Friday, August 7, 2015

North Country Trail passes waterfalls, historic portages in Douglas County, Wis.

The North Country Trail offers hikers several
in Douglas County, Wis. 
Photo courtesy of

National route crosses
Wisconsin's northwest corner

Day hikers can walk several segments of what is considered one of the nation’s premier long-distance trails when visiting Douglas County, Wis.

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. 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.

New segments are added almost every year; at one time, the parking lot on County Road A in neighboring Bayfield County marked the trail’s western terminus.

Brule River State Forest
The trail enters Douglas County from neighboring Bayfield County at S. County Line Road, which is the Brule River State Forest's eastern boundary. In the forest, the trail follows high bluffs overlooking the Little Bois Brule River. A spur trail heads down the cliffside to the waterway just east of Winneboujou.

A peaceful segment to walk in the state forest is from Wis. Hwy. 27 (north of Radio Station Road) south to County Road S for a 6-mile round trip, taking the trail north for about two miles to Rush River Road. Another option is from the same parking lot off of Hwy. 27; turn left onto Rush Road River, crossing Hwy. 27, for views of Big Lake.

Perhaps the best day hiking segments in the county can be found after the trail shifts south through the state forest and veers west, utilizing a famous historic portage connecting the Brule River (which flows north into Lake Superior) to the St. Croix River (which flows south into the Mississippi River). This section is known as the Bois-Brule-St. Croix River Historic Portage Trail. It then jogs north through a rare unique, cedar bog ecosystem that can be crossed via almost 4000 feet of wooden planks on the Brule Bog Boardwalk Trail.

Next, the North Country heads through the town of Solon Springs. The trail generally is in good condition here with easy access from village streets.

Remote forest, waterfalls
Southwest of Solon Springs, the trail runs for six-miles through the Douglas County Wildlife Area, a managed pine barrens. At the St. Croix Flowage, it briefly enters the St. Croix National Scenic Riverway.

The trail then heads into some remote country as it crosses a long stretch of the Douglas County Forest. Much of this section is swampy or makes use of roads as it runs in a generally northwestern direction.

In Pattison State Park, the trail offers a double treat of first Little Manitou Falls then Big Manitou Falls, the latter of which is the Wisconsin's highest waterfall.

From the state park, the trail sticks to road routes as it exits Douglas County, entering Minnesota just south of Jay Cooke State Park.

Read about nearby trails in Day Hiking Trails of Douglas County.