Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Return to ‘deep woods’ without walking far

The Oxbo Pines State Natural Area can be reached via the Oxbo Trails.
Photo courtesy of Wisconsin DNR.

Loop A heads
through maple,
birch forest

Day hikers can enjoy a walk through a thickly wooded area on the Oxbo Trails in Wisconsin’s Flambeau River State Forest.

The trails consist of a series of five short loops that total up to 8 miles in distance. Loop A, the easiest trail to access in the set, runs about 2.4 miles.

No longer groomed
Sometimes referred to as Oxbo Ski Trails, the trails no longer are groomed for cross country skiing or mountain biking, though there is talk among forestry officials of doing so again. These days, the trails primarily are used by hikers and snowshoers.

To reach the trails, from Winter take Wis. Hwy. 70 east into the state forest. About 1.5 miles east of the Flambeau River, turn left/north into a parking lot. At the lot’s northeast corner, take the stem trail east onto Loop A; continue heading straight at the first two junctions.

With many of the same maples, yellow birch and pines of the rest of the forest, both the lack of grooming and the location between a large bend in the North Fork Flambeau River has left the trails running through a thickly wooded area. If you want to feel like you’re in the “real” woods, the Oxbo Trails are for you.

About halfway through Loop A, the trail joins the second stacked loop, which is Loop B. Head left/west at the first junction with Loop B, then at the next intersection, leave the shared trail and go left/south.

Thick red and white pines
The set of trails are named for Oxbo Lake on the peninsula’s northeast side. That lake once was part of the Flambeau River until silt filled in the bends north and south of it, and the river changed its course.

The lake is located in the Oxbo Pines State Natural Area, which the state forest surrounds. Mature white and red pines that are 24-30 inches around dominate the natural area. If continuing on Loop B, and the other trails that are part of this set, you’ll enter the Oxbo Pines.

Loop A has a number of high knolls, but there are no major climbs. Each loop as heading north grows a little hillier, with Loop E showing the greatest change in elevation.

At the next trail junction on Loop A, go left/northwest back onto the stem trail to the parking lot.

Read more about day hiking Sawyer County, Wisconsin, in my Day Hiking Trails of Sawyer County guidebook.