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Five best non-Birkie Wisconsin cross-country ski trails

The American Birkebeiner (Birkie) is of course king when it comes to Wisconsin cross-country ski trails. It is hard to beat a 55 kilometer trail traversing through the Wisconsin northwoods. However, the state boasts an incredible network of skiing trails. I have been skiing in Wisconsin for over 30 years, and I am still finding new trail networks I have never skied before. I added Razorback Ridge and Timberland Hills in the last two years.

Wisconsin cross-country ski trails

This photo taken from the Birkie – Wisconsin cross-country ski trails – Try these five trails for great Birkie training

Many of these photos and videos were take with GoPro. Get the latest camera, which is perfect for capturing cross-country ski footage.

Other Wisconsin cross-country ski trails other than the Birkie

If you are training for the Birkie, you might not be able to make it to Hayward every weekend or even once. Here is a list of my five favorite trails in Wisconsin not called the Birkebeiner. They come from almost all corners of the state with oone in the south center, one in the center, one in the southeast, one in the far north, and one in the northeast. The below list is in no particular order.

Wisconsin cross-country ski trails

Wisconsin cross-country ski trails – The Nordic Trails Blue Loop

Wisconsin cross-country ski trails

South Kettle Moraine Nordic Ski Trail – Blue Loop

The nine mile Blue Loop is perhaps my favorite. It is a great tune up and barometer for the Birkie. The terrain is exceedingly rugged. The trail between mile marker six and seven is as tough as it comes. I know that if I can ski this trail three times without collapsing, I am in good shape to complete the Birkie. The scenery is outstanding as well with several sections going through cathedral pines and many overlooks of the surrounding moraines.

Birkie workout Nordic Trail

Birkie quality workout on the Blue Loop

Fees- This is a Wisconsin State Park trail, so a state sticker and state trail pass is required. It cost me $63.00 for my yearly pass for both the out of state sticker and trail pass.

Warming hut – yes

Rentals – Yes at Backyard Bikes or Quiet Hut Sports

Lighted ski trail – No

Hotline – Yes – (262)-594-6202

Links – Kettle Moraine South Nordic Loop a perfect Birkie workout

South Kettle Moraine State Forest

Cross-country skiing Wisconsin

The sun rising through pine trees at Lapham Peak, Wisconsin

Lapham Peak Unit of the Kettle Moraine State Forest – Moraine Ridge Trail

The moraines are a little higher and the kettles a little lower in the park right next to Delafield, Wisconsin. This makes for some of the most exciting and longest downhill runs in the state. I feel like some of the hills are almost alpine in quality. At least Wisconsin alpine. I have taken some GoPro videos and the downhill sections take over a minute and a half to complete. This is another great Birkie tune up. The Birkie is known for some tough uphill sections and Lapham Peak has one climb comparable to anything found near Hayward.

Lapham Peak Wisconsin

The Moraine Ridge Trail at Lapham Peak

Lapham Peak has one unique feature other parks do not. They actually make their own snow and can open a man-made loop when the weather is cold enough, but there is no snow.

Fees – Same as Nordic Trail

Warming hut – Yes

Rentals – Yes, They have rentals onsite near the entrance

Lighted Ski Trail – Yes

Hot line – No, check website

Links – Colorful names skiing Lapham Peak State Park

Lapham Peak State Forest

 

Black River State Forest

Wisconsin cross-country ski trails – Black River State Forest

Black River State Forest – Wildcat Trail

For several years, when I skied Black River State Forest, I stayed on the trails south of the Settlement Road close to the Smrekar Warming hut. Two years ago, I finally crossed over to ski the Norway Pine and Wildcat Trails. These trails are amazing. I enjoyed the trails south of the road, but these two trails go to a different level with some crazy steep downhills and some tremendous scenery. In fact, the hills are so challenging that I experienced the agony of defeat on one of them (see video below). Not many people ski here, so I usually have these trails to myself.

Wisconsin State Parks cross country skiing

Wisconsin State Parks cross country skiing – Black River State Forest

Fees – Same as Nordic and Lapham Peak

Warming Hut – Yes at Smrekar Trailhead

Rentals – No

Lighted Ski Trails – No

Conditions Hot line – No, check the website

Links: Black River State Forest Wildcat Trails

Black River State Forest

Minocqua Winter Park trail

Wisconsin cross-country ski trails – Minocqua Winter Park does not disappoint

Minocqua Winter Park – Nutcracker Trail

With over 75 kilometers of ski trails to choose from, I could probably pick about five trails that are worthy of the list. Beaver Pond, Vo2 Max, Windy Ridge are all contenders, but I picked Nutcracker because it is the longest of the more difficult trails at five kilometers. The Nutcracker can be combined with a myriad of other trails to add as much distance as you desire. I usually take Tornado Alley to the Nutcracker and then take the X-C Express to Vo2 Max and/or Nepco’s Cruise.

Minocqua Winter Park

Tornado Alley on the way to the Nutcracker at Minocqua Winter Park Nordic Center

Fees – $15.00 a day

Warming hut – Yes, they have a chalet with food, beer, and other beverages

Rentals – Yes, at the Chalet

Lessons – Yes

Lighted Ski Trails – Yes, only on Thursday Ski League – Call the office for details

Hotline – No, but the website includes updated conditions daily

Links – Minocqua Winter Park Nordic Center

Minocqua Winter Park

Lakewood cross-country ski trails

Wisconsin cross-country ski trails – Beautiful snow covered pines along the Lakewood Ski Trails

Chequamegan National Forest – Lakewood Ski Trails

Nordic ski areas are notorious for having a plethora of loops that will make your head spin. Lakewood Ski Trails has one long trail with smaller loops at each end. The trail is 20 kilometers in length, so an out and back is close to 40 kilometers. This is only 15 kilometers short of the Classic Birkie race. It does not get any better than this trail with beautiful scenery, and some quality terrain. The hills near the golf course are some of the most challenging in the Midwest and right up there with the Birkie.

Lakewood cross-country skiing

More than once I have returned in the dark to the trailhead at Lakewood Ski Trails due to the length

Fees – Daily National Forest pass is $5.00 and annual is $20.00

Warming Hut – I believe there is one at the golf course, but I have never gone in

Rentals – Yes, at Lakewood Ski & Sport

Lighted Ski Trail – No

Conditions hot line – Yes – (715)-622-1754

Links – Lakewood GoPro time lapse

Chequamegan National Forest skiing

Lakewood ski Trails

All of these skiing locations have updated reports on Skinny Ski.

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2 Responses to Five best non-Birkie Wisconsin cross-country ski trails

  1. Jay Gordon February 14, 2018 at 6:43 pm #

    Traveling Ted — always a treasure.

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