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Priceless!

Wisconsin's Price County offers many trail options, fewer crowds
Easy riding - Riders on the trail near Lugerville. Well-groomed routes like this one are common throughout Price County.
Easy navigating - Not only are Price County trails well marked, but all intersections are numbered for quick and easy reference.
When a state has as many outstanding and well-known riding spots as Wisconsin, it's inevitable that some areas won't receive the attention they deserve. Price County is one of these areas. It offers everything the more publicized places do - groomed trails, plentiful lodging options and pit stops, plus a great trail network. But because it's less well known there are fewer crowds and less trail pressure (never a bad thing for sledders).

Price County sits between Sawyer and Oneida Counties in north central Wisconsin, well within the Northwoods region. This area has been home to great snowmobiling since the late 1960s and boasts an outstanding network of club, county and federal trails. One glance at the trail map shows plenty of routes throughout the entire 42- by 30-mile county offering numerous travel options and loop trips of varying distance. It's a place where sledders can easily spend 2-3 days riding without covering many of the same miles twice. With forests blanketing much of the county and scenic lakes dotting the gently rolling landscape, it's a place where riders feel at home.

The county's five-town chain of Park Falls, Fifield, Phillips, Prentice and Ogema, lies on the north-south axis of the Wisconsin Central rail line that roughly bisects the county.

Trails pass through the center of each town, giving snowmobilers easy access to gas stations, restaurants and lodging. This is an extremely snowmobile-friendly area, both in terms of the infrastructure and welcome to visitors.

I made the grand tour of Price County early last March with my friend Layne Sitter. Our day-long ride showed us a variety of great riding in the area. We started at the Wintergreen Lake Resort, a cozy establishment in north central Price County and right on federal trail No. 104. This is a great location because of its easy trail access.

We set off to the southwest, the first leg running along a succession of rolling forest roads into Fifield, where we gassed up the sleds, then passed by the Kountry Kafe, a popular small town restaurant. West of Fifield, we turned south on state corridor Trail 21 toward Lugerville, a route that after several miles became the Doc Frye Memorial Trail. Doc was instrumental in establishing snowmobile trails in Price County and is honored in this most fitting manner over a 4-mile section of beautiful woodland trail.

West of Lugerville, we turned onto trail No. 80, a route that soon veered south to roughly parallel the county's western boundary. Along the way we rode through logged areas where the running was quick on smooth, wide roads with long sweeping bends. We stayed on Trail 80 as it turned eastward and found ourselves on the Merlin Coher Memorial Trail, an excellent 6-mile stretch running through a mixed forest of conifers and hardwoods.

After that, Trail 80 turned south, and 2 miles later we were at the Phillips Fire Marker, a historical site marking the starting point of a deadly 1894 conflagration. After paying our respects, we continued south and then east on state corridor trail No. 16, a main east-west route taking us to Prentice and beyond.

As we cruised eastward, the terrain opened up into rolling farmlands and wood lots before passing through the scenic Spring Creek Wildlife Area. Before long, we were in town, refueling the sleds and then eating pizza at the Hitching Post Tavern. It was past midday and we were beyond halfway on our grand circle, so with sleds and stomachs topped off, we set out on the longest leg.

We cruised past the airport and headed east across more farmland and into the woods. Although afternoon temperatures were above freezing, the trails were smooth. Near Price County's eastern edge, we turned north on state trail No. 19, our avenue into Chequamegon National Forest.

Trail 19 is one of Wisconsin's longest deep woods trails, running about 25 miles through the National Forest along the county's border. There is only one trail junction encountered over that entire distance, a remote place where state trail No. 16 (east-west) interrupts the journey and provides riding options toward Phillips to the west or neighboring Oneida County to the east. The rest of the way, it's Wisconsin riding at its best - smooth, wide trails snaking through endless forests.

Near State Hwy. 70 in the county's northeast corner, a number of intersecting trails offer choices in every direction with some nearby pit stops just east at Pike Lake. We weren't ready to head back yet so we opted to continue north before turning west just before Trail 19 heads into neighboring Iron County.

The day's final leg took us over and back across State Hwy. 182, winding our way through groves of tall pines along federal trails 111, 105 and 110 back toward our starting point at the Wintergreen Lake Resort. With our gas gauges near empty, we pulled into Wojcieszak's Flambeau Resort, where we filled up and chatted briefly with the owner who suggested an off-trail shortcut to us and then was kind enough to lead us on his own sled. Soon we were running a mile down the frozen Flambeau River and off onto a narrow, deep snow trail that took us to the backside of the Wintergreen, a fun ride.

Almost time for dinner, we decided to retrace our morning miles to Fifield, where we enjoyed a sumptuous supper at the Kountry Kafe. Our 7-mile return ride was under the stars, making for a perfect end to a full day. We had covered 181 miles on our trek, yet there were plenty of miles remaining to be explored, a hallmark of any good sledding venue.

For more info regarding snowmobiling in Price County, contact the Park Falls Chamber of Commerce at 800-762-2709, via e-mail at chamber@parkfalls.com or online at www.parkfalls.com. For Price County trail info call 800-269-4505. You can also read about Price County here.
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