Most trails open in northern Wisconsin

ASHLAND, Wis. – Despite last summer’s storms that severely damaged roads and trails across northern Wisconsin, most trails are open and work continues to clear storm damage and make repairs where needed. Some sections of trails will be closed when the winter trail season kicks off. These closures are only implemented where necessary and are focused on the safety of tail users.

Many repairs have been completed by local and federal agencies and by clubs and volunteers, and trails in Douglas County will be completely open. But storm damage was more significant in Bayfield, Ashland and Sawyer counties and a number of major trail corridors need additional work before being able to be opened.

More than 30 people involved with trails in Ashland, Bayfield, Douglas and Sawyer counties met last month to review the status of trails affected by the storms and discuss how to get them open for the winter, according to Brigit Brown, state trails coordinator for the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources.

“While 70 degree temperatures in early November probably don’t have a lot of people thinking about winter trail uses like cross-country skiing and snowmobiling, it is very much in the minds of clubs and partners in northern Wisconsin who have been working diligently to clear trails of downed trees and make repairs to bridges, washed out culverts and other structures,” Brown said. “It’s been a tremendous, collaborative effort of federal, state, county, and local governments; with key roles played by local trail managers and volunteers such as those for the North Country Trail, the CAMBA mountain bike trail system, the Birkie Trail, and local snowmobile and all-terrain vehicle clubs.”

“The goal is to have snowmobile trails 31 and 63 open by December 31, but trails 15, 22, 25, and 90 are going to take a little longer,” Brown said. “Our partners are working on reroutes where possible, such as with Trail 25 near Marengo in Ashland County. We’ll continue coordination with the North Country Trail as well to ensure opportunities for long-distance winter backpacking, and still other trails for fat biking opportunities.”

Local units of government, usually the county, determine when trails will open for winter uses. Many trails cross private land and agreements with landowners often set dates for when trail easements begin and end, according to Gary Eddy, DNR motorized safety administrator. Local governments work closely with snowmobile clubs, who maintain and groom trails, to determine when snow conditions allow trails to open. Using trails before they are officially open is trespass and can cause trail damage and jeopardize easements with private landowners, Eddy said.

According to Brown, “Now is a great time to start thinking about planning a trip up north to participate in your winter trail activity of choice.” People can find out more about the status of winter trails by checking the “snow conditions report” on the Wisconsin Department of Tourism’s website. Check for conditions by county in the left-hand scroll window.