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Heart of Vilas County Paved Bike Trail System

The Heart of Vilas County Paved Bike Trail System provides users a ticket to the beauty and heritage of northern Wisconsin’s wilderness. The paved, carefully maintained system runs through a swath of the Northern Highland-American Legion State Forest, connecting the communities of St. Germain, Sayner-Star Lake, Boulder Junction and Manitowish Waters in Vilas County and Mercer in Iron County. The multiuse trail runs more than 52 miles and is one of the longest paved trails in Wisconsin.

photo: Heart of Vilas Trail in Summer. Photo by Boulder Junction Chamber.

Length: 52.00 miles
Loop Trail? No
Type: Paved multi-use
Agency: City, Town, or County
Entry Fee? No
Parking Fee? No

Allowed Uses:

Bicycling (on pavement)
Camping
Dogs - On leash
Fishing
Heritage and History
Roller/Inline Skating
Snow - Cross-country Skiing
Snow - Snowshoeing
Swimming
Wildlife Observation

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Location: Vilas County, Iron County Wisconsin, connecting communities of St. Germain, Sayner-Star Lake, Boulder Junction, Manitowish Waters and Mercer.
State(s): Wisconsin
Counties: Vilas, Iron
Longitude: -89.662157
Latitude: 46.010517

Driving Directions

Many access points in communities of St. Germain, Sayner-Star Lake, Boulder Junction, Manitowish Waters and Mercer.

Description

The Heart of Vilas County Paved Bike Trail System provides users a ticket to the beauty and heritage of the northern Wisconsin wilderness. The paved, carefully maintained system runs through a swath of the Northern Highland-American Legion State Forest, connecting the communities of St. Germain, Sayner-Star Lake, Boulder Junction and Manitowish Waters in Vilas County and Mercer in Iron County.
The multiuse trail runs more than 52 miles and is one of the longest paved trails in Wisconsin. It was built in segments, with the first construction occurring in 1997. The most recent segment, connecting Manitowish Waters and Mercer, was completed in 2018.
The trail takes users through the Northern Highland-American Legion State Forest, a 232,000-acre forest established in 1925 to protect the headwaters of the Wisconsin, Flambeau and Manitowish rivers. The Northwoods became an important recreation destination, drawing generations of nature lovers to northern Wisconsin. Native Americans have long called this part of Wisconsin home, followed by French fur traders and later, loggers who harvested timber to help build a new nation. The trail passes historic logging camps and the town of Sayner, the birthplace of the modern snowmobile. Just off the trail, visitors can see some of these early snowmobiles and learn about the area’s history at the Vilas County Historical Museum.
The trail system features smooth pavement suitable for all types of riders—from flat to rolling landscapes, manageable hills and multiple scenic bridges. Unlike many of the state’s longer paved trails, the Heart of Vilas Trail was not built on a former rail corridor, so it rolls and dips with the terrain, giving users a feel for the power of the glaciers that passed through here more than 10,000 years ago. The glaciers created scores of moraines, drumlins and kettle lakes, and the trail winds past these impressive geological features. It’s an extraordinary landscape, and visitors will encounter many crystal-clear undeveloped lakes. In fact, Vilas County is home to one of the largest collections of freshwater lakes in the world.
Along the trail are many scenic rest areas with picnic spots and restrooms. There are 20 different parking areas to start a ride and you’ll find free bike repair facilities along the trail. You will also find swimming spots that are perfect for cooling off on a summer day.
Trail users will encounter some of the wildlife that thrives in this wilderness, including bald eagles, loons and white-tailed deer. Some lucky trail users may even spot one of the albino deer that call this forest home. Depending on the season, trail users may also spot native orchids and lilies that thrive in wetlands along the trail.
All of this beauty is easy for trail users to experience. The Heart of Vilas County trail is easily accessible for users of all abilities. There are several campgrounds along the trail, as well as many motels and resorts adjacent to the trail. As you pass through towns on the route, you can ride right up to a restaurant for a great meal or a snack to fuel your adventure. Whether you’re planning to enjoy the trail for a short outing, or building a vacation around touring the trail, your experience on the Heart of Vilas County Paved Bike Trail System is sure to be memorable.

Additional Details

Width: 108 inches.
Primary Surface: Asphalt
Secondary Surface: Asphalt

Maximum Grade: 10%
Elevation Low Point: 1
Elevation High Point: 1
Elevation Gain (cumulative): Not Available

Year Designated:
2020

Supporting Webpages and Documents

Website: Heart of Vilas County Paved Bike Trail System
Website: Heart of Vilas County Paved Bike Trail System (Vilas County)
Website: St. Germain Trail Segment
Website: Sayner area segment
Website: Boulder Junction segment
Website: Manitowish Waters Segment

Contact Information

For more information and current conditions, contact the trail manager (listed below). For questions, suggestions, and corrections to information listed on the website, contact American Trails.

Theresa Smith
Trail System Advocate
Heart of Vilas County Paved Bike Trail System
PO Box 286
Boulder Junction, WI 54512 -0286
(715) 385-2400
[email protected]

 

Photos

Heart of Vilas Trail in Summer. Photo by Boulder Junction Chamber.

Heart of Vilas Trail in Summer. Photo by Boulder Junction Chamber.

Bridges on HOV. Photo by Pam Muenzer.

Bridges on HOV. Photo by Pam Muenzer.

 

Family Ride on the HOV. Photo by Boulder Junction Chamber.

Family Ride on the HOV. Photo by Boulder Junction Chamber.

Fix It Station on the HOV. Photo by Boulder Junction Chamber.

Fix It Station on the HOV. Photo by Boulder Junction Chamber.

 

HOV Bridge. Photo by Boulder Junction Chamber.

HOV Bridge. Photo by Boulder Junction Chamber.

HOV Rapids. Photo by Boulder Junction Chamber.

HOV Rapids. Photo by Boulder Junction Chamber.

 

HOV Mileage Marker. Photo by Pam Muenzer.

HOV Mileage Marker. Photo by Pam Muenzer.

HOV in Autumn. Photo by Boulder Junction Chamber.

HOV in Autumn. Photo by Boulder Junction Chamber.

 

Trout Lake at sunset on HOV. Photo by Boulder Junction Chamber.

Trout Lake at sunset on HOV. Photo by Boulder Junction Chamber.

HOV on Trout Lake. Photo by Boulder Junction Chamber.

HOV on Trout Lake. Photo by Boulder Junction Chamber.

 

Fall on the HOV. Photo by Pete Rondello.

Fall on the HOV. Photo by Pete Rondello.

Biking on the HOV. Photo by Boulder Junction Chamber.

Biking on the HOV. Photo by Boulder Junction Chamber.

 

Cruising on the HOV. Photo by Boulder Junction Chamber.

Cruising on the HOV. Photo by Boulder Junction Chamber.

Shopping on the HOV trail. Photo by Boulder Junction Chamber.

Shopping on the HOV trail. Photo by Boulder Junction Chamber.

 

Heart of Vilas Trail. Photo by Boulder Junction Chamber.

Heart of Vilas Trail. Photo by Boulder Junction Chamber.

Summer riding on the HOV trail system. Photo by Boulder Junction Chamber.

Summer riding on the HOV trail system. Photo by Boulder Junction Chamber.

 

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