Fall gravel biking is right around the corner. In the 2023 Northwoods Fall Gravel Handbook we rounded up all the races, events, and destinations to plan out your entire fall gravel biking season this year. Hear from race directors and enjoy some Airbnb picks and then pencil in some adventures.
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Is fall the best season for cycling? Spring training and summer vacations are all in the rearview mirror. Fall is the time to start guessing when peak color season will show up and when muddy roads and freezing rain start punching you in the face.
The natural scenery is at it's most beautiful point and it's exciting to start planning some last-chance adventures before the colors get DQ'd and the colder weather becomes the norm.
Some of us love the competition of fall gravel racing, and others just want to slow down and explore beautiful backgrounds.
Whether you're aiming for a podium or just trying to have the funnest-known-time, the Northwoods Fall Gravel Handbook is your itinerary to add new roads to your year and maybe ride with a few new faces.
Interactive 2023 Fall Gravel Map
10 Fall Gravel Races: Checking In With Race Directors
The Nxrth's gravel race calendar is winding down for summer and ramping way up for fall. There are 10 excellent fall gravel races (September - October) ranging from the far corner of the Upper Peninsula to north shore Northwoods as well as gorgeous Driftless gravel.
Here we check in with race directors to catch the race background right from them as well as their favorite parts of the route.
1. Heck of the North According to Jeremy Kershaw
What Is Heck of The North?
The Heck of the North offers 105, 55 and 20 mile routes. Decidedly North Shore, The Heck of the North is gravel cycling with a twist of trail thrown in to keep it rugged. Our 15th year of bringing gravel cycling to the North Shore, The Heck is the perfect way to finish off your season or start training for the Winter. Fall colors abound and we welcome all to this gravel classic.
Why Should People Race Heck of the North?
What the Heck lacks in vertical climbing, it makes up for in ruggedness. We have used a few miles of snowmobile (North Shore State Trail) trail to link gravel sectors together since the inception of the race. Keep your eye out for wolf, bear, and moose tracks on these wild sections. The Heck is marked by beautiful Autumn foliage and a warm community of cyclists at the finish. We love this combination of low-fi racing in the woods north of Two Harbors. All are welcome!
To learn more, visit Heck of the North.
2. The Lone Wolf According to James Morrow
What Is The Lone Wolf?
The 50 is the original Lone Wolf route, the route that inspired the race. Featuring fast gravel, chunky truck trail that snaps the groups apart and a few bits of pavement to give them roadies a chance. It’s been full blown color the past couple years. You can’t beat that time of year in the U.P.
Why Should People Race The Lone Wolf?
The solitude of it all, the fall smells, the damp gravel roads, the surprise flush of partridges. It’s all so good. Hope to see ya there!
To learn more, visit The Lone Wolf.
3. The Filthy According to Trenton Raygor
What Is The Filthy?
The Filthy is a fall gravel classic that takes place in Lanesboro Minnesota USA. There are 25, 50, and 100 mile routes that take gravel enthusiasts on some of the most beautiful roads of The Driftless Region. This is our 10th year and is going to be one for the books. Race it and set a record. Ride it and take in the beauty. Either way, get filthy!
Why Should People Race The Filthy?
My favorite road on our 100 mile route is Harrow Road as you ride a ribbon of gravel that separates a 200ft tall limestone wall from the meandering Root River. The feeling I get there when the morning sun is reflecting off of the water is one of the best. There's a sleepy little river town called Peterson exactly half way through the 100 with a cafe that I just love. I highly recommend that our riders stop there to refuel. Our 50 mile route is packed with magic. I'm a big fan of ruins and their stories so the old Gribben Mill always brings a smile to my face. Dogwood is one of the most beautiful roads you'll experience on that route. Of course, the old Amish school house on the top of Grub Hill is always a hit for numerous reasons. I also love riding the minimum maintenance road that the old Amish farmer maintains with his horse and plow near Harmony. My favorite part of our 25 mile route is Grit Road. It's a gorgeous road, but like life, it has its ups and downs. You really feel its name in the legs by the time you're done with it. The 50 and the 100 milers get to feel that one too as it brings everyone back down into the valley to the edge of Lanesboro where the finish line party is waiting! Oh yeah, did I mention we throw a big party in Lanesboro at the finish? Hang out, eat, drink, and tell us about your ride. Seeing our riders celebrating is my favorite part of the weekend!
