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15 Best Trails for Hiking in Northern Wisconsin

Guide to the best places to hike in Northern Wisconsin no matter your hiking abilities

Are you a nature lover? Is hiking top of your list of things to do on your vacation or free time?

If the answer to either is yes, then you should consider visiting one of the many Northern Wisconsin hiking trails.

Wisconsin offers breathtaking landscapes and exploring its hiking trails for all ages and levels of difficulty is a really pleasant activity.

The hiking in Northern Wisconsin, in particular, is specatuclar, and visitors will find some of the best hiking trails in Wisconsin.

Things to do in Northern Wisconsin, The forest road among green trees in the mountains
Reconnect with nature while hiking in Northern Wisconsin

Mountain, sea, lakes, parks (natural or near urban areas), no matter your landscape of choice, there are many backdrops that can inspire a truly magical experience while hiking in Northern Wisconsin.

So if you want to spend some quality time with your family in nature or just want to explore the great outdoors, hiking is one of the coolest weekend trips in Wisconsin.

In fact, Northern Wisconsin is an incredibly popular destination for nature lovers during spring break in Wisconsin.

Choose at least one trail that has an appropriate level of difficulty for you and start your journey of hiking in Northern Wisconsin!

To best plan for your trip, check out my guides on the best vegan hiking boots for women and men and the best water bottles for hiking.

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1. Bayview Trail

  • Where: Madeline Island, WI
  • Length: 3.4 miles
  • Difficulty: Easy
best places to hike in northern wisconsin, The sea caves of Devils Island in the Apostle Islands of Lake Superior
The sea caves of Devils Island in the Apostle Islands of Lake Superior, near Madeline Island

Hikers visiting Big Bay State Park in northern Wisconsin will be rewarded with breathtaking views of Lake Superior.

And just across the water, Madeline Island, the biggest of the famed 22 Apostle Islands, is located in one of the best state parks in northern Wisconsin.

Here you will find the Bayview Trail, one of the best hikes in Northern Wisconsin, especially for families.

Bayview Path offers a 5-mile round journey, but a border self-guided interpretive trail may be shortened in half by turning around at the boardwalk.

The paved path is ideal for a fast urban stroll and is for sure one of the top things to do in Apostle Islands.

This Northern Wisconsin hiking route is 3 miles roundtrip and has roughly 200 feet of elevation gain, making it a fairly easy trek.

The route starts at the summit of Getchell Hill, with gorgeous views overlooking the city of Marysville as it then snakes beneath power lines and past various communities.

The only things to keep an eye out for are multiple traffic crossings at protected crosswalks along the way, as well as many locals walking their dogs.

Otherwise, this path is ideal for families and children can even ride their bikes or scooters alongside an adult.

When you reach 72nd Place, there is also a tiny neighborhood playground where the youngsters may take a rest and stretch their legs.

Buy here the best trail guides for Wisconsin

2. North Country National Scenic Trail

  • Where: Copper Falls, WI
  • Length: 1.7 miles
  • Difficulty: Easy
hiking trails in wisconsin with waterfalls, copper falls waterfall
Waterfall at Copper Falls, WI
  • Accommodation Options: The best way to enjoy the beauty here is by renting a cabin or a cottage. On VRBO, I found this scenic waterfront Log Home and this cabin rental comes with its own dock.

The North Country National Scenic Trail offers tourists a variety of interesting outdoor hiking opportunities.

Copper Falls State Park has the same explosive splendor as a Tchaikovsky symphony when it comes to visual delights.

While tiny angle hair currents weave through stone gorges, a family of tempestuous waterfalls plays out driving baselines.

These are some of the best waterfalls in Northern Wisconsin, and well worth the hike to see them.

Although the park holds one of the best hiking trails in Wisconsin with waterfalls, make sure to explore beyond the beautiful falls.

The majority of tourists will only walk the two main attraction paths, however, the park is much larger than its primary attractions.

Within the park’s limits, the North Country National Scenic Trail actually provides an extra 8 linear miles of hiking.

Taking the northern extension of the North Country Trail offers better solitude as well as the opportunity to watch animals such as brown bears, deer, moose, and wolves.

