Sunday, July 3, 2016

Washburn County regions offer unique trails

Trego Nature Trail

Three distinct geographic sections delivers on diverse day hiking experiences

Wisconsin's Washburn County can loosely be divided into three sections, each with its own distinct feel. The southern third of the county, roughly below the west/east-running County Road B and the Stone Lake area, marks Southern Lake Country. It sports a number of kettle lakes, left here by glaciers during the most recent ice age. The county’s largest lakes – Shell Lake, Long Lake and Balsam Lake (which is part of the Lake Chetac-Red Cedar Lake chain) all can be found there. Yellow River Country is centered on its namesake river, which runs through the county’s center at Spooner heading west. Namekagon River Country begins near the river’s shore and includes the entire north of the county, which is classic Wisconsin Northwoods.

Southern Lake Country
Known for its excellent fishing lakes, the county’s southern portion, from roughly Shell Lake to Stone Lake, offers a great variety of forest types, including maple-basswood, pine groves, white-red oak highlands, and low-lying birch-aspen. It makes for excellent hiking country. Among the great trails there are:
• Ice Age National Scenic Trail, Grassy Lake segment - South of Shell Lake, a fairly flat segment of the expansive Ice Age National Scenic Trail runs at the edge of where the glacier last seen in these parts towered some 11,000 years ago. The hike to Grassy Lake and back makes for just under 4 miles round trip.
• Bear Trail - Carnivorous plants and glacial lakes await hikers at the Hunt Hill Audubon Sanctuary east of Shell Lake. Perhaps the best way to see the sanctuary’s wide variety of ecosystems is this 2.7-mile loop.
• Tuscobia State Trail - Wisconsin has nicely converted a number of abandoned railroad grades to hiking and multi-use trails. Among the more popular is the 74-mile Tuscobia State Trail running from Rice Lake to Park Falls. In the southeast corner of Washburn County, the trail passes through the village of Birchwood, the self-proclaimed Bluegill Capital of Wisconsin. A pleasant segment of the trail to day hike goes northeast from downtown Birchwood for a 4-mile round trip to County Road F and back.

Yellow River Country
Sitting a couple of hundred feet lower in elevation than the county’s southern portion, recreation here is focused on the Yellow River and Spooner Lake, which it drains. Beaver Brook Wildlife Area and the Wild Rivers State Trail – which helps preserve the area’s railroad heritage – are its two major hiking centers.
• Beaver Brook East Trail - Day hikers can enjoy a pleasant walk along a classic trout stream on Beaver Brook Wildlife Area’s East Trail. Along the way, you may spot the impressive osprey or bald eagle. The wildlife area nicely preserves 1,964 acres of woods and wetlands between Shell Lake and Spooner. A number of loops run off the main trail so hikers can adjust the trail’s length to meet their time restrictions and energy levels.
• Wild Rivers State Trail, Spooner segment - Day hikers can learn about railroading on an old rail line turned hiking trail in Spooner. The Wild Rivers State Trail runs for 104 miles across three counties on a former Omaha and Soo Line Railroads rail line. In Spooner, the trail marks the eastern edge of downtown. A 1.9-mile round trip segment of the trail makes for a pleasant urban hike.

Namekagon River Country
For most travelers, the Namekagon River – protected by the St. Croix National Scenic Riverway – marks the start of the Wisconsin Northwoods. The riverway offers a range of outdoors opportunities, especially fishing and camping. Pines and oaks dominate much of the ecosystem heading north through Minong. Among the great trails there are:
• Trego Lake Trail - A pretty hike through a Northwoods forest awaits hikers on the Trego Lake Trail. The 1.9-mile trail loops through the woods next to Trego Lake. Both the lake and the trail are part of the scenic riverway.
• Trego Nature Trail - A pleasant walk through the woods along a wild river await hikers on the Trego Nature Trail in the scenic riverway. The trail is best done during summer when the shaded walk keeps hikers cool. Early autumn is a good time for those who enjoy fall colors.
• Wild Rivers State Trail, Trego segment - A pleasant stroll through the woods with a bridge view of the Namekagon River awaits day hikers on a segment of the Wild Rivers State Trail in Trego. At a little under 2.2-miles round trip, the segment is just a small portion of a trail that runs for 104 miles across three counties on an old Omaha and Soo Line Railroads rail line.
Totagatic Ski Trail, Loop A - Multiple ski loop trails in winter serve as great day hiking paths in summer for those in the Minong area. Of the four Totagatic Ski Trail loops, try Loop A. At two miles round trip, it’s the shortest as well as the closest to the parking lot so is easy to locate.

Learn more about these and other nearby trails in Day Hiking Trails of Washburn County.