Loop Trail? No
Type: Paved multi-use
Agency: City, Town, or County
Entry Fee? No
Parking Fee? No Allowed Uses:
Bicycling (on pavement)
Dogs - On leash
Heritage and History
Snow - Cross-country Skiing
Snow - Snowshoeing
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Location: Vilas County, Iron County Wisconsin, connecting communities of St. Germain, Sayner-Star Lake, Boulder Junction, Manitowish Waters and Mercer.
Counties: Vilas, Iron
Many access points in communities of St. Germain, Sayner-Star Lake, Boulder Junction, Manitowish Waters and Mercer.
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.
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 DocumentsWebsite: 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
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.
Trail System Advocate
Heart of Vilas County Paved Bike Trail System
PO Box 286
Boulder Junction, WI 54512 -0286
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