Such experiences create stunning memories of hiking northern Wisconsin trails, and make you crave another visit!

If you want to stay even longer, an isolated hiker’s campground on the banks of the Bad River is located a few miles north of Brownstone Falls.

It has a fire ring as well as a vault toilet, and visitors can pitch their tent just a few steps from the Bad River’s rapids.

Buy here the best road trip itinerary for Wisconsin

3. Bearskin State Trail

  • Where: Minocqua, WI
  • Length: 21.5 miles
  • Difficulty: Easy-Moderate 
amazing northern wi hiking trails, Rustic wooden trestle across the Bearskin State Trail in Minocqua Wisconsin.
Bearskin State Trail in Minocqua, WI

Just outside of Minocqua is some of the best hiking Northern Wisconsin has to offer.

Bearskin State follows paths initially trodden by pioneers and loggers, and subsequently by passengers and outdoor enthusiasts on trains like the Hiawatha and Fisherman’s Special.

This trail is a challenge but has many opportunities to offer, and has some of the best hiking in Wisconsin state parks available. 

Bicyclists, hikers, and snowboarders are now the ones who disappear into the woods on a largely crushed-gravel path that stretches for 21 miles between Minocqua and Heafford Junction.

The route winds through a sparsely inhabited area famed for lush woods and a plethora of lakes.

These lakes are popular with both fishermen and birders, especially during the migratory season.

Along with bald eagles and loons from the lake, you could spot a deer from the walk.

This trail requires extra stamina for sure but I think is a wonderful choice of things to do in Minocqua even if you’re not planning on finishing the whole trail.

After a long day of hiking, you can relax and unwind at one of the best hotels in Minocqua, or stay nearby at one of the best resorts in Northern Wisconsin.

Book here the best cabins in Minocqua

4. Eagle Trail

  • Where: Peninsula State Park, WI
  • Length: 2.5 miles
  • Difficulty: Moderate
best state parks in northern Wisconsin for hiking, Eagle Bluff Lighthouse during fall
Eagle Bluff Lighthouse

The Niagara Escarpment bluffs are a distinguishing feature of Door County.

But nowhere is their magnitude and beauty more apparent than along Eagle Trail, one of the best hikes in Door County.

Located in Peninsula State Park, one of the best state parks in Wisconsin, this beautiful route will have you wanting to visit again and again.

The route descends through cedar woodlands, with black-throated blue warbler singing and pileated woodpecker pounding as your soundtrack.

The route is lined with trillium, thimbleberry, bellwort, and leatherwood flowers.

As you walk, you’ll be surrounded on one side by cliff outcroppings, which shows you the way as you follow along, while the turquoise waters of the harbor peek through the cedars on the other.

Door County is named after Death’s Door and is a treacherous sailing path that spans the Door Peninsula from Lake Michigan to Green Bay.

However, now sailing can be one of the best things to do in Door County – so long as you go out with a skilled sailor!

It’s a beautiful hike, but it’s also the most challenging one in the park. So if you want an easier walk, you’ll have no problem finding something suitable.

The Eagle Trail track is full of pebbles and exposed roots, so flip-flops are out and walking sticks are in.

If you bring a child under the age of four, plan to carry them back up the bluff!

Make sure to stop by and admire the Eagle Bluff Lighthouse along the way, it is one of the best lighthouses of Wisconsin.

Such a trail is definitely some of the best hiking in Norther Wisconsin without any question! In fact, the trail is perfect no matter when you visit.

Whether you are looking for fun things to do in Door County in October or outdoorsy things to do in Door County in winter, this trail is a must!

Door County is also full of amazing outdoor activities in Wisconsin for the whole family!

Book here the best cabins in Door County

5. Star Lake Nature Trail

  • Where: Star Lake, WI
  • Length: 2.04-miles
  • Difficulty: Easy-Moderate
best northern wisconsin hiking, wooden boardwalk hiking path through trees
Star Lake Nature Trail, WI

Accommodation Options: Renting out a threebedroom Beachside Lake House is a great opportunity to kick back and enjoy some amazing views over the lake. Alternatively, this remodeled cabin is perfect for a larger fun filled family vacation on Fence Lake.

