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The 83-mile Mountain-Bay State Trail, one of the longest trails in the state, travels a mostly scenic, wooded route through three counties—Marathon, Shawano, and Brown—as it makes its way from Weston in central Wisconsin to Howard in the east. In spite of its length, numerous parking facilities are located along the length of the trail, and restrooms are frequent.
Bikers, take note: mountain bikes or tires measuring 25 millimeters or wider are necessary to negotiate the trail’s surfaces and conditions, which vary but are generally passable. Snowmobiling is permitted on the trail in Marathon and Shawano Counties—and for 6 miles in Brown County—and snowmobiling clubs along its length help keep it open for users year-round. Horseback riding is also permitted in Shawano County.
Starting in Weston, you’ll head southeast for about 11 miles, when you reach the small village of Hatley. Here, the Mountain-Bay State Trail joins the Ice Age Trail—a 1,200-mile hiking route across the state—for about 2 miles. Another 7 miles farther and you reach Eland, where—just past Fourth Street and before Cedar Street—you can head north 4 miles on the Wiouwash State Trail to the Village of Birnamwood. Continuing south on the Mountain-Bay State Trail, you’ll share the route briefly with the Wiouwash State Trail for about 0.7 mile, at which point the Wiouwash State Trail breaks off and heads another 36 miles south to Split Rock; to continue east on the Mountain-Bay State Trail, stay left at this break.
The multiple bridges along the route can become slippery when wet, so be careful when crossing. About 12 miles from Eland, you’ll reach Bowler and a highlight of the trail: a covered bridge that crosses over the North Branch Embarrass River. Here, you can access the bank of the river for a dramatic picture of the covered bridge above.
After another 20 miles, the trail approaches a gap before you reach the city of Shawano at Maple Avenue. Signs direct you along several lightly traveled roads until the route meets up again with the off-road trail at County Road M and heads into the city, paralleling West Oshkosh Street. Here, you’ll find many restaurants, shops, stores, a former train depot turned bicycle-and-outfitters shop, and Twig’s Beverage (South Washington Street), a soda factory and museum that offers tours.
After leaving Shawano, you’ll travel a long stretch through mainly woods and farmland to the Village of Pulaski; at Pulaski Community Park you’ll find a trailhead with restrooms and parking; ice cream and snacks are available for purchase nearby.
The trail ends 12 miles farther south near Howard Memorial Park on Lake-view Drive. You can access a variety of restaurants and bars just south of the trail in Howard by heading left on Glendale Avenue and right onto Riverview Drive.
NOTE: A State Trail Pass ($25 annually/$5 daily) is required for bicyclists ages 16 and older. Snowmobilers must display either a Wisconsin registration or a snowmobile State Trail Pass. For information, go to dnr.wi.gov/topic/parks/trailpass.html.
To reach the western trailhead in Weston from US 51/I-39, take Exit 187 for WI 29 E. toward Weston/Green Bay, and go 0.9 mile east across the Wisconsin River. Continue on SR 29 E./SR 29 Trunk E. for 2.5 miles. Take Exit 173 for County Road X/Camp Phillips Road toward Weston. After 0.3 mile, take a sharp left off the exit ramp onto northbound County Road X/Camp Phillips Road—note the signs for US 51—and go 0.8 mile. Turn right onto Schofield Ave., go 1.1 miles, and turn left onto Municipal St. In 0.1 mile, bear right at the Y, and take the first right into the short driveway to the trailhead, on your right. (Restrooms are available here.) You can also access a small parking lot 0.3 mile farther, near the trail endpoint, by heading left where Municipal St. meets Sternberg Ave. and then turning right onto Mesker St. The parking lot will be on your right, just before Corozalla Dr.
There are multiple places you can park and access the trail in Shawano County, including the communities of Eland, Bowler, Shawano, and Bonduel. The trail roughly follows SR 29 to its north but is generally separated from the highway by 1 or 2 miles.
To reach the eastern trailhead in Howard from I-41, take Exit 170 for US 141 S./Velp Ave. Head west about 0.3 mile on Velp Ave. across Duck Creek to Riverview Dr., and turn right. After 0.3 mile, turn left onto Glendale Ave. and then right onto Lakeview Dr. Go 0.2 mile, and turn right into the trailhead. The trail endpoint is just across (west of) Lakeview Dr., just before the railroad tracks and trailhead parking.
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