To learn more, visit The Filthy.
4. The Hardwood Hustle According to Josh Zarling
What Is The Hardwood Hustle?
A gravel cycling ride on beautiful forest roads. Ride the best gravel northern Wisconsin has to offer. Riders will find this both challenging and scenic. Three distance options of 85 miles, 50 miles, and 26 miles. This is a self supported ride. Being only its second year, the ride has a feeling of cycling community and camaraderie. All proceeds are donated directly to the Town of Alvin Volunteer Fire and Rescue Department.
Why Should People Race The Hardwood Hustle?
The Hardwood Hustle takes place during peak fall color and perfect riding temps. Riders will experience a sense of solitude on low traffic gravel roads. All three routes will feature a memorable last mile!
To learn more, visit The Hardwood Hustle.
5. The Winston County Gravel Cup According to Jake Ellefson
What Is The Winston County Gravel Cup?
Whether you choose the 25-, 40-, 60-, or 100-mile route, you will not be disappointed with the unique experience this ride will provide. Mainly gravel, with only a touch of pavement, you will travel through wooded lanes, challenging climbs, and open valleys to discover this area's incredible views.
This ride is whatever you make of it... whether you choose to set a personal record or a personal goal to finish, all riders of all skill levels are welcome to join us on September 23th. If you want to race, go nuts. We will be timing the event. If you want to go for a fantastic ride with friends, go nuts. We're all about a good time.
Why Should People Race The Winston County Gravel Cup?
The views from atop the climbs are second to none, especially coming down the last decent before the finish. You can see for miles and miles! Also, the town of Houston has been incredible and makes us feel welcome every year. It really is a special part of the region.
To learn more, visit The Winston County Gravel Cup.
6. Gray Duck Grit According to Mark & Kris Jesse
What Is Gray Duck Grit?
Gray Duck Grit is a grass-roots gravel cycling event in Southern Minnesota. It forces you to push past preconceived mental and physical barriers. Our 69, 111, 222, and 333-mile routes break you down one hill, one pedal stroke, one gasping breath at a time, only to build you up with a renewed sense of growth, community, and grit.
Why Should People Race Gray Duck Grit?
We wind through some of the most beautiful areas of the Minnesota driftless geographical region where spectacular views, rolling hills, & river valleys make GDG one of the most beautiful events in the country. Support crews aren’t necessary as we offer supported aid stations every 50-60 miles. In addition, we have promo codes for women and students to encourage more participation and to create a welcoming and diverse space. Our mantra is “ride your ride” which to us means how hard you ride, where you ride, and why you ride is entirely up to YOU. Lastly, our motivation and reason we volunteer is because all proceeds go to the non-profit, Fraser, who offer specialty healthcare and inclusion services for autism, mental health, and disabilities.
To learn more, visit Gray Duck Grit.
7. Moran 166 According to Jason Lowetz
What Is Moran 166?
Relive the pioneer spirit of Michigan’s Eastern Upper Peninsula and experience remote wilderness in its autumn prime. The Moran 166 is now a collection of gravel bike races which showcase the best gravel in the region. In addition to our 166 mile event we offer a shorter 66 mile option. For those of you who are hoping to see even more of the Eastern Upper Peninsula, we have good news! For 2023 we’ve added a 333 mile event.
Why Should People Race Moran 166?
Michigan's Eastern Upper Peninsula has some of the best gravel road conditions thanks to the U.S. Forest Service. Minimal traffic and beautiful views makes this event that you can not miss.
To learn more, visit Moran 166.
8. The Hibernator 100 According to Brent Schmaling
What Is The Hibernator 100?
This 10th anniversary edition of the Hibernator 100 is one you won't want to miss. Three routes of 31, 63, and 100 miles are rideable by gravel curious novices and will challenge the seasoned veterans. Prepare to be surprised on this year's routes. Hosted by and benefiting the Laona Rescue Squad.
