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The 21-mile Geneva Lake shore path allows hikers to literally walk through the back yards of striking century-old mansions. The path was created by the region’s earliest settlers who dictated that the 20 feet of land directly up from the shoreline be deemed public domain. Today, their edict provides walkers with an unprecedented view of some of the most beautiful homes and landscaping in the Midwest.
According to the Geneva Lake Conservancy, many of the original landowners retained a staff of gardeners or in some instances, professional landscape designers including Olaf Benson, a landscape architect for the City of Chicago; Jens Jensen, superintendent of Chicago’s Humboldt Park and the Olmsted Brothers, whose partnership was descended from the practice of Frederick Law Olmsted, “the father of landscape architecture in America,” and one of the architects behind Central Park in New York City, Chicago’s Grant Park and Golden Gate Park in San Francisco.
There are several guides that provide a narrative of the Geneva Lake shore path and serve as terrific aids as you walk the shoreline. Lake Geneva: The History and the Mystery is an informative booklet that takes readers on a three-mile walk along the prestigious north shore of the shore path. Here, readers will find a wealth of information on the history of the opulent estates that dot the shores of Geneva Lake including a peak into the lives of Lake Geneva’s rich and famous in this grandiose era. An intriguing scavenger hunt also makes for great entertainment with your walking buddies.
Touring the Geneva Lake Shore Path serves as a map and guide of the shore path and includes six separate walks ranging from 1.5 to 6.3 miles. The guide, which contains exceptional color photography of many lakefront estates, includes points of interest, area history, distance, path conditions, public access information and a helpful explanation “to help you on your way.” Both publications can be found at local stores.
A walk along the shore path is a must for visitors. Be sure to wear comfortable shoes, carry water and bring a camera for snapshots of the beautiful surroundings.