Thursday, November 6, 2014

Day hike segment of what one day will be nation’s longest trails

The North Country National Scenic Trail runs from New York state to
North Dakota. Photo courtesy of National Park Service.

Route heads through woods, pine barrens

Day hikers can walk a segment of what is considered one of the nation’s premier trails in northern Wisconsin’s Bayfield County.

The Erick Lake section of the North Country National Scenic Trail heads along a ridgeline through a new growth forest. It runs 4 miles one-way.

High point
To reach the trail, from Iron River head south on County Road A. South of the second intersection with Bradfield Road, park in the lot on County Road A’s southeast side. The North Country Trail heads both northwest and southeast from the lot. Go left/northwest from the lot and cross County Road A.

Running 4600 miles from New York state to North Dakota, when completed the North Country Trail will be twice the length of the Appalachian Trail and the longest hiking trail in the United States. About 61 miles of the North Country Trail crosses Bayfield County.

At 0.12 miles from the trailhead, the Erick Lake Segment gains elevation, climbing to one of the higher points along the trail, a hill at 1286 feet above sea level. From there, the dirt path follows a ridgeline as heading through woods and pine barrens.

Though the National Park Service studied the concept of a North Country Trail during the late 1960s, not until 1980 did Congress approve the route’s creation of the route. New segments are added almost every year; at one time, the parking lot on County Road A marked the trail’s western terminus.

Erick Lake
At about 1.9 miles from the trailhead, the route crosses Banana Belt Road. From there, the trail generally descends as heading toward the segment’s namesake.

In another 1.9 miles, Erick Lake comes into view on the trail’s north side. An 8-acre lake with a maximum depth of 26 feet, public campsites are nearby.

When the segment reaches Pero Road (aka Hughes Town Hall Road farther north), about 0.08 miles from the lake, turnaround. The complete hike runs 8-miles round trip.

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