The Star Lake trek, located in central Vilas County, follows the peninsula that juts out into, you got it, Star Lake, one of the spectacular lakes in Wisconsin.

This is a simple climb with stunning views of pine trees and rocky beach and is one of the best places to hike in Northern Wisconsin!

Make a point of stopping at the Black Lagoon for some fantastic photo opportunities, a top list for places for fall colors in Wisconsin if you ask me, and also take a rest along the coast to soak in the scenery!

This walk follows the shores of a picturesque peninsula on Star Lake and hiking in northeast Wisconsin is unquestionably one of the greatest short treks in the area.

The terrain is diverse but never tough, and the vegetation changes dramatically despite the trail’s short duration.

There is a shorter, 1-mile loop that may be completed by taking a “shortcut” approximately halfway to the end of the peninsula.

But doing so would be a mistake because the greatest coastal hiking of Northern WI hiking trails, vistas, and beaches is on the outer loop.

There are additional informative markers along the way, as well as an alternative trail that takes you to Black Lagoon.

Buy here the best hiking shoes from REI

6. WinMan Trails

  • Where: Manitowish Waters
  • Length: 18 miles
  • Difficulty: Intermediate 
most popular mountain biking trails in Northern Wisconsin, A man riding a bike on a mountain
Biking in WinMan Trails

Accommodation Options: Renting out a threebedroom Beachside Lake House is a great opportunity to kick back and enjoy some amazing views over the lake. Alternatively, this remodeled cabin is perfect for a larger fun filled family vacation on Fence Lake.

WinMan Trails is a non-profit trail network that spans 1,300 acres of private and public land.

Their mission is to encourage adventure and community building by providing an amazing outdoor trail-related experience for wonderful winter getaways in Wisconsin.

WinMan Trails offers miles of single-track mountain biking trails for all levels of riders, from novice to experienced, during the summer and fall.

The trails at WinMan are amongst the best mountain bike trails in Wisconsin! Roll across hills, through pine forests, and beneath hardwood canopy.

On this developing and changing trail system, take on fast and flowy singletrack, difficult downhills, berms, and bridges.

This trail is one of the best hiking trails Northern Wisconsin has to offer thanks to a multitude of breathtaking landscapes.

WinMan Trails shifts gears in the winter to provide some of the best snowmobile trails in Wisconsin, as well as groomed trails for cross-country skiing, fat-tire riding, and snowshoeing.

If you are looking for amazing outdoorsy things to do in Wisconsin in winter, WinMan Trails is a fantastic option.

Buy here the best travel itinerary for Wisconsin from a local

7. Raven Trail

  • Where: Woodruff, WI
  • Length: 14.5 miles
  • Difficulty: Easy
best hiking in northeast wisconsin, path with puddle surrounded by mossy trees
Hiking in Raven Trail, WI

Raven Trail is located immediately east of the city of Minocqua, Wisconsin, and contains a paved bike route as well as hiking and cross-country skiing paths.

Although this is not a difficult trek, it is the hilliest hike we encountered in Vilas County.

There are a lot of routes to select from here as well, and the early snowfall was incredibly serene!

The Raven Trail is in a fee-based part of the Wisconsin State Park system.

This means that all skiers and bikers aged 16+ are required to pay either the annual $25 state park pass or use the self-help station and fill out a $5 day pass to use the trails.

These fees are used for grooming and maintenance and the park service appreciates your support!

Book here the best cabins in Northern Wisconsin

8. Escanaba – Pallette Lake Trails

  • Where: Boulder Junction, WI
  • Length: 8.3 miles
  • Difficulty: Moderate-Hard
best hiking in northern wisconsin, curved path amidst fall trees
Escanaba – Pallette Lake Trails, WI

Accommodation Options: Renting out a threebedroom Beachside Lake House is a great opportunity to kick back and enjoy some amazing views over the lake. Alternatively, this remodeled cabin is perfect for a larger fun filled family vacation on Fence Lake.

The Escanaba – Pallette Lake Trails are located near Boulder Junction in central Northern Wisconsin.

The trails here may be rather extensive, so you can elect to take a short loop between Escanaba Lake and Pallette Lake.