Why Should People Race The Hibernator 100?
Stunning fall colors and amazing scenery over every hill and around every corner. Prepare to be surprised.
To learn more, visit The Hibernator 100.
9. Red Granite Grinder According to Shane Hitz
What is the Red Granite Grinder?
The Red Granite Grinder is a gravel race that mixes gravel with adventure style racing through the use of private lands, the once a year use of Rib Mountain State Park for bikes and a few lesser known public sections. These section are sprinkled throughout each course to spice things up and make for a fun adventure. The event takes place Saturday, October 14th and this year we are excited to host it for the fifth year. Besides the private land sections the other unique aspect of this event is that the start and end of the event takes place at the historic square of downtown Wausau. There are three race lengths, the 50, 85 and 144. We will have events such as group rides and womens gravel bike clinic taking place on Friday so you can make an entire weekend of the event!
Why Should People Race the Red Granite Grinder?
There are so many great parts of each route that it is hard to pick a favorite.The 50 mile course features a corn maze, so that is a pretty unique section. Right after the corn maze riders will go through the neighboring farm and right past their barn and out the driveway! All three races go through the Wausau School Forest featuring a fun bridge crossing and riding through towering rows of pines. The 85 and 144 share the section of ATV trail leading to Edgar. This section is a beautiful tunnel of fall colors. The northern section of the 144 has a creek crossing. I always love that section and ride it throughout the year. I also love the challenge of Billy Goat Hills which is on the 85 and 144 mile courses.
To learn more, visit the Red Granite Grinder.
10. Dirty Squirrel Gravel Grind According to Erin Blow
What Is the Dirty Squirrel Gravel Grind?
Join us for the 3rd annual Dirty Squirrel Gravel Grind. Taking its name From Squirrel hill, this bike race mixes the vast ski trail system here at Minocqua Winter Park with some of Oneida County's beautiful gravel roads to bring to you a truly unique race experience. We are offering three distances: 25 mile (2 laps), 12 mile (1 lap), and 3 mile kids race (12 and under). Stick around after the race for Fall Fest!
Why Should People Race the Dirty Squirrel Gravel Grind?
Route highlights include long stretches on beautiful gravel roads through the remote and scenic Northwoods landscape. Views of the Squirrel River and Yukon Creek. The two longer race courses involve 1 or 2 climbs up Squirrel Hill - one of the highest points of the state and offers one of the best views in the area. A challenging but rewarding experience!
To learn more, visit the Dirty Squirrel Gravel Grind.
Fall 2023 Bikepacking Events
It's time break out the flannel and enjoy cool days riding paired with long nights around the campfire. The Northwoods has 4 incredible bikepacking events that are all distinctly unique from each other. In this roundup, we have a bascamp style gravel party weekend (Hodag Ramble), gourmet meals and guided deep-Chequamegon riding (Tour de Chequamegon), community expo with group rides and Nicolet forest lakes (Midwest Bikepacking Summit) and of course, The Nxrth's own Gravel Pizza Overnighter.
The Nxrth's Gravel Pizza Overnighter
The Nxrth's own community bikepacking event in the middle of nowhere, Wisconsin. Ride The Nxrth's handpicked gravel roads, stops for cheese curds and beer, and camping at the gorgeous Wedges Creek pizza farm. This year we're adding an optional Friday evening of social gravel and fun. Learn More.
The Hodag Country Ramble [SOLD OUT]
The Hodag Country Ramble took place for the first time last September at Jeff Frane's parents' land near Rhinelander, Wisconsin. Now the sophomore year was recently announced and event tickets and camping reservations are onsale. Learn about what made year one spectacular and what's shaking up for year 2. Learn More.
Midwest Bikepacking Summit
Join experienced to first-time bikepackers for a weekend of fun in northern Wisconsin. From group rides, lakeside camping, expo, speakers, and of course bikepacking all are sure to meet a riding buddy, learn something, and immerse themselves in the Northwoods. Learn More.
