Wisconsin is a place outdoor fans enjoy. Why? It’s because the state features more than 25,000 miles of snowmobiling routes. This is together with a national scenic trail traversing 1,000 miles of glaciated terrain. There are also more than 101 rail trails that span approximately 2,000 miles, and here we’ll see the top Wisconsin mountain bike trails.
Bottom Line Up Front
Nicolet Roche Trail is a good choice for expert riders looking for technical terrain with fair climbs and natural obstacles. The trail offers a great terrain for experts to challenge their biking skills. Would you like to experience a true mountain biking paradise?
If you do, then try out the Namakagon Cluster. The well-marked intersections make this trail easy to navigate. Alternatively, visit the Ahnapee State Trails if you treasure a park stuffed with wonders. The park features the Bruemmer Zoo which is historic besides being “allegedly haunted”. Here you’ll also find the world’s tallest grandfather clock.
Top Wisconsin Mountain Bike Trails
Below is a list of the best 10 mountain bike trails in Wisconsin. I compiled them after conducting interviews with trail groups and riders in Wisconsin. I focused more on trails that are suitable for all levels of riders. I have also highlighted some of the best trail etiquettes in the state.
Nicolet Roche Trail
This single-track, out-and-back 19.3-mile trail is located in the Nicolet National Forest, Langlade County. It’s one of the most difficult trails in the area. It’s because it features a technical terrain with fair climbing and natural obstacles. This makes the trail great for experienced bikers looking for a serious challenge in Wisconsin.
The good thing about the Nicole Roche trails is that they pass through Nicolet’s picturesque forests. Most of the trees found here were planted by the Civilian Conservation Corps in the 1930s.
If you are a visitor, the closest city is Langlade. It offers accommodation and plenty of restaurants. So you don’t have to worry in case dusk finds you on the trails. If you enjoy being outdoors, there are lots of lakes and campgrounds in the area. The trail is awesome for a fun family cycling experience.
South of the trail is a series of rapids on the river. You can complete your Nicolet Roche adventure here with a swimming session. If you want to spend the night, there are amazing Wisconsin cabins with hot tubs. In October, the trail offers a variety of activities. These include Northwoods zip line, admiring fall colors, and many others.
- 19.3-mile trail (out-and-back)
- Best for experienced riders
- Technical terrain with fair climbs and natural obstacles
- Passes through Nicolet’s picturesque forests
- Great swimming or rafting options after a ride
- Not suitable for beginner riders
- Usually busy on weekends
Tuscobia State Trail
Tuscobia State Trail starts from Rice Lake and goes to Park Falls. It passes through the Chequamegon National Forest and Flambeau State Forest. The trail features a nearly level grade for all users. It offers mountain bikers, hikers, and snowmobilers a chance to enjoy the rugged Blue Hills wilderness.
Riders can also make stops by the quaint shops in the small villages along the trails. The western tip which is located on the north of Rice Lake also overlaps with the 1,200-mile Ice Age Trail. The Tuscobia State Trail is a perfect winter getaway destination. This is because during winter the trail hosts the 150-mile Tuscobia Winter Ultra trail run, bike, and ski event.
- Best getaway destination during winter
- It features a nearly level grade for all users
- Bikers get to enjoy the rugged Blue Hills wilderness
- There are quaint shops along the trails
- The trail hosts the 150-mile Tuscobia Winter Ultra run, bike, and ski event
- There are no water stations
- Not ideal for beginners
Lowes Creek County Park
Lowes Creek Trail is located in the city of Eau Claire. The single-track mountain trails total around 10 miles. Besides being mostly flat, there are minor obstacles such as creeks to cross and logs to climb over.
The trails are most suitable for intermediate riders. The trailhead is easily accessible from Eau Claire. That said, there is a trout stream and a picnic shelter within the park. So you can take a rest when you get tired or try out your fishing skills.
Note that Altoona Lake is just a stone’s throw away from Lowes Creek. After completing the biking trail, there is a large sandy beach with a BBQ zone where you can relax and enjoy some refreshments.
- 10-mile trail length
- Mostly flat terrain
- Best for intermediate riders
- You can easily access the trailhead from Eau Claire
- It features a trout stream and a picnic shelter
- Not ideal for professional riders
- Some trail sections are sandy
Are you looking for a true mountain biking paradise? The Namakagon Cluster features 8 trails with a total length of 56 miles. This makes it one of the largest trails in Wisconsin. The trail network is easy to navigate. This is because each intersection is well-marked. Therefore, visitors and beginners don’t have to worry about getting lost.
