While most midwestern mountain bikers might be more familiar with the high-profile mountain biking trails in neighboring Michigan and nearby Ohio, Wisconsin has an up and coming mountain biking scene that shouldn’t be overlooked.
The state features a mix of classic cross-country rides and newer flow trails with a few surprises for downhill specialists.
Wisconsin’s best trails can be found in the northwest part of the state where most of the elevation is. It’s here that you’ll find classic country trails.
This region, known as the Northern Highlands, is home to Wisoncion’s lone IMBA Epic Rock Lake Trail.
It’s also where you’ll find Wisconsin’s impressive CAMBA trail system, which includes some 300 miles of trail.
Though smaller in scale, central Wisconsin also has some single track, including the rolling Full Underdown trail, which offers a surprising amount of climbing, and the unique terrain of Levis Mounds, which mixes technical bench cut cliffside trails with flowy downhill.
If you don’t mind some driving, check out the beautiful and well-built WinMan trail system deep in Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest in the northern part of the state. It’s one of the fastest-growing trail systems in the state.
Here are 8 of the best mountain bike trails in Wisconsin.
1. Rock Lake, Namakagon
This remote IMBA Epic trail is one of the most beautiful rides you’ll take, not just in the upper midwest, but in the country.
Rock Lake encompasses 27 miles and takes you deep into beautiful Wisconsin woods, where you’ll skirt many small lakes.
The terrain is also technical. The path is rocky and rooty, with a few longer rock gardens to navigate (there’s a reason it’s called Rock Lake).
Like many IMBA Epics, the trail is designed to take you into scenic backwoods with minimal impact on the environment. As such, the trail is narrow, with trees and bushes brushing our legs as you pass.
2. Pleasant View, Middleton
Mountain biking trails are few around the Madison area, but the Pleasant View Trail, though diminutive in length, is a great option that’s just outside the city.
This trail, which is designed for beginner to intermediate riders, offers smooth singletrack with minimal changes in elevation. The trails are challenging enough with berms, pump sections, and rock features to keep intermediate and advanced riders entertained.
It even features a nice switchback climb for a challenging ascent. And, since it’s tucked into the middle of a golf course, you can stop by the clubhouse for a bit to eat afterward. Just make sure to keep your eyes open for errant drives.
3. CAMBA Trail System, Namakagon
One of the most impressive trail systems in the Midwest, CAMBA features more than 300-miles of marked trails organized into different clusters.
One of the most popular is the Cable and Seeley Cluster. Despite its length, most of the trails in this vast system are fast and flowy with numerous dips and banked turns.
You’ll even find some unique design features, including a corkscrew bridge that you cross, circle and then go under, and skinny bridges that run for hundreds of feet.
And, while most trail systems are completely closed in the winter in the upper midwest, CAMBA features more than 25 miles of fat bike trails that are open.
4. Full Underdown, Merrill
For a state that doesn’t offer much in the way of elevation change, you might be surprised at how much climbing you’ll end up doing on this central Wisconsin trail. Full Underdown is nearly 22 miles of rolling terrain through Wisconsin Woods.
In all, you’ll complete nearly 2,500 feet of climbing. The terrain is rocky and technical with some flowy stretches. While there are no real extended ascents on this trail, you’ll be either climbing or descending most of the way, racking up those vertical feet.
Highlights include scenic lake stops and a fast and satisfying downhill finish.
5. Alpine Valley, East Troy
Alpine Valley, the host to USA Cycling’s Midwest Regional MTB Championships last year, is one of the best flow trails you’ll find in the region.
Built in and around Alpine Valley ski resort, this trail winds through the woods that separate the slopes. Smooth and hard-packed with little in the way of roots and rocks, this singletrack is fast and flowy.
The trail system is broken up into three joining loops that can give you the option for short or long rides.
The terrain narrows and winds through the trees, adding some technical challenges. But, with berms designed to let you throw your bike into turns, you can really fly through these trails.
6. WinMan Trails, Manitowish Waters
These might be the best trails you’ve never heard of in Wisconsin.
The WinMan Trail system may be many miles from anything you’d describe as a city, but it’s certainly worth the drive. This impressive tail system, located in the middle of the Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest, is entirely machine-built and rapidly growing.
WinMan is 14 miles of superbly engineered and well-groomed flow trails that wind through woodlands with nary a rock or root to slow you down. Some of the best trails in this system include the Green Trail, The Hub and Trial and Air.
This trail system consists of intertwining loops designed for both novices and experts with optional advanced lines sprinkled intermittently along the way. Cool features include flowy switchbacks and integrated rock features.
7. Blue Mound, Barneveld
Rocky and rooty with some short but punchy climbs; Blue Mound will certainly challenge your endurance and bike handling skills.
Located in Blue Mound State Park west of Madison, this trail system has a surprising amount of climbing given how little elevation change there is in Wisconsin. Though none of the climbs are exceedingly long, they are steep and rocky, making them a challenge.
You’ll bag more than 1,500 feet of climbing while hitting grades of up to 17 degrees on this 10-mile loop. The bumpy and narrow trails make the steep downhill sections just as technical as the ascents.
8. Kettle Scuttle, Palmyra
There isn’t much in the way of mountain biking in the Milwaukee area, but if you drive about an hour outside of town, you can find some of some excellent flowy singletrack at Kettle Scuttle.
This is a wide hard-packed singletrack with few roots or rocks to slow you down. While there isn’t much elevation change, this track is smooth enough for you to build plenty of speed on your own.
Kettle Scuttle is a single track that meanders through woodlands and wide-open meadows. Beginners will love this trail for its easy terrain while experts can blast through the trail and take on some optional obstacles.
9. Minooka Park Loop, New Berlin
This moderate trail system located just outside of Milwaukee offers an excellent blend of technical and flow riding in an urban setting.
The loop begins with a short jaunt into the woods on a lone singletrack trail before splitting into two loops; the green loop and the blue.
First, explore the green loop, which is a great option for beginners still honing their skills. This loop takes you on twists and turns through the woods before a straight and fast section through open meadow.
The blue loop adds to the difficulty level with banked turns, rollers, and some well-designed rock gardens. Though this system is relatively flat, there are a few short climbs and descents mixed in to add speed and challenge.
10. Quarry Ridge XC Loop, Verona
For a trail system that’s so short at just over three miles, it’s surprising just how much variety Quarry Ridge offers.
This trail system, tucked into a wooded area near the 40-mile Military State Trail recreational path just outside Madison, has something for everyone from MTB newbies to experts.
For beginners, there are 1.5 miles of singletrack via the Dizzy and Lakeview loop. Northwoods takes the challenge level up with banked turners and rockier terrain. Once you’ve mastered those trails, it’s time for the brief but exhilarating Drop Zone, a technical and rocky downhill that ends with a surprisingly steep wood bridge that can be jumped or rolled.
This loop is expertly maintained with well-placed wood features sprinkled throughout.