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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 centimeters 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 a little more than 18 miles to Eland. Here, 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.
I rode from Howard to Pulaski. Trail was in good shape, but not alot to see.
I rode from Shawano to several miles past Bonduel. When you cross HWY 22 about 4.5 miles out of Shawano, you reach a section of the trail where many trees have been cut down on both sides of the trail. The trail is littered with branches and sticks and is not fun to ride. In the middle of this section is a mud hole if it has rained recently. I don't know why they cut down the trees, but they could of cleaned the trail off when they were done. From HWY 22 out past Bonduel there is very little limestone left on the trail. It is basically two ruts to ride on. Sections are wet and slippery. Shawano county should be ashamed of the way they have kept up this trail. People should not have to purchase a trail pass for the Shawano County section because it is so poorly maintained. I will say that several of the bridges have been repaired and have had the loose boards and protruding nails fixed.
First the positives. Thank you to the many snowmobile clubs for doing such a great job on maintaining the bridges. We met two great guys from the Bowler club doing maintenance on the bridges in their section. They told us about how they built the covered bridge,which we crossed earlier. The bridge was built from a recycled barn. A great story and a great example of craftsmanship.
There were many really nice strategically placed shelters with picnic tables that helped rest our tired bodies and provided relief from the rain.
The trail starts out terrifically in Brown County and when you enter Shawano County you notice a significant drop in quality. We rode through a lot of mud, dirt, water and debris. There was no evidence of crushed limestone in many places. The trail was really bad until we reached the city of Shawano. We had a great lunch and debated whether to continue on to Wausau. The trail improved marginally until we crossed into Marathon County and was much better. The trail is potentially great but suffers from a lack of maintenance. Our rides, both ways, were about 11 hours long, which is way longer than it should have been. Wisconsin should take more pride in their trails and parks, and spend some money on maintaining the trails if they want people to use them.
On 25 August 2015 I rode the Mountain-Bay State Trail from where it crosses County Road G South of Gresham to Shawano. Except for the bridges the trail is in good shape. The wood covering the bridge floors are coming loose so nail heads are showing. In the not too distant future expect tire damage unless some bridge maintenance is performed. The trail on the old railroad bed ends at Maple Avenue. The sign on the trail side of the road indicates Mountain Bay to the right. The sign across the road indicates a left turn is required. Left is correct. From there the trail is on public roads until County Road MM is about to intersect County Road M. Just before the intersection there is an unmarked dirt path leading off to the left. That dirt path is the Mountain-Bay state Trail. It will take you across the Wolf River on the old railroad bridge and lead you to the depot on the old railroad grade. My ride terminated at the depot.
Nice on hot days
I rode this trail on 9/5/2014 in one day. I actually ended my ride at Lambeau Field like some of the other reviewers. I rode from West to East. The sections in Marathon and Brown Counties are the best kept up sections. Once you hit Eland the trail is mostly covered in grass. I happened to go after a heavy rain. The night before it had rained 3 - 4 inches in this section of the state. The only problems this caused to the trail was in Shawano county where the path was a little muddy and slippery. Since I had two inch tires it did not cause too much of a problem other than being a little slower. With this being a rail to trail the trail was high enough that the water never flooded the trail. There are numerous rivers along the way which were flooded. I feel that the most scenic section is from Hatley to Eland. Eland has a nice set up of how the railroad and train station used to look like years ago. The trail also offers a lot of food options in Shawano and Pulaski. I brought enough water knowing that these were my main stops to eat and get water. Since the trail is relatively flat and easy to ride I found it not to be an issue between towns. Hatley also has a Subway and gas station South of the trail.
Began from the west trail head in Weston. The crushed stone surface was in very good condition for the fifteen miles I rode before turning back. Enjoyed the country scenery, historical plaques, and especially the small park with the beach at Norrie. A quick dip in the lake was refreshing. Though the trail appears to be quite flat it must run up hill from Weston since the return trip speed was noticeably faster.
