Vilas County is home to a wonderful recreational jewel: The Heart of Vilas County Paved Bike Trail System, which travels through some of the most beautiful spots in the Northwoods of Wisconsin.
The Heart of Vilas County Trail runs for 52 scenic miles through St. Germain, Sayner-Star Lake, Boulder Junction and Manitowish Waters before ending in Mercer in neighboring Iron County. The paved asphalt trail passes through these friendly communities and across the varied landscape—forests, wetlands, lakes and more—that makes up the expansive Northern Highland-American Legion State Forest.
The trail has been named a National Recreation Trail by the Department of the Interior, a designation given to trails of special local or regional significance.
There is no fee or trail pass required, and there are 20 parking areas along the trail, as well as repair stations, restrooms, rest areas, swimming beaches and more. Find more trail information here.
Here’s a closer look at the trail and where it passes through different communities.
There are two trail segments in St. Germain—from County Highway O to the St. Germain Chamber of Commerce (5.5 miles, flat terrain) and from the Chamber to Sayner to the north (8.5 miles, rolling terrain with some steep hills). The route follows Highway 70 and County Highway C through the heart of St. Germain and passes several lakes, including Big St. Germain Lake.
Heading west from Sayner, riders will travel 4 miles of generally flat terrain alongside County Highway N—passing several lakes along the way—before they reach the Crystal Lake Campground south of Boulder Junction.
From the intersection of County N and County M, head north into Boulder Junction (it’s about 9 miles to downtown from the N/M intersection or about 11 miles from the Crystal Lake Campground). As you bike north, you’ll travel a beautiful segment along the sparkling North Trout Lake. Further north you’ll reach downtown Boulder Junction—which is home to several shops, restaurants and lodging properties—and then continue on County Highway K west for about 16 miles to Manitowish Waters, crossing several scenic bridges that travel over Vilas County wetlands.
The final segment of the Heart of Vilas County Trail follows Highway 51 for 7 miles on paved trails and lightly used roads. The route takes riders alongside the Manitowish River before ending in downtown Mercer in Iron County.