfaces vary from grass, cement and brick to wood, stepping stones and gravel. Some areas are hilly, narrow or wind through wooded areas close to the shoreline. Walk with care!
- Bicycles, skates/skateboards and motorized vehicles are not permitted on the Shore Path.
- Strollers are not recommended as portions of the path can be uneven.
- Dogs are welcome on the path as long as they are leashed and picked up after.
- The Shore Path should be used during daylight hours only.
- Please leave the path with what you brought and deposit trash in public receptacles after your walk.
- Public restrooms and water fountains can be found along the Shore Path at the VISIT Lake Geneva Information Center (Lake Geneva), Edgewater Park (Williams Bay), Reid Park (Fontana) and Big Foot Beach State Park (Lake Geneva).
THE SHORE PATH HISTORY
A historic marker in Downtown Lake Geneva's Library Park reads “The 26-mile lakeside trail along the shore of Geneva Lake was used by several Indian cultures from 2500 BC and continuing up to 1836 AD. Chief Big Foot’s Potawatomi tribe walked the trail between their villages at present Fontana, Williams Bay and one at Lake Geneva located in this park. Later the trail became the workmen’s path from Lake Geneva to summer states of wealthy Chicago families.”
After the Great Chicago Fire of 1871, many Chicago natives made their way up to the Geneva Lake area to build summer estates that were just as impressive as their elegant Chicago homes, many of which still can be found along the shore path today.
The path has been preserved by early settlers who decreed that the “20 feet leading to the shoreline be preserved as public domain.” Property owners were responsible then - and still are today - for maintaining the path through each of their properties, which makes the trail uniquely different from one property to the next. Each property owner puts their own personal touch on their part of the shore path. Some have placed benches along the path for walkers to rest upon. Some display artwork or unique landscaping. Others might have water stations or signage welcoming walkers to the path.
RECOMMENDATIONS FOR WALKING THE SHORE PATH
The shore path is a big undertaking to walk in one try. It would take 8 to 10 hours for someone who is in average physical shape to make the 26 mile journey around Geneva Lake. It is recommended to walk it in sections, using a few public access points in Lake Geneva, Fontana, Williams Bay and at Big Foot Beach State Park. Please note that walking on private property is not permitted.
The easiest place to walk is starting at the Lake Geneva Public Library in Downtown Lake Geneva and heading out in either direction for about a mile. This piece is great for those who are traveling with young children or have mobility concerns as it is a paved section of the path. When you are ready to take on more, frequent walkers recommend starting on the south side of the path since it is a little more challenging than the north side.
The Geneva Lake Shore Path is something that everyone should take a walk through at some point in their lives. You are sure to discover something new each time you walk it, and the scenes are constantly changing throughout the seasons from the bloom of spring to the ever changing colors of fall it is a site to see!