Tour De Chequamegon [SOLD OUT]
This bikepacking event is in its 7th year and rides Wisconsin's original bikepacking route created by Dave Schlabowske that first put Wisconsin on the bikepacking map. Three Days of riding, 106 miles, and fully catered meals with mechanical support and expert guides makes this a truly premium bikepacking experience. Learn More.
4 Gravel Hotspots to Visit This Fall (+1 Rad Looking Airbnb for each)
The Nxrth has several comprehensive Gravel Guides in all three states that we cover. Might we suggest that this autumn deserves some special destination gravel riding? Check out these guides to plan a top-to-bottom gravel weekend with routes, restaurants, bars, camping, and cabins.
Lanesboro, Minnesota Gravel Biking
The small river town of Lanesboro, Minnesota has been known for its bike culture for years as well as its placement in the middle of miles of paved rail trail that can take riders up and down the mighty Root River. In addition to the paved trails, the town is also known for its cute bed n’ breakfasts, historic hotels, an ice cream shop, the perfect bike themed cafe, pastry shop, a five star wine bar, and the best craft brewery around. One thing that it hasn’t been known for (until recently) are its ancient limestone gravel roads. View the Lanesboro Gravel Guide.
+1 Rad-looking airbnb in Lanesboro
From Airbnb: Rustic and cozy, this secluded cabin is part of a three generation farm. To get to this rebuilt 110+ year old cabin, you travel down a dead end road over a trout stream to the farm. The road leads through the farm site around the barn to the hidden cabin. Separate parking and views of the field and cattle in the summer. The cabin does have electricity but no WiFi or running water. They provide water at their barn kitchen and an outhouse is nearby. A fire pit and wood is available. View on Airbnb.
Eau Claire, Wisconsin Gravel Biking
Eau Claire, Wisconsin is located at the confluence of two beautiful rivers and is a launchpad for three distinct gravel biking adventure clusters. Discover new gravel roads, happen upon unexpected rural gathering spots, then make it a full experience with downtown Eau Claire's vibrant city adventures. Join Patreon to Get Access.
+1 Rad Looking Eau Claire Airbnb
From Airbnb: Airbnb’s #1 Most Wish Listed House in Wisconsin. Our house is the perfect retreat for couples, individuals, or groups of friends looking for an easy, relaxing vacation in nature. If you have any questions, just reach out! We're excited to have you! View on Airbnb.
La Crosse, Wisconsin Gravel Biking
Gravel is a La Crosse area specialty - the region is part of the driftless; we have some amazing views, bluffs to climb, a great river, oh, and quality crushed limestone roads, plus the benefit of a mid-sized town to offer breweries, distilleries, great food and places to stay. View the La Crosse Gravel Guide.
+1 Rad-Looking airbnb in la Crosse
From Airbnb:This silo guesthouse provides a beautiful country retreat surrounded by hundreds of acres of woods and farm land. This working dairy farm is the perfect stay for a tranquil get away or the full dairy farm experience. If you’re looking for a CLEAN, peaceful & unique stay, this is the place for you! Recent guests say it’s the “hidden gem” of MN! View on Airbnb.
Iron Mountain, Michigan
Iron Mountain is right on the border of Wisconsin and the Upper Peninsula. If you were driving from Green Bay to Marquette, this would be pretty close to your halfway point. Surrounded by tons of forestland, lakes, and rivers (including the Menominee River that divides WI and MI), it's a fantastic jumping off point for exploring hundreds of miles of winding, rolling gravel roads. But what really makes it a great destination is the wide spread of amenities in the several little towns all tucked closely together including Iron Mountain, Kingsford, Norway, and Niagara. View the Iron Mountain Gravel Guide.
+1 Rad Looking Airbnb in Iron Mountain
From Airbnb: Experience the great outdoors in this Newly built log cabin in the woods, 1/8 mile off of main highway. Wood and gas heat. Great get away for Honeymooners, families, couples or friends. Near snowmobile trails and secondary roads for 4 wheelers. State property next to cabin for great hunting experience. Great trout streams and fishing areas near by. One mile South of Norway Lake. View on Airbnb.