PICTURE THIS: You’re strolling or biking down a scenic path through a quiet forest, breathing in the fragrance of pine forest and catching frequent glimpses of bluer-than-blue lakes. Suddenly a deer bounds across the path in front of you, or you startle a flock of wild turkeys, who make you laugh as they scurry awkwardly away through patches of wildflowers. Or imagine skiing along a groomed path after a fresh snowfall, making the world sparkle under a winter sun. This time, maybe it’s a red fox that steps tentatively onto the path and then, at the sight of you, bounds for the shelter of the forest. All around, chickadees are chattering, and in the distance, a barred owl hoots a tribute to this perfect day.

These daydreams come true when you’re in Minocqua’s vast recreational environs. With over a million acres of public forest and over 600 miles of trails, our area provides the perfect backdrop for whatever outdoor recreation relaxes you most. You can spend an entire season and never set foot on the same trail twice. One of the best-known trails in the area, the Bearskin, begins right in the heart of downtown Minocqua and follows Bearskin Creek. With a recent expansion, it now connects with the Hiawatha Trail and traverses 25 miles south to Tomahawk.

The northern half of the trail is through a landscape thick with pines and hardwoods and abundant lakes. Along the way, you’ll traverse at least a dozen old railroad trestles, remnants of a bygone age. Close your eyes. You can almost hear the clackety-clack of the train that carried white pine logs from northern forests to distant cities from 1888 to 1972. Narrative signs and a historical museum bring the trail’s early period to life.

The southern half of the trail follows the winding course of Bearskin Creek, a clean, cold creek that is home to Wisconsin’s native trout species, the brook trout. All 18 miles are surfaced with compacted granite ideal for walking, jogging or biking.

Because it’s well-known, the Bearskin is a popular route. Countless less-traveled trails dot the Northwoods, including the 11-mile Raven Trail, which has a 1.5 mile interpretive nature trail; the 7-mile Shannon Trail, with a spectacular loop around Shannon Lake, and the 2.5 mile Star Lake Nature Trail. 

FOR MAPS AND INFORMATION CALL THE MINOCQUA AREA CHAMBER OF COMMERCE AT (800) 446-6784 OR VISIT MINOCQUA.ORG.