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In 1957, baseball legend Hank “The Hammer” Aaron led the Milwaukee Braves to the first of two consecutive World Series appearances and a championship over the usually dominant New York Yankees. In 2004, the State of Wisconsin opened the first segment of the Hank Aaron State Trail, commemorating his many accomplishments as a ballplayer. Aaron’s baseball successors, the Milwaukee Brewers, now play at Miller Park, within sight of the trail.
The trail, which spans the breadth of Milwaukee County, begins at Lakeshore State Park in Milwaukee, where it overlooks Lake Michigan to the east and provides breathtaking views of the downtown Milwaukee skyline to the north. Ample parking is available under the Hoan Bridge, south of the Summerfest Grounds, which movie buffs may recognize as the site of a famous chase scene from the 1980 movie The Blues Brothers.
Riders heading west will make their way through a brief on-street section, passing through the thriving Historic Third Ward, and emerge to pick up the trail again in the Menomonee River Valley. Attractions are numerous in this resurgent part of town; fans of another form of two-wheeled transport might stop by the Harley-Davidson Museum off North Sixth Street.
Continuing west, riders can take the Valley Passage across the Menomonee River to visit the Urban Ecology Center, Three Bridges Park, and the historic Mitchell Park Horticultural Conservatory (“The Domes”). Returning to the main trail, fans will recognize Miller Park baseball stadium with its retractable roof.
The Soldiers Home Historic District lies between Miller Park to the north and the Clement J. Zablocki VA Medical Center to the south, providing a historic contrast with its modern neighbors; this was a place for veterans of the Civil War to recuperate before reentering society. Emerging west of the Soldiers Home, the path straightens and stays level for most of the way to the trail’s western endpoint. At South 84th Street, the trail connects to the Oak Leaf Trail, which traces a messy figure eight throughout the Milwaukee metro area.
The trail terminates at another meeting point with the Oak Leaf Trail, this one just west of 121st Street.
To reach the eastern trailhead at Lakeshore State Park from I-43, take Exit 72B toward Lakefront. After 0.8 mile, merge onto I-794 E., and keep right to stay on I-794 E. After 0.2 mile, take the exit on the left toward N. Lincoln Memorial Dr., and go 0.3 mile. Turn right onto N. Lincoln Memorial Dr., and go 0.4 mile. Turn left onto E. Polk St., and then make an immediate right on an unnamed road. Go 0.2 mile, and then turn left to cross under I-794—note that this road may be closed at certain times or on certain days. In another 0.2 mile, look for parking on your right after the crossing.
Parking and trail access are also at Mitchell Park Horticultural Conservatory, south of the trail at 524 S. Layton Blvd. in Milwaukee. From I-94 heading north, take Exit 311 toward SR 59/National Ave., following the exit about 0.5 mile north and then west. Turn right onto S. Ninth St.—look for the signs for SR 59/National Ave./Harley-Davidson Museum. Turn left at the first cross street onto W. National Ave. Go 1.3 miles, and turn right (north) onto S. Layton Blvd. In 0.3 mile, turn right into the parking lot for Mitchell Park Horticultural Conservatory. You can access a trail spur on the left side of The Domes (if you’re facing the complex) that heads north and west through Three Bridges Park, then south to the trail spur at the Urban Ecology Center.
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