Wisconsin

Overview

Wisconsin lays claim to the highest percentage of trail that is officially recognized by the National Park Service and the longest continuous stretch of trail constructed to meet all normally accepted trail standards.  In addition, Wisconsin offers hikers spectacular waterfalls, varied terrain, long vistas, and the ancient Penokee Mountain Range.  Weather-wise, expect the first snowfall by mid-November and most snow melting by mid-to-late April.  Fall color is best from about the third week of September through the middle of October.

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Camping

Within Iron County Forest, a developed campground is located at Weber Lake and a backpacker campsite is located at Wren Falls. Other opportunities for dispersed camping exist within the forest.  Upon reaching Copper Falls SP, a backpacker campsite is located near the northern extremity of the older established portion of the trail and two developed campgrounds adjoin the trail further south.  Within the Chequamegon National Forest, several developed campgrounds are in close proximity to the trail (usually on short spur trails) and dispersed, trailside camping is allowed anywhere provided that you are more than 50 feet off of the trail.  Within Bayfield County Forest, Brule River State Forest, and Douglas County Forest hikers are required to camp at designated backpacker campsites.  These are located every 5-10 miles along the trail and include a simple bench, a fire ring, one or more flattened tent pads, a wilderness latrine, a water source, and a register box.  Brule River SF asks that hikers obtain a free camping permit and Douglas County Forest has a $10 camping permit that is good for multiple campsites and the multiple days required to hike across the forest.

General Description

Most of the trail from the Michigan-Wisconsin border to Copper Falls State Park is undeveloped but some short, spectacular sections do exist with more becoming available each year.  The first real trail segments in Wisconsin pass through Iron County Forest, where hikers will be within the ancient and geologically worn down Penokee Mountain Range and see remote Wren Falls and  A six-mile segment of the Uller Ski Trail has been certified for many years but will eventually be phased out as the final planned route comes into existence.  Not far west of Upson Lake, a beautiful, new section of trail leads to Wren Falls. Reaching Wren Falls, hikers will have to begin a temporary road walk to Copper Falls State Park.  West of  Copper Falls State Park, which is known for its many spectacular waterfalls, hikers will begin following almost continuous off-road trail that extends westward for some 120 miles toward Minnesota.  This long stretch is interrupted by only two short road walks.  Just beyond the park, a segment of trail extends into the Village of Mellen (one of only two trail towns in Wisconsin), where most services needed by hikers can be found..  At the west edge of Mellen, hikers follow a temporary road walk for 1.8-miles before entering the Chequamegon National Forest.

This Chequamegon section of trail is often credited with giving the North Country Trail its name.  Within the forest, pass through the federally designated Porcupine Lake Wilderness and Rainbow Lake Wilderness.  Throughout the rest of the forest, observe the park-like open understory.  Watch and listen carefully for a big bull elk strutting or bugling in the fall, as this part of Wisconsin was chosen to reintroduce a herd of elk.

Leave the Chequamegon just east of Bayfield County Highway A and enter the Bayfield County Forest—the home of huge red and white pine and several small, pristine lakes. Two nice campsites occur on these small lakes.  At South Shore Grade Road, enter Brule River State Forest.  Soon you’ll be following the high bluffs overlooking the famous Bois Brule River.  Further west, follow the Historic Portage, which is marked by eight stones commemorating explorers, fur traders, and settlers and pass through the Brule Bog’s unique, cedar bog environment on more than 3,900 feet of boardwalk.

Upon reaching Crowshaw Road begin the last of the temporary road walks within the long trail segment and in 1.8 miles, enter Solon Springs, the other trail town in Wisconsin.  Solon Springs offers a full range of services for hikers.  Southwest of Solon Springs, hikers will take a more than six-mile pass through the Douglas County Wildlife Area — a pine barrens managed for prairie species.  Beyond the open barrens, the trail approaches the St. Croix National Scenic Riverways where the St. Croix is paralleled. The St. Croix National Scenic Riverways is one of only three national parks accessed by the trail.

Upon reaching West Mail Road and the Moose River, hikers will follow a temporary road route that follows a series of gravel and more improved roads to Pattison State Park.  The trail route passes through long expanses of Douglas County Forest before reaching Pattison SP.  In Pattison, the trail passes Little Manitou Falls followed by Big Manitou Falls—the highest waterfall in the state.  West of Pattison, the trail route again follows a temporary road route toward Minnesota and eventually enters Minnesota not far south of Jay Cooke State Park.

{ 3 comments }

Amanda S. September 1, 2012 at 7:53 am

My guess is that the author used the phrase “old and worn down” in reference to the geological history of the area, not to its upkeep. Some describe the range at its creation as similar to the Alps we know today. It has been worn down by natures forces over the last 1.8 billion years- give or take :)

Jamie Armata August 2, 2012 at 3:31 pm

The ancient mountains are worn down, not Iron County. I agree the wording is odd.

J Tamble July 23, 2012 at 7:01 pm

“The first real trail segments in Wisconsin pass through Iron County Forest, where hikers will be within the very old and worn-down Penokee Mountain range”… Wow, old and worn-down? Lol, I run around in there weekly, funny I have never thought of it as worn-down… So I ask, why the negative description?