It is not unusual me to have sore muscles after I get back from a 50 mile bike ride, but it was my smile muscles, not my quads that were tired after I rode the paved trails through Wisconsin’s beautiful Northwoods from Boulder Junction to St. Germain. My family and I took an all-too-short vacation to Boulder Junction earlier in August and were blown away by how much the Musky Capital of the World has turned into a bicycling mecca.
Since our last vacation in the area about 8 years ago, this gorgeous section of northern Wisconsin has been transformed from a nice place to relax and fish into one of the top bicycling areas in the state. Although the lakes and fishing remain mainstays of tourism, the combination of smooth, low traffic roads, miles of off-road paved trails and rugged single track through the woods have drawn a new crop of tourists with as many bike racks as fishing boats.
As soon as we turned left off County Highway K, I was struck by the number of bike racks on cars and bikes parked outside the quaint shops and cafes on Boulder Junction’s Main Street. If I didn’t know better, I could have been in Boulder, Colorado, instead of a tiny town in northern Wisconsin.
Probably the main attraction in the area is the network of paved trails that connect Boulder Junction with Sayner and St. Germain. At a bit over 23 miles, you can ride the fun rolling paved trails between all three towns without worrying about motor vehicle traffic. This makes them ideal for families with small kids. The trails also offer many possible rest stops as they pass by beaches, campgrounds, stores and cafes.
If you prefer to ride mountain bikes, there are quite a few trails in the general area. You can find many systems on the Trails.com mountain bike map here. The State bicycle map also has the MTB trail heads on it, but I suggest you stop at Coontail Sports, the local bike shop and ask
for some advice. Mountain bike trails vary greatly, from technical singletrack to grassy ski trails. The folks at Coontail Too Bicycles have maps and the local knowledge to help you pick just the right trail for you.
Sadly I did not have time to ride any of the Presque Isle Pomeroy-Henry Trails, which offer more than one hundred miles of gravel forest roads. I love riding rolling gravel roads in the woods. They offer a nice compromise between the ease of paved trails and the concentration needed to ride mountain bike trails.
With 194 lakes within 10 miles of the town, you will still find as many Shimano reels as you will derailleurs. By all means plan a bicycle vacation there, but you will definitely want to make it a multi-modal trip and spend some time trolling with your J-ll Jointed Rapalas or just soaking worms off the end of your St. Croix rod. When we were in town there was a 37 inch Musky behind the glass in the cooler on Main St. and photos of a 47 incher that someone caught and released.
I spoke with a member of the area trails council, and he told me that St. Germain is completing construction on an eastern extension of their trail this year, and there are plans to build an additional 4.5 miles in 2012, going both north and west of Boulder Junction. That means there will soon be approximately 40 miles of paved off-road trails, with additional expansion in the long range plan to link communities and their respective trail systems.
As we drove south and back to the reality of our lives, we all took an oath not to wait another eight years to visit Boulder Junction again. I can hardly wait to go back Up North!