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TOUR DE NICOLET BIKEPACKING ROUTE, WISCONSIN


Central and Northern Wisconsin is loaded with super great and untapped areas to bikepack. Over time, Shane Hitz has explored many areas of this region by bike and put together numerous routes that pass through many areas that can only be explored by bike. They go through some of his favorite small towns with great places to eat and fantastic camping opportunities.

Contributed by: Shane Hitz


The Nicolet National Forest is just a small portion of the Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest. Established in the early 1930s the entire system encompasses 1.5 million acres with the Nicolet portion taking up over 661,000 acres. The forest is packed full of large hardwood trees and groves of tall white pines with the occasional swamps containing white cedars. Roads twisting and turning, following the paths of rivers and streams are a constant site with lakes scattered throughout.



The Tour de Nicolet is a 365 mile route that is full of rich history while traveling through quintessential small northwoods communities. Prior to the 1930s the forest was heavily logged and burned over. Starting in 1933 the Civilian Conservation Corps played a key role in the reforestation including construction of buildings, bridges, and fire towers as well as replanting the forest. You will see numerous CCC sites, structures, and trees planted so many years ago throughout the ride. Not only will you notice the history of the CCC camps you will also notice the logging history throughout the route. Most of the time is spent within the national forest with the occasional rustic gravel path in the county forests of Langlade, Oconto, Marinette, and Forest. The history of how the county acquired those lands is interesting. During the late 1800’s and early 1900’s settlers either logged it and left the land or sold the land to settlers promising the unsuspecting newcomers a fertile land. When they tried to farm it their crops didn’t grow as well as they were led to believe because the deforestation left the land so stripped of all its minerals so they ended up abandoning it, leaving unpaid taxes.



Luckily this activity was eventually recognized as harmful and steps were taken to right the wrong. We now have a lush green wonderland to explore and connect with nature. So when you see a large old growth tree that escaped being cut down or the CCC signs or rows of tall pine trees, appreciate the small things that are actually really great things that we are lucky enough to have and enjoy. Midride, take your shoes off and wade into that stream. Jump into that lake. Feel the earth on your bare feet. Filter some ice cold spring water. Reconnect with the forest.

 

Highlights

Classic northwoods towns featuring quintessential bars and supper clubs that scream Wisconsin. Grab an Old Fashioned and fish fry on a Friday night or prime rib on Saturday.

The fun and flowy hills of Augustyn Springs are a blast to ride and feature some unique points of interest most locals don’t even know about such as HillBilly Hilton, an underground bunker you won’t soon forget and Crotch Vegas, a fantastic cache of soda and candy in the middle of nowhere.

White Lake railroad museum is a restored depot and inside the depot you will find artifacts and displays showcasing White Lake’s rich railroad, farming, logging and lumber industry.

12 miles of old school single track on three different organizations' trail systems, Nicolet Roche, Strong Falls, and Otter springs. The route uses the most direct line through so adding more singletrack to your adventure is an option. Additionally there is 12 miles of singletrack, Jack Lake, at the starting location of the route.

The 2019 derecho which impacted 130,000 acres of the National Forest. Efforts to clean up are still ongoing but you will notice the aftermath particularly starting at Humble Hill and the five miles after. The land is now clear of most trees as far as you can see, which makes unique vantage points throughout the steep rolling hills riddled with baby-head rocks. This area also has some very unique camp spots ranging from a \unique naturally cool crystal clear spring to a camp spot high up on a hill with fantastic views perfect for stargazing.

Mountain Firetower is a unique opportunity to climb an historic fire tower and view the landscape in the cab 100 feet in the air just as the firespotters did years ago. There are 14 fire towers still remaining in the national forest, this being the only one where the public is welcome to climb.

Butler Rock viewpoint as well as the infamous sand roads around Butler Rock

The old fish hatchery and waterfall

Thunder Mountain State Natural Area with its amazing viewpoint up top of its bedrock outcrops. The red oak and white oak trees hold their color late in the fall making this a fantastic spot to see fall colors late in the year.

Big Rock overlook. Very few people know about this place and fewer have taken the hike back there but it offers amazing views.

Strong Falls

Artesian well at Chipmunk Rapids

Wisconsin's highest cul-de-sac

The logging museum in Wabeno along with all the other historical buildings including a library which still operates. Wabeno has a proud history in the logging industry

The abundance of wildlife. I’ve seen up to four bears in a single day. In addition to bears, some of the other animals I frequently see are whitetail deer, badgers, bobcats, wolves, and porcupines. Of the many bird species in the area the loon is the most unique with its calls in the mornings and evenings. There are two loons on each lake and you will undoubtedly hear these calls each evening especially if you camp on a lake. The loons are a special part of each trip.

Must Know

Camping

Food & Water

Trail Notes


SoNic (Southern Nicolet Condensed Version)

SoNic is the southern portion of the Tour de Nicolet route. Over the years the Tour de Nicolet has been the inspiration of some great routes such as the Pickerel Buck40 and the original SoNic. This is because the southern portion of the Nicolet has some of my favorite areas. From the remote Langlade County forest roads to the baby-head rock-filled roads and natural springs near Nicolet Roche this area is packed with adventure. The terrain is more varied, consisting of more hills on the west side to large sections of sand roads on the east side.The updated version 1.2 includes the Humble Hill section, previously closed due to 2019 storm clean up. If you choose this version you will still experience some of the best of the Nicolet National Forest but in a condensed 225 mile version. VIEW THE ROUTE.

 

Shane Hitz is an adventure cyclist, route designer, and race director. You can read more about his adventures on his website. He is also the race director for the IRONBULL Red Granite Grinder, a gravel bike race in the Wausau, Wisconsin area.


Disclaimer: If you choose to ride this route, you do so at your own risk. You are 100% responsible for being prepared for all conditions and making sure that biking these routes is legal. Before riding, check local weather, road conditions, closures, and property ownership. Obey all traffic laws and follow land use restrictions. Do not ride these routes without proper safety equipment and navigational tools. The accuracy of these routes cannot be guaranteed neither can we guarantee that these routes are on public property. TheNxrth.com and its contributors are in no way liable for the personal injury or damage to property that may result from cycling this route or any other routes on this website.

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