The trails vary in both difficulty level and length. Therefore, the most demanding pro bikers and beginners will all find something of interest here. With a length of 0.75 miles, the double-track Wilson Lake Spur trail is the easiest and shortest of all.
If you are looking for a real biking challenge then set your sight on the Hilderbrand Lake Loop. It’s the most difficult section of the 12-mile Namakagon Cluster. Do you want to enjoy the gorgeous views of the Hildebrand and Frels lakes?
If yes, the 2.4-mile hillside loop features rock gardens with a 100 feet long bridge. You have to be cautious when crossing the bridge because it’s only 18 inches wide. Once you complete the trail, you can travel north and visit Chequamegon Bay which is only 40 miles away. It’s located on Lake Superior and the city of Ashland.
There are plenty of other outdoor activities in Chequamegon Bay. They include kayaking, hiking, camping, and many others.
- It features 8 trails with a total of 56 miles
- Gorgeous views of the Frels and Hildebrand lakes
- Plenty of outdoor activities such as kayaking, hiking, and camping
- Best for all levels of bikers
- Appropriately marked trail intersections
- The Hilderbrand Lake Loop is not the best for beginners
- Usually busy in the afternoons
With a total of 14 miles, WinMan Trails are located south of Winchester town in Vilas County. Most of the trails are machine-built. This makes them suitable for all levels of riders. WinMan Trails crisscross over varied terrain. However, beginners can safely navigate most of the trails comfortably.
The most interesting thing about these trails is that the more difficult technical trails run alongside the easy ones. This means that the trails are not only suitable for beginners but also professional riders.
You should take advantage of the surrounding natural areas and lakes if you like cool and quiet zones. If you want to stay a bit longer in WinMan, you can easily find restaurants and accommodation in town.
- 14-mile trail length
- Most of the trails are machine-built
- Suitable for all levels of riders
- It features a varied terrain that is easy to navigate
- Ample parking lots
- Children below 13 years have to be accompanied by an experienced rider
- During the rainy season, there are a lot of insects
Ahnapee State Park Trail
Ahnapee State Park Trail features a total length of 50 miles. This makes it the second-largest trail in Wisconsin after the Namakagon Cluster. The trail is suitable for hiking, biking as well as horseback riding.
Besides averaging about 9 feet in width, the terrain is mostly flat. Something unique about this park is that it’s full of wonders. For instance, the world’s tallest grandfather clock is found here. While in the park, you can visit the Bruemmer Zoo which is not only historic but also “allegedly haunted”.
That said, you can also enjoy the gorgeous views of the Kewaunee and Ahnapee Rivers. Note that this trail is well-prepped for visitors. It features restrooms and 3 large campgrounds. Ahnapee Trail is the last segment of the Ice Age National Scenic Trail.
It’s one of the best snowmobile trails during winter in Door County. This makes it a perfect winter getaway destination.
- 50-mile trail length
- It features restrooms and 3 large campgrounds
- Perfect for hiking, biking as well as horseback riding
- Mostly flat terrain
- Gorgeous views of the Kewaunee and Ahnapee Rivers
- Not ideal for kids during winter
- Some trail sections are narrow
Human Powered Trails
Human Powered Trails are found within 850 acres of beautifully forested land. The Upper Hixon Forest offers 9 miles of dedicated mountain bike trails. Lower Hixon Forest features 11 miles of hiking trails with additional 3.5 miles of a shared trail for both bikers and hikers.
The main trail starts easily in open terrain. It, later on, turns into an unforgiving single-track winding through the forest. The trail features plenty of obstacles to conquer with tight turns and plenty of steep climbs and descents. If you are an expert mountain biker, you’ll be delighted by these trails.
La Crosse is the closest city located on the Mississippi River. It’s worth spending some time in the city if you’re up for a longer stay in the area. The good thing about Human Powered Trails is that you don’t need to pay an entrance fee to ride on the trails
- 9-mile trail length
- It features steep climbs and descents with plenty of obstacles
- Suitable for experienced riders
- No entrance fee required
- Starts easily in open terrain
- The tight turns may be a bit difficult for beginners to maneuver with speed
- The trail lacks water stations
Lake Geneva Trails
Lake Geneva Trails are located inside the Canopy Tours Adventure Park. They spread over 100 acres of well-maintained woodland. The trails are suitable for all levels of riders whether avid or novice. This means that for beginners it’s a great place to start learning.
