Weekend Backpacker: Milwaukee
With 77 miles stretching from Howard (near Green Bay) to Weston (near Wausau), the Mountain Bay State Trail is Wisconsin's longest bikeable trail. For both hikers and bikers, the trail offers a variety of scenery, including fields of lush green corn and soybeans that turn a golden-brown color in the fall. There's also meadows, rolling wooded hills, and more than 20 trout streams.
From Howard to Pulaski (about 10 miles) the trail is surrounded by flat farmland. Between Pulaski and Bonduel (about 5 miles), it is not unusual to see area Amish residents on the trail in horse-drawn buggies. If you travel the trail at a time of year when the leaves are sparse, you can see Shawano Lake to the north as you approach the city of Shawano from Bonduel (about 10 miles). At Shawano the trail uses about two miles of public roads before heading off into the wilderness again, just beyond the Wolf River bridge. Stop here in the spring to watch spawning sturgeon.
The trail becomes more wooded and hilly west of Shawano, with a slew of trout-filled streams. Heading toward Gresham (about 10 miles from Shawano), the trail passes through dense woods where bald eagles are often spotted. About one mile west of Gresham, look for a historical marker from the Lyndhurst Train collision, which occurred in the late 1800s.
Toward Bowler (about 10 miles from Gresham), the trail skirts maple and hardwood forests that exude a brilliant display of colors in the fall. Watch for deer and bear in this section. From Bowler to Eland (about 11 miles), the trail becomes more hilly and thickly wooded, with farm fields spaced intermittently. In Eland the trail meets the Wiowash State Recreation Trail, which runs north and south and will eventually connect Michigan to Oshkosh. From Eland, it is approximately 21 miles to the trail's end at Weston. The trail is open to horses, bikers, and motorized wheelchairs.
Recommended trip: Park at the DNR ranger station at Bowler, where 13 campsites and limited facilities such as pit toilets and water are available. Or begin in the City of Shawano, where hotels and private campgrounds are available. Because the trail is long, it is best to start in the middle and take day hikes from a central point. This will avoid the need to bring two vehicles. From either Bowler or Shawano, hikers and bikers can take day trips west as far as Weston and east to Pulaski and Howard.
Camping: Wilderness camping is available at the DNR station at Bowler. Private campgrounds are available in Shawano.
Getting there: To get to Shawano from Milwaukee, take Highway 41 north to Appleton. Take Highway 47 to Highway 29 at Bonduel. From Bonduel, take Highway 29 west for 7 miles to Shawano.
To Bowler, continue for another 15 miles on Highway 29 and then take Highway D, north, to the DNR ranger station at Bowler. The station is located just past the village center and across the railroad tracks.
Permits: A daily or annual state trail pass is required for bikers age 16 and over. Permits can be purchased at county offices for $20 per year or $3 per day. No permit is required for hikers.
Thanks to Patrick Vaile, planning and development director for Shawano County.
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication