Washington County Holy Hill Milwaukee Area

Washington County

Gateway to the Kettle Moraine

POPULATION:  138,229   COUNTY SEAT:  West Bend

Steeped in history and anchored in nature, Washington County has a distinctively rural feel. The county’s population totals just over 138,000 and is growing rapidly. Located northwest of Milwaukee, Washington County is home to some of the most beautiful lakes, hills and natural formations ever carved out by thousand-ton slabs of ice. It was here that the rims of two glaciers – Michigan and Green Bay – collided, creating a huge ridge that extends some 120 miles from southeastern Wisconsin north to Lake Winnebago. This created some of the most beautiful topography in Wisconsin. Washington County boasts more than 50 lakes and five rivers. It is home to portions of the Ice Age Trail, several units of the Kettle Moraine State Forest and Pike Lake State Park, which features Powder Hill, a 1,350-foot-high kame that was formed when the glaciers began to melt. It also is the home of the Basilica of the National Shrine of Mary, Help of Christians at Holy Hill, which attracts thousands of pilgrims each year who come to pray for good health at this beautiful setting high atop a hill overlooking the countryside.


Germantown is a residential community located just northwest of Milwaukee. It is one of the largest villages in the state, covering 34 square miles. It has also been one of the faster-growing communities in the state. Founded in 1838 by Germans who were attracted to the heavily wooded areas, the village still treasures its European heritage. In May, village residents gather for a German Maifest celebration. Germantown has a diversified economy that benefits from one of the largest industrial parks in the state. The village has two golf courses, several parks and a variety of home sizes.

West Bend/Kewaskum

West Bend, the county seat and largest city in Washington County, is nestled in picturesque farm country with rolling hills and rustic roads. The Milwaukee River winds its way through the downtown, en route from the hills of the Kettle Moraine to Lake Michigan. The city maintains the charm and friendliness of small-town living. It is home to the Museum of Wisconsin Art, which features the works of Wisconsin artists, and the Kettle Moraine Symphony. West Bend also hosts the Washington County Fair. Kewaskum is named after a famous Indian chief. Nestled along the Milwaukee River at the northwestern corner of Washington County, it is known today as the “Gateway to the Kettle Moraine State Forest.” With more than 27,000 acres of beautiful hills, winding trails and sparkling lakes, the northern unit of the state forest attracts thousands of people who are interested in swimming, camping, hiking, horseback riding, skiing, hunting, fishing and studying nature. Just outside Kewaskum is the Ice Age National Scenic Trail, a 1,000-mile, east-west footpath that winds through some of the state’s most picturesque landscapes. Just south of Kewaskum, visitors and residents can ski the slopes of the Sunburst Ski Area, home of the “World’s Largest Tubing Hill.”

Southern Washington County: Hartford • Slinger • Jackson • Richfield

Just west of Germantown is the picturesque Basilica of Holy Hill, a Roman Catholic church and monastery. The spires of the hilltop, neo-Romanesque church can be seen for miles, and the observation towers provide a breathtaking view of the Kettle Moraine countryside. The church was dedicated as the National Shrine of Mary, Help of Christians in 1958 and has since become a pilgrimage site for thousands of people who visit each year to pray for their health. In 2006, Holy Hill was dedicated as a minor basilica, one of only two basilicas in the state (the other is the Basilica of St. Josaphat on the south side of Milwaukee).

Washington County’s Next Generation Housing initiative aims to add 1,000 starter homes in the southern part of the county, specifically in the communities of Hartford, Slinger and Jackson. The goal is to have 75 percent of the new units priced under $300,000 and 25 percent priced under $400,000.

Hartford is a community seemingly lost in time. Tucked in the rolling hills of the Kettle Moraine, it features a late 19th-century main street where shoppers can find an amazing assortment of handcrafted items, antiques and fine Wisconsin cheeses. Hartford is home to Erin Hills, a public golf course that hosted the 2017 U.S. Open and the 2022 U.S. Mid-Amateur Championship; the Schauer Arts Center, a regional center for the arts that presents professional touring performances, exhibits regional artwork, and houses the community’s band, chorus and theater troupe, as well as the Kettle Moraine Fine Arts Guild; and the Wisconsin Automotive Museum, which features more than 115 vintage autos and artifacts.

Slinger is known for skiing and racing. Slinger Speedway, located at the intersection of highways 144 and 41, features late-model stock cars on the world’s fastest quarter-mile oval. It has hosted one of the races for the Superstar Racing Experience (SRX) series which was televised nationally. Slinger is also home to the Little Switzerland ski area, which touts 18 trails and three terrain parks, as well as lodging.

Jackson is a small village of just over 7,000 that’s noted for its big bargains. Every spring its residents host what is arguably one of the largest community-wide rummage sales in the metropolitan area. Located 25 miles northwest of Milwaukee and seven miles south of West Bend, Jackson is one of the fastest-growing communities in Washington County. Richfield is a village of nearly 12,000 residents near the intersection of U.S. 45 and U.S. 41. Probably best known for the Cabela’s outfitter store located there, Richfield has numerous natural attractions as well, including more than a dozen lakes, golf courses and numerous parks.