My wife and I rode a stretch on September 30th 2013, from the west side of Shawano for about 8mi then went north on a small Cty Hwy and circled back through Greshem and back onto the trail for the ride back to Shawano. About 25miles total. The colors were great at about 35%. The trail is nice. I would say about a 7.5 out of ten, with 10 being perfect graded crushed limestone. Some grass, some packed dirt and a LOT of horse poop. The signage on the west side of Shawano still is misleading. I suggest printing the map in the area. We ride Trek hybrids.
My brother and I biked the entire trail on 9/1/13. We started in Weston and made our way all the way to Lambeau Field in Green Bay to pay our respects to the team we love.
The trail in Marathon and Brown counties was exceptional. We have no complaints about either the start or finish of the trail. However, within Shawano County there were parts of the trail that were not as nice. Specifically, the trail was moss covered and very slick in some spots. We rode hybrids with pretty slick tires, so we nearly had wipe outs a few times. But this was no big issue and would have been remedied simply by using a little more aggressive tread.
Our biggest complaint was about the trail 2 miles east of Shawano into the city. The trail "T's" into a country road with sign pointing to the right. Apparently, we were to innately known to take rights, lefts, and wind through country roads with no markings. We eventually made our way into town and found the Mountain Bay Outfitter bike shop. The staff there was VERY helpful and reasonably priced.
Overall, we loved the trail and the experience.
This note applies to trail condition 2 July. Generally the trail is in great condition. There were a few soft sports near Weston, probably due to rain the day before. Except for those (temporary?) spots the trail is negotiable by road bikes. Be sure to stop and read the information boards in Marathon County portion of the trail. Since the trail was easy, my sag wagon was late, and I was bored I continued on to Shawano. Except that the bike shop in Shawano has changed hands, the note I wrote a year ago on that portion of the trail still applies.
This commentary applies to the trail between Eland and the Joe Bikeler's bike shop in Shawano. While I did meet a couple of bikers and two horseback riders, the trail does not appear to be heavily used. It is an easy trail to ride. Even after a week of rain, including the day before my ride, the trail surface was in good shape except for a few puddles and a down tree that required me to dismount and haul my bike through it. Because of caution on my part I rode with 2.2 inch tires but 1.5 inch tires would not have been a problem. I would not recommend road bikes with 25 mm or narrower tires. My ride was from West to East. The trail markers showing the distance to Shawano understate the distance by five miles. The unpaved portion of the trail ends at Maple Avenue with a direction sign that points in exactly the opposite direction you should turn to bike into Shawano. The sign is likely meant for snowmobiles. In any case, turn left, not right. (If you are coming from Shawano be advised that there is no indication that this is where the off-road portion of the trail begins.) Coming into Shawano signage is good until you reach the junction with County Road M. There is no indication that at this point one should leave the paved road and stay to left of the fence to resume the trail. The trail then crosses the Wolf River on the old railroad bridge and continues through down town Shawano. All-in-all it's a ride I would recommend, pretty country, saw deer and raccoon. The picturesque covered bridge on the trail has been built since the railroad was abandoned. There are facilities at Bowler, Gresham, and Lyndhurst in addition to Shawano. The bike shop had already closed when I arrived so if you need parts or assistance be sure to check its hours.
My friend and I chose this trail this year because we live in Green Bay. Started in Anston. Brown County Park Rangers were made aware of our vehicles being parked there overnight. No problems and they were very friendly. Rode to Hillside Drive just east of Bowler. Stopped for lunch in Shawano (Perkins). Plenty of places by the benches to lock up your bikes. Stopped at Joe Bikeler's in Shawano as well. VERY friendly and accommodating. Also stopped at the Longbranch Saloon outside of Gresham (right off the trail) for a much-needed break. Finished off at Hillside Drive where we rode and stayed overnight at Mohican North-Star Casino. They were also VERY accommodating. We had called ahead and they had a hose ready outside for our bikes (bring your own rag). They stored our bikes overnight in their luggage storage room. Breakfast room service is also DIRT cheap. As for the trail itself, we didn't have any issues with the gates in Brown County, but we ride traditional bikes. In addition, the Brown County trail segment is much better kept than the Shawano County segment, but the entire trail we rode was VERY rideable. Found a tree down across the trail between Bonduel and Shawano. Will call the Shawano County Parks department to fix. We didn't have any problems with horseflies or any bugs. We went the last week of July and temps were low 80's and sunny. The road segment west of Shawano is now marked with green arrow signs. However, we did notice one missing. I had the Rails-To-Trails software loaded on my Garmin Bicycle GPS, so that helped. Also - no human interaction from Shawano all the way to past Greshman (Longbranch Saloon) so make sure you stock up on water before that segment. Had a great time and we're planning on doing the Wausau to Bowler segment another year.