This trail is only a few miles long, offering a pleasant walk through the woods that makes it one of the best hiking trails in northern Wisconsin for feeling close to the wildlife.

There are a lot of fantastic one-night paddle-in camp spots along this path, as well as some spectacular lake vistas.

The Escanaba Lake Trail is a fantastic combination of fun, hard terrain, and stunning Northwoods scenery.

This is one of northern Wisconsin’s most gorgeous classic ski tracks, and near some of the best ski resorts in Wisconsin.

Classic skiers at the intermediate and advanced levels will discover a path with modest slopes and plenty of rapid, twisting descents, typically through dense forests of balsam fir and spruce.

The “Blue” and “Red” loops provide the most variety of scenery and topography, particularly the full eastern loop around Escanaba and Mystery Lakes (take the inner [right] fork past Mystery Lake!).

The Red and Blue routes span multiple wooden bridges over frozen streams and wander through frozen spruce and tamarack bogs on lengthy boardwalks.

All of the routes also provide spectacular views of the best lakes in Northern Wisconsin listed below: Pallette, Escanaba, Lost Canoe, and/or Mystery Lake.

Overall, it is an extremely rewarding experience, but definitely rewarding if you love a good lake view!

Make a point of stopping near the Escanaba Lake boat dock to grab some great shots!

Buy here the best Wisconsin hiking guides

9. Fallison Lake Nature Trail

  • Where: Vilas County, WI
  • Length: 2.1 miles
  • Difficulty: Easy
scenic hiking trails in northern wisconsin, hiking path shaded by trees
Exploring nature in Fallison Lake Nature Trail, WI

Accommodation Options: Renting out a threebedroom Beachside Lake House is a great opportunity to kick back and enjoy some amazing views over the lake. Alternatively, this remodeled cabin is perfect for a larger fun filled family vacation on Fence Lake.

One of northern Wisconsin’s most beautiful hidden treasures is Fallison Lake Nature Trail.

Once you’ve discovered it, you might want to keep this hidden location to yourself to remain hidden from listicles such as this one with the best places to vacation in Wisconsin for hiking!

Start your trek by filling up your water bottle at the ancient manual well pump (if you forget, there’s another at the halfway point!), which is accessible by vehicle or along the Heart of Vilas paved cycling track.

Turn right to begin the 2.5-mile-long Red path. If you’re pressed for time, you may shorten the journey by using the shorter 2 mile Blue, 1 mile Green, and 0.5 mile Yellow trails.

Bring your camera and take your time seeing how the forest changes as you go – the area’s logging history gives clear transitions between the balsam, red pine, white pine, sugar maple, white birch, aspen, and hemlock glades.

This is one of the most beautiful Northern Wisconsin hiking trails!

You’ll traverse bogs and bridges as the route arcs around Fallison Lake, and if you’re lucky, you could spot some lake trout swimming through the shallows.

Look up and about for evidence of wildlife; the route is lined with beaver-felled trees, and the lake is home to loons, osprey, and eagles.

Wear strong shoes because the route can be steep and tight in places, and they’re especially useful for climbing the apparently random glacier-left-behind rocks.

Buy here the best water bottles for hiking

10. Lumberjack Trail

  • Where: Vilas County, WI
  • Length: 4.9 miles
  • Difficulty: Easy-Moderate
best hiking trails in northern wisconsin, forked hiking path surrounded by trees
Which way would you choose?

Accommodation Options: Renting out a threebedroom Beachside Lake House is a great opportunity to kick back and enjoy some amazing views over the lake. Alternatively, this remodeled cabin is perfect for a larger fun filled family vacation on Fence Lake.

During the winter, this certified mountain bike path (Wisconsin State Track Pass needed) also serves as an ungroomed cross-country ski and snowshoe trail.

It has multiple grass and dirt wilderness routes that gently loop through various forest types and along the Manitowish River, Fishtrap Lake, and White Sand Lake.

Pets on leashes are only permitted when there is no snow. In the winter, portions of this path are prepared for fat-tire biking.

The Escanaba-Pallette Lake Trails are linked via this path, so you can make your hike extra long if you want.