The 12-mile trail is divided into 3 sections. This makes it easy to choose the best section for your experience level. The easy trail section is mostly flat with the middle one featuring several obstacles and surprising turns. Of course, the expert section is the most difficult. It will push your MTB skills to the limit.
Other activities offered in Canopy Park include zipline tours and high ropes courses. You can also visit the nearby golf course for more relaxed outdoor fun. After completing the trail, I recommend the Abbey Resort. It’s one of the best spa resorts in Wisconsin for families. If you visit the Lake Geneva trail with your family you don’t have to worry about accommodation.
- 12-mile trail length
- Great place for beginners to start learning
- It’s divided into 3 sections – easy, middle, and expert
- Ample parking lots
- Suitable for all levels of riders
- Usually busy on weekends
- Children below 13 years should be accompanied by an experienced rider
Hartman Creek State Park
The 9.5-miles State Park trails are located on the shores of the gorgeous Hartman Lake. The trails offer a wonderful experience to both beginners and intermediate bikers. The full single-track loop is split into several smaller loops with varying difficulties.
Green Loop is the easiest of all while the Black Loop is the only loop that features serious obstacles. If you are a visitor and intend to spend the night, Waupaca is the nearest town. It has a series of parks and natural areas including a multitude of lakes.
Try out these Hartman Creek trails as they won’t disappoint. Remember to carry your water bottle since there are no water stations on the trails.
- 9.5-mile trail length
- Beautiful scenery of the Hartman Lake
- Best for both beginners and intermediate riders
- It’s split into several smaller loops
- No entrance fee required
- No water stations
- Not ideal for experienced riders
Heart of Vilas County Trail
True to its name, the Heart of Vilas County Trail system pulses with local culture and scenic beauty. The trail system features over 52 miles that pass through a variety of backdrops. These include 5 communities and the Northern Highland American Legion Forest.
The National Recreation Trail is part of the Heart Vilas Trail System. It takes on a rolling route with more twists and turns. The good thing about the trail system is that along the way you’ll find picnic areas, several campgrounds, and swimming zones. There are also restrooms and restaurants where hikers and bikers can eat, drink, and recharge.
Don’t forget about the spacious parking. You don’t have to worry about how you’ll manage to go on a riding trip with your family. You can travel in your car and park in one of the trailhead’s parking lots. That said, the trail system also features a stunning lake with river backdrops.
You can also connect to the WinMan Trail from the Heart of Vilas County Trail if you are a person who loves nature.
- It features scenic beauty
- Over 52 miles of trail length
- Several campgrounds, picnic areas, and swimming zones
- It features restrooms and restaurants
- Ample parking lots
- Children below 13 years must be accompanied by an experienced rider
- Usually busy on weekends
Wisconsin Mountain Bike Trail Etiquette
When riding your MTB in Wisconsin, there are some rules and regulations you need to follow. These are different in any area with a mountain bike trail. Below is a list of the do’s and don’ts when you are riding your MTB on Wisconsin trails. Let’s start by looking at the meaning of trail etiquette according to Wisconsin trail laws.
What is Trail Etiquette?
Trail etiquette is a series of guidelines with the potential of making everyone’s experience in the outdoors more pleasant. In short, it’s about being mindful of others while using the trails. This is not only about minding hikers or your fellow riders, but also respecting and giving way to wildlife.
If trail etiquette is not adhered to, hikers and cross-country skiers may deviate from the designated paths. This may cause them to damage or destroy delicate flora. Mountain bikers may, on the other hand, carve harmful ditches in the soft earth.
As a result, trail maintenance groups spend more resources to rehabilitate trails never intended to be trodden by human feet or tires. Therefore, to avoid all this, observing proper trail etiquette is the key solution.
How to Determine Who Has the Right of Way in Wisconsin
The right of way is one of the most burning questions that only trail etiquette can answer. Of course, when riding on a narrow section of the trail and you meet someone coming from the opposite direction, then one of you has to yield and give way. This also happens when someone approaches you from behind at a faster pace.
Those who give way and yield do so depending on a few factors. Conventional wisdom says that the person moving uphill always has the right of way. So you have to give way if you are the one heading downhill.