I ride a tadpole recumbent trike and found the trail to be mostly two ruts. That said, I also had no problems with the wheel spacing riding on either side of the rut or two wheels in the run and one in the center. The elevation between ruts and center were the same and the entire surface was smooth given that it is gravel. Several sections are covered with soil or a light cover of moss making them very smooth and quiet. Distances between stop signs is nice and lengthy (I like that). When going thru Shawano it's paved and has plenty of stop signs.
The trail is incomplete thru Shawano and there are no signs (that I could find) routing you to where you can pick the trail back up. My advice (when riding East to West) is to turn right onto S. Washington st then Left on W.Green Bay St. then Right on Locust Rd. then Left on Oak Ave. The trail will pick back up on the right a ways past Maple Ave. (my guess would be about 2+ miles of roads)
The shade was good along the trail and it has some nice sunny sections. Bring bug spray for the deer flies (not many but I still don't like to get bit). Also, (maybe it's the lower position of the trike) be prepared to get covered with the small non biting nats. I had sunscreen on so they stuck. My legs were covered after 30 miles.
Traffic on the trail is next to non-existent so make sure you have what you need for hydration, food and any flats or fixes. Watch for nail heads on the bridges as I've been told that they can puncture a tire. There is a bike shop in Shawano that is on the trail if you need some adjustments or repairs.
The trail will bring you past a lot of scenery and great wild flowers.
There are gates at most road crossings in Marathon and Brown Counties. There are no gates on the trail in Shawano County which extends from Eland to WI 32 crossing north of Pulaski.
It was a warm day when we rode the trail in August 2010. Our bike is a dual (side-by-side) recumbent that is 44" wide. Since the metal gates have a 42" gap, we had to stop twice at each road crossing, get off the bike, have my wife hold the gates while I wiggled the bike through. At the 9th gate, I had to carry the bike through the ditch and around the gate as the opening was too narrow to wiggle through. At this point, we had enough, and took the residential streets back to the parking lot. An okay trail for standard bikes.
Lyle & Nancy B.
Forest Lake, MN
"This limestone trail has become better packed and easier to ride since I first biked it in 1997. The trees provided plenty of shade on a series of hot and humid September days that I was there. Note, there is less shade in June and July when the sun angle is higher. The Marathon County portion has been resurfaced with limestone based gravel recently which provides a easier surface to bike on than the previous gravel surface that was there.
The city of Shawano is a great mid point to sleep in as most of the motels are less than a few blocks from the trail.
"Our family did this ride in 2003. We vary in physical ability but this was a nice ride for all of us except for the terrible deer flies on the trail. We started in Weston and rode to Shawano for the first day. The American Inn is right on the trail with a Wendy's and Perkins with in easy walking distance. For fun there is a indoor/outdoor theatre just down the road and a amusement park with go carts and game room about 1.5 from motel. We rode to Howard on the second day and once again there was an American Inn right off the trail, also a Hardee's and a gas station next door. We rode into Greenbay and then back the way we came for the next 2 days. It was a great way to spend 4 days with the family."
"The Mountain-Bay State Trail is a jewel for Howard-Pulaski residents, where you can enter into nature just a mile out of residential areas. Duck, pheasant, crane, deer, fox, as well as cows can be seen on any given daily ride."
This uneventful trail would be much better if the horseback riders and horse drawn carriages would clean up after their animals!
Surface in many areas is uneven and can be challanging to bicycles. Brown county has foolish gates that block access for emergency vehicles and present a hazard to all other users. They are opened in the winter to prevent killing snowmobilers but bikers are expendable we suppose.
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