Boulder Junction is highly renowned for its beauty despite being right off Highway 51, thus it has some of the most popular

The trails are easy to moderate and wind along the Manitowish River, the Fishtrap Flowage, and White Sand Lake.

With a permit, this route network also enables backcountry camping.

The Lumberjack Trail is in a fee-based portion of the Wisconsin State Park system, but it’s definitely one of the hikes in Northern Wisconsin worth the fee!

Buy here the best Wisconsin road trip itinerary

11. Putnam Park

  • Where: Eau Claire, WI 
  • Length: 1.3miles
  • Difficulty: Easy
best hiking trails northern wisconsin, Autumn at the Dells of the Eau Claire in Wisconsin
Autumn at the Dells of the Eau Claire in Wisconsin

Want to locate the best hiking trails in Eau Claire, WI for a challenging hike or a family outing?

There are many fantastic hiking trails, bike trails, jogging trails, but Putnam Park is a great choice to enjoy hand-curated trail maps, as well as reviews and images from other nature enthusiasts.

The park is located in the heart of Eau Claire and follows the paths of the Chippewa River to the west and Minnie Creek to the east.

A large portion of the park is located on the outskirts of the Third Ward neighborhood.

The park is located just south of a steep stretch of Harding Avenue known as “Plank Street Hill.”Explore one of Putnam Park’s simple hiking routes, which is suitable for the whole family.

Looking for a more challenging hike?

We’ve got you covered, with paths ranging in elevation increase from 20 to 20 meters.

Whatever your plans for the day are, you may locate the ideal trail for hikes in northern Wisconsin, your next visit to Putnam Park.

Book here the best cabins in Eau Claire, WI

12. Chippewa River Trails

  • Where: Eau Claire
  • Length: 70 miles
  • Difficulty: Easy
Hiking trails in Eau Claire WI, Boat launch along Chippewa Lake, WI
Peaceful Chippewa Lake, WI

This 30-mile path begins in downtown Eau Claire at Phoenix Park, at the junction of the Eau Claire and Chippewa rivers, and proceeds south along the Chippewa River. 

The path connects with the Red Cedar State Trail near the confluence of the Red Cedar and Chippewa Rivers in the Dunnville Wildlife Area and finishes in Durand.

The Chippewa River State Trail is ideal for those who like bicycling, jogging, running, in-line skating, or snowmobiling.

In West Central Wisconsin, the path connects Eau Claire and Durand and hiking here is one of the best things to do in Eau Claire, WI.

Much of it is built on the bed of the old Milwaukee Road railroad line, which was constructed in 1882.

However, the railroad line was decommissioned in 1980 and is now a component of the Wisconsin State Trail System.

The entire path is quite level, making it ideal for a variety of activities for people of all ages and a variety of habitats including river bottoms, grasslands, sandstone bluffs, and wetlands.

This path is part of the Chippewa Valley Trail System, which consists of three state regional trails.

It is currently linked to the Red Cedar State Trail and will be linked to the Old Abe State Trail in the future.

This trail system will be roughly 70 miles long when finished, connecting the cities of Menomonie, Durand, Eau Claire, Chippewa Falls, and Cornell.

Book here the best cabins on Lake Chippewa

13. Nicolet North

  • Where: Butternut Lake, WI
  • Length: 26.5 miles
  • Difficulty: Easy-Intermediate 
Things to do in Northern Wisconsin, Top view of Chequamegon-Nicolet is a National Forest in Northern Wisconsin
Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest in Northern Wisconsin
  • Accommodation Options: The best way to enjoy the beauty of this area is by renting a cabin or a cottage. This cabin is tranquility in a nutshell and comes with its private dock. I am also obsessed with this secluded cabin.

This is a popular path for cross-country skiers and mountain bikers, as well as being one of the best places for hiking in Northern Wisconsin.

For both traditional and skate skiing, 26.5 miles of groomed and tracked terrain are available.

The Nicolet North Trail is part of the Anvil National Recreation Trail System, and additionally, a portion of this path is followed by the Hidden Lakes Trail.

At the trailhead, there is a map accessible.

Volunteers keep this path in good condition so visitors can get the most out of Nicolet’s beauty while hiking Northern Wisconsin.