When riding on a flat section of a trail that is less straightforward, who has the right of way? You should find a flat patch of gravel or dirt nearby then move over allowing them to pass. This is if there’s only space for one person to pass or maybe when someone is hiking behind you at a faster pace.
Note that yielding to another hiker or biker is always appreciated, whether you think you have the right of way or not. Ensure that you say thanks if others yield for you. That said, you should ride on a single-file when the trails are wide enough for multiple people to walk/ride side by side. This prevents your boots or backpacks from colliding by offering a little extra space.
Wisconsin Trail Etiquette for Other Transports
When people use other modes of transportation other than feet, it makes things start getting hairy. However, there’s a golden rule that should be followed in such scenarios. Differently-abled recreationists using the trails should always get the right of way. It doesn’t matter whether they are on a power chair, a handcycle, or on crutches.
The second priority goes to pack animals. These include mules and horses. This means that all other traffic on the trail should yield to allow pack animals to pass. This prevents provoking an unwanted reaction from the animals. Riders, on the other hand, should always yield. So if you are riding on 2 wheels, always be ready to brake when passing hikers or horses.
Additionally, when coming up behind or ahead of hikers, it’s good trail etiquette to announce your presence at a distance. This prevents other trail users from getting surprised by your abrupt presence.
This is when phrases such as “Passing on your left” or “Coming up behind” become effective. To make it easier, you can as well install a bell to signal your approach. There are some areas where it’s legally required in Wisconsin.
When you step off the trail for whatever reason, avoid damaging plants and natural surroundings. Dirt, rocks, gravel, or dry grass, are the best spots to yield since they can withstand the impact. At times you have to do the best you can since such spots are not always readily available.
Leashed Dogs are Usually the Best Dogs
If you are a dog owner remember that you must also abide by trail etiquette. This starts with adhering to all park regulations about leashing your pet. You should keep a leash handy for when you pass pack animals or other hikers. This is in the case off-leash dogs are permitted on the trails.
Don’t forget that some people are afraid of dogs. So be considerate since horses might get spooked at the sight of a pooch. If there are venomous bears or snakes in the area, going off-leash can be dangerous for your pet. It’s always better to play on the safe side if you have any doubts about whether or not your 4-legged friend can go off-leash. Generally, you should try to be a good advocate for dogs on trails.
That said, you should ensure that you pick up your pet’s waste and dispose of it. Ensure you leave the trails clean the way you found them or better.
Keep Your Music Low
Blasting your favorite songs on your portable Bluetooth speaker may be relaxing and refreshing when riding. However, it’s prudent of you to think about how this will impact other people using the trail.
People have different reasons as to why they like the outdoors. Some prefer quiet solace while others are after fun recreation. The reason they enjoy the outdoors at this point doesn’t matter. It pays to be respectful of other people’s activities.
If you still prefer loud volume, then ensure that you turn down the volume or pause when passing other hikers or bikers.
Answer: The Hoyt Mountain Bike Trail and Kegel Alpha Mountain Bike Trail are some of the best places to go for mountain biking near Milwaukee.
Answer: East Bank Trail and Calumet Trail are among the best mountain biking trails along Lake Michigan in Wisconsin.
Answer: Nicolet Roche Trail, Ahnapee State Park Trail, and Namakagon Cluster are some of the best trails in Wisconsin.
Answer: You can get a Wisconsin bike trail pass by purchasing it at individual properties through drive-up window service. Alternatively, you can also get it from electronic sales kiosks or self-registration stations. For example, if you purchased the 2021 annual state trail pass, it stays valid up to Dec. 31, 2021.
The many miles of trails with varied terrain make Wisconsin an ideal place for mountain biking. The state has been ranked consistently as one of America’s best places to bike. Whether you are a beginner or an expert rider, rest assured you won’t lack a trail option in Wisconsin.
Are you an expert rider looking for technical terrain with fair climbing and natural obstacles? If yes, then the Nicolet Roche Trail is a suitable option. The trail is perfect for experienced riders yearning for a serious challenge. Try out the Namakagon Cluster if you want to experience a true mountain biking paradise. It’s easy to navigate since intersections are well-marked.
Alternatively, for those who prefer a park full of wonders, then visit the Ahnapee State Park Trail. It features the world’s tallest grandfather clock. The park also houses the Bruemmer Zoo which is not only “allegedly haunted” but also historic.