Five2Ride: Mountain Bike Trails in Wisconsin

Few people think of visiting the Midwest to begin with but when they do, they don’t usually think of Wisconsin. Want to visit lakes? Minnesota claims to have 10,000 of ’em. Want to go to the Northwoods? The UP of Michigan has got you covered. Boundary waters? Minnesota again. How about the Great Lakes? Michigan is …


Few people think of visiting the Midwest to begin with but when they do, they don’t usually think of Wisconsin. Want to visit lakes? Minnesota claims to have 10,000 of ’em. Want to go to the Northwoods? The UP of Michigan has got you covered. Boundary waters? Minnesota again. How about the Great Lakes? Michigan is surrounded by at least 3. And really, what does Wisconsin have going for it? Mass-produced watery beer and lots of cheese?

What you probably didn’t realize is that Wisconsin also has at least 10,000 lakes–even as many as 15,000, if sources can be believed. There’s some debate between the two states about which has more and what exactly qualifies as a lake, but you better not count Wisconsin out! Northwoods? The northern half of Wisconsin is covered in thick, never-ending forests. Great Lakes? Wisconsin has access to two of the biggest. And no longer is Wisconsin the stronghold of solely macrobrewed beer… the craft beer scene in Wisconsin is thriving, with breweries such as New Glarus producing some of the best beer anywhere… but only distributing it inside of Wisconsin borders.

But woven between all of those lakes and hidden under the reaching boughs of the never-ending forests are sweet stretches of singletrack in every corner of the state. While Wisconsin can’t claim to have any mountains, the trails are so good that they will entertain–and even challenge–the best of riders. Wisconsin is also home to the WORS race series–one of the longest-running (since 1991) and best-organized MTB race series in the country. And don’t forget that one of the largest bike companies in the world, Trek, is headquartered in Waterloo, Wisconsin.

These sweet trails and the vibrant mountain bike scene have given rise to mountain bike professionals and personalities that have permanently influenced the trajectory of our sport. And while I don’t claim to be one of those folks, I was born and raised in Wisconsin, too.

So without further ado, read on for five of the best trails that you need to ride in Wisconsin:

CAMBA, Cable/Hayward

Photo: Scott Anderson
Photo: Scott Anderson

The CAMBA trail system is one of the most expansive networks of singletrack in Wisconsin, and the club claims to maintain “over 300 miles of marked and mapped [off-road bike trail] routes.” Presumably some of those routes contain dirt roads and doubletrack, but a large proportion is singletrack.

The CAMBA trails are organized into clusters, including the Cable cluster, Namakagon cluster, Hayward and Seeley Clusters, Drummond cluster, and Delta cluster. The singletrack found within this trail system is sinuous, flowy, rocky, entertaining, and challenging. For more information on CAMBA, be sure to check out Jeff’s destination coverage of the area:

“Easily one of the best areas east of the Rockies. Along with Rock Lake, there are a ton of other trails in the area that can be linked together for some truly epic days on the bike. Nothing real technical, just a lot of fun.” -Eric Foltz

Nine Mile, Wausau

Photo: Danno#1
Photo: Danno#1

The Nine Mile trail system offers both cross country skiing and sweet mountain biking, depending on the season. This trail system has long been the home of the Wausau24, one of the few remaining 24-hour races in the country.

“For Wisconsin riding, this is one of the best for all-around riding. No sustained climbs or descents, but great undulating terrain. Thick forest where you’re rarely exposed to the heat of the day. Night riding here is a hoot, too! I know IMBA is looking at Wausau as a potential ride center so they are constantly working to improve existing trail and make new ones. This is a typical XC ski park with the ST running throughout so you cross the ski trail frequently which makes for easy bailouts or putting together some interesting loop options. I separate the network as upper and lower where beginners will enjoy the latter while the upper offers slightly more advanced terrain. Between XC ski trail exits, the flow is awesome, but once you’re dumped out onto the XC ski trail, it’s not clear where to continue so overall flow kind of sufferes. Try to go with someone who knows… And then you’ll keep coming back!” -Chris Daniels

Lowes Creek, Eau Claire

Photo: [email protected].

Lowes Creek is conveniently-located on the outskirts of the city of Eau Claire, yet this 10+-mile singletrack ride is, according to the people that have ridden there, one of the flowiest, most entertaining, and overall-best trails in the state.

“The flow here is some of the best I’ve seen. Very we’ll marked and maps are at trailhead and various intersections along the way. You have to pay a day use fee, but it’s worth it once you see how well the trail is managed (bridges, banked corners, anti-erosion type stuff, etc.). Bottom line: if you’re in the area, you must do this trail!” -Chris Daniels

Levis Mounds, Neillsville

Photo: Steve Meurett
Photo: Steve Meurett

Levis Mounds is one of the oldest purpose-built mountain bike trail systems in the nation (and by extension, the world), yet ongoing trail building and maintenance has kept this trail system fresh and extremely unique! Enjoy the challenging rocks, beautiful views from the tops of the bluffs, and tricky bridges.

For more information about Levis Mounds and its history, be sure to read my article titled, “Levis Mounds, WI: One of the Oldest MTB Trails Still Packs a Punch.”

“This trail is deserving of the epic rating. It has all the requirements. Length, difficulty and gorgeous scenery. This trail offers a great opportunity for beginner riders to experience extremely high quality trail riding as there arent many extremely difficult sections. Having said that, there are some long difficult climbs, but you are rewarded with breathtaking views. Be sure to check out the mess of trails that appears to be a crowded mix on the map (available at trail head). These are the most difficult and offer great views with awesome bombing downhills. This trail is worth the drive. No doubt about it.” -Danmonson

Minooka Park, Waukesha

Photo: Dave Reich / Wisconsin High School Cycling League
Photo: Wisconsin High School Cycling League

The trails at Minooka Park are still under construction, but what’s already been completed has garnered much praise from Wisconsin riders! Currently there’s a beginner loop and an intermediate loop, and an expert loop is planned to be finished sometime this year.

“I am very impressed with the new intermediate trail. Good work! The beginner is not very exciting for a self proclaimed expert rider but great for kids and families. The intermediate had some climbs, barely noticeable though. The down hill sections are very flowery and fun with some well placed rocks and banks. The are even some opportunities for getting a little bit of air. The trail was will marked and we’ll kept up. I can’t wait for the expert section!” -MasonY

Your Turn: Have a great trail that you’d highly recommend everyone else check out? Share a photo of it with us using the #five2ride hashtag on Instagram!


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