In the winter, fifteen kilometers of the path are groomed and tracked for skiing (traditional-style as well as ski-skating style).

Book here the best cabins in Northern Wisconsin

14. Bailey Lake Equestrian

  • Where: Three Lakes, WI
  • Length: 15 miles
  • Difficulty: Easy
hiking getaways in Northern Wisconsin, Girl riding a horse
Enjoy the Bailey Lake Equestrian trail by horse

One of the best things to do in Northern Wisconsin is to try a different kind of hiking. Enjoy this path from a lofty vantage point in the saddle.

Take a moderate trot through a thick, red pine forest on what was once a logging road and railroad grade around the turn of the century.

To transport lumber from the forests, early loggers utilized a combination of horse-pulled sleds and railways.

Parts of this track are utilized as a snowmobile route when it snows.

Horseback riding mixed with hiking is a great idea for a romantic outdoorsy experience, and this is perfect for a romantic getaway in Wisconsin.

Additionally, the area has some of the most romantic hotels in Wisconsin to choose from to make it an extra special stay.

Find here some of the best Northern Wisconsin resorts on lakes where you can have some peach and tranquility overlooking a beautiful sunset from your room.

Buy here the best trail guides for Wisconsin

15. North Lakeland Discovery Trail System

  • Where: Boulder Junction
  • Length: 5 to 12 miles
  • Difficulty: Easy-Intermediate
best hiking lakes in northern wisconsin, a reflection of trees on a lake at dusk
Lake in Northern Wisconsin

Accommodation Options: Renting out a threebedroom Beachside Lake House is a great opportunity to kick back and enjoy some amazing views over the lake. Alternatively, this remodeled cabin is perfect for a larger fun filled family vacation on Fence Lake.

The North Lakeland Discovery Center Trail System is ideal for day hikes as from sunrise to sunset, the paths are open to everyone.

Trails around Statehouse Lake and along the Manitowish River are quiet and private, which is why it’s a great place to enjoy some of the best hiking in Northern Wisconsin.

Easy/beginner and intermediate loops go through both new and old growth woodland, as well as through bog and seashore.

Hiking and mountain biking are permitted in the spring, summer, and fall, and traditional skiing and snowshoeing are permitted in the winter.

Along this 12-mile trail system, visitors may go hiking, biking, skiing, snowshoeing, and wildlife watching.

The mild terrain runs through the woods, along the lake, bog, and neighboring Manitowish River, allowing you to experience a variety of ecosystems, each with its own unique plants and creatures.

In the winter, traditional skiing tracks are cleared, and snowshoes are available for rent. Snowshoes are free for members, but the general public must pay $5 for each pair.

In the winter, only leashed dogs are permitted on the snowshoe track, but in summers dogs can go off-leash.

Buy here the best itinerary to explore Wisconsin off the beaten path

The great bulk of Wisconsin’s Northwoods is publicly held as national, state, and county forests, with thousands of acres free to outdoor enthusiasts to wander anywhere they like.

You may ride, hike, or ski the various marked trails accessible in Northern Wisconsin if you don’t want to think about where you’re going.

The most important thing is to create memories with your loved ones and reconnect with mother nature! 

No matter where you visit if you love the beautiful outdoors, you won’t be able to get enough of the hiking in Northern Wisconsin.

Check some of the best Northwest Wisconsin resorts if you’re in need of great accommodation options in that part of Wisconsin.

Short FAQ about the best hiking in Northern Wisconsin

1. How many miles is the North Country Trail in Wisconsin?

The trail is a total of 220 miles across Wisconsin, with most of it in Northern Wisconsin. If you want to hike the whole thing, it can take up to 6 months to complete depending on your hiking speed.

2. What are the best hiking trails in Wisconsin with waterfalls?

If you want waterfalls, head to Northern Wisconsin! There are several Northern Wisconsin hiking trails with waterfalls, but the best one is North Country National Scenic Trail. This trail is in the Copper Falls State Park and you’ll get to see the magnificent Copper Falls.

3. How many hiking trails are in Wisconsin?

Wisconsin has over 1300 hiking trails across Wisconsin. These trails span over 3000 miles of terrain with varying lengths and difficulties.

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