Northeastern Wisconsin has been a favorite destination for snowmobiling, hunting and fishing for decades. Recently, Price, Lincoln and Vilas counties have taken steps to attract cyclists to the northwoods by chaining together miles of paved trails in The Northwoods Trails system.
Many miles of these paved trails are in fact paved snowmobile trails — which for a road cyclist offers a fun style of riding. The hill climbs are short and sometimes steep, but then you’re quickly rewarded with twisty turny downhills. Super fun, a little heart pounding and a great way to practice your control and cornering skills.
Sayner to Boulder Junction
My fiance and I hit a 15-mile section of trail between Sayner and Boulder Junction on Thursday. Despite it being a weekday, we saw several other cyclists out there riding many different styles of bikes: recumbents, kids with training wheels, hybrids as well as road bikes. In many cases, whole families were pedaling along, smiles on their faces.
The Ride From Sayner to Boulder Junction and Back
We found car parking in Sayner just off the trail and started our ride. The trail dipped up and down and criss-crossed the highway a few times, but with little traffic it was easy to cross.The most striking portions of the trail wind narrowly through tall forests. Along the route, we biked past Crystal Lake, which had beautiful beaches full of swimmers. We also biked along the edge of Trout Lake which is huge and pristine. It was a great way to explore places that we haven’t seen before.
We stopped in Boulder Junction, which has an adorable downtown with a coffee shop (Northern Lattes — great pun) and a few bars to choose from. We’re on vacation…so we opted for lunch beers at JJ’s Pub & Grub. Then we headed back the way we came with plenty of time for fishing near Minocqua then s’mores and champagne by the campfire.
Finding trail maps:
Sadly, these bike trails aren’t yet outlined on Google Maps, so it’s good to check out the trail maps ahead of time. Maybe because these trails are new or maybe because they’re managed by local municipalities, it can be difficult to find trail maps that show how the many small trails link together. There are smaller, local maps offered on the Northwoods Trail System website as well as the individual county tourism websites.
The best map that I’ve found so far is the Vilas County Silent Sports Trail Map. I currently only have a hard copy which can be requested here. A PDF isn’t yet available online. If you have an iPhone, there is an app you can check out.
- Vilas County Tourism Trail Map Request & iOS app
- Trek the Northwoods Trails site
- Vilas Area Silent Sports Association
- Vilas County Tourism & Publicity
- Price County Bike Maps
- Tomahawk (Lincoln Co.) Bike Trails
A Little Shopping in Minocqua
Cycling always has so much gear to remember; I had forgotten to pack my cycling shoes, and my fiance forgot his helmet, so before we rode we hit the bike shops in Minocqua. BJ’s Sport Shop hooked us up with a helmet but didn’t have Crank Brothers cleats, so we hit up Chequamegon Adventure Company where they outfitted me with a great pair of cycling shoes with a cleats that are compatible with my Crank Brothers pedals. I was pretty happy with our finds. A helmet should be replaced every 5-7 years anyway because the foam can wear down over time and leave you vulnerable. My new shoes are a big upgrade from my old shoes and will have the memory of a great day attached to them.