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All about the Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest


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Hidden Lakes Trail in Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest Vilas County WI

Northern Wisconsin is home to a one-of-a-kind wilderness that’s ripe for outdoor exploration: the Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest spans nearly 1.5 million acres in the Northwoods, ranging from Ashland County in the northwest to Oconto County in the southeast. There are thousands of acres of this stunning natural gem to explore in Vilas County—here’s what you need to know.

What is the Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest?

The Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest is a massive tract of land that covers 11 counties in the Northwoods of Wisconsin. The USDA Forest Service manages the land, which is used for several purposes, including outdoor recreation and maintenance of parks and natural areas.

It consists of two former national forests—the Chequamegon (pronounced “Sha-WHA-ma-gon”) National Forest and the Nicolet National Forest, established in the 1930s—which were combined into a single entity in 1998.

The forest is home to more than 2,000 lakes (more than 600 of which are larger than 10 acres), more than 800 miles of hiking trails, and hundreds of campsites.

Where is the Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest?

The forest covers nearly 1.5 million acres throughout 11 counties, and parts of both the Chequamegon and Nicolet segments extend into Vilas County. Visitors can find more than 37,000 acres of the forest in and around Phelps, and smaller parcels can be found in Conover, Eagle River, and Lac du Flambeau.

The Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest Headquarters is in Rhinelander in Oneida County, the Eagle River-Florence Ranger District Office is in Eagle River.

What can I do in the Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest?

With more than 1 million acres to explore, opportunities for outdoor exploration are nearly endless in the Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest. Here’s a look at just a few of the activities that are available in the forest:

What are some of the popular areas to visit?

  • Anvil Lake Recreation Area: This recreation area 15 minutes from Eagle River is a good spot for a basecamp for explorations of the Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest, including 18 campsites, a boat launch on 377-acre Anvil Lake, a swimming beach, and access to the popular Anvil Lake Trail
  • Emily Lake Recreation Area: This recreation area west of Lac du Flambeau is home to a campground (11 sites), a boat ramp with access to Emily Lake (26 acres), a swimming area, and access to nearby trails
  • Spectacle-Kentuck Lake Trail: Connecting the forest’s Kentuck and Spectacle Lake Campgrounds, this 2.5-mile level trail partially follows the former Thunder Lake Railroad bed (used to transport logs to a local sawmill) and is a well-known spot for birding
  • Blackjack Springs Wilderness Area: The forest is home to five designated wilderness areas, including Blackjack Springs, a 5,800-acre site northeast of Eagle River that’s a popular spot for wildlife viewing, fishing, hiking, canoeing, and hunting

Is there an admission fee to the Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest?

Most National Forest System Lands are open to the public and free of charge, but permits are required for day-use sites, campsites, ATV trails, and other activities.

Learn about passes and permits required in the Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest here.

Find more information about the Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest here.