In the spring, the forests of Vilas County come alive before your eyes. Hikes this time of year provide unforgettable scenes. Admire a carpet of trilliums, walk beneath a canopy of new maple leaves and see a fawn find her legs. Discover your own spring scenes in Vilas County as you explore a bit of the county’s 240,000 acres of public land. No matter where you are in the county, you’re never far from a great hike. Vilas County publishes a free 23” x 38” map that includes a countywide map of trail locations as well as 59 individual trail maps. Click here to order a copy of the Vilas County Silent Sports Trail Map. Smartphone users: check out the free Map It Vilas County trails app. It will help you navigate 55 different Vilas County trails and works even without a cell signal. The app and map will help you navigate the wilds of Vilas County, as well as family-friendly trails like the Presque Isle Nature Trail and the Spectacle Lake-Kentuck Lake Trail in Phelps. Don’t forget a good pair of boots; the trails can be a little damp in the spring from snowmelt.
Vilas County has been a land of trails for hundreds of years. Native Americans used well-established trails to navigate the forests, and early European settlers used trails as trade routes – the first European trader built a trading post in Vilas County near Lac du Flambeau in 1818. Today the trails navigate some wild and beautiful areas and offer an experience that’s connected to this long tradition. If you’re looking for a hike that gives you a bit of this forest experience without taking an entire day to navigate, you’re in luck. Vilas County has a lot of trail options that take 1-3 hours to explore. One of the best times to do a day hike is early in the morning when the sun is low, the air is still and the wildlife is out. A couple nice trails that offer nice half-day hiking options include the Madeline Lake Trail in the Minocqua area and the Catherine Wolter Wilderness Area in Presque Isle.
If you’re the kind of hiker who likes to head deep into the forest and disappear for a while, welcome to Vilas County. We have plenty of forest for you to explore – more than 240,000 acres of public land, to be exact. Vilas County’s public lands include a large area of the Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest, a forest created by presidential acts in 1905. The Civilian Conservation Corps began restoring heavily logged areas in the 1930s, creating the treasure we enjoy today. You can see evidence of their work in the now-massive pines they planted and in structures like the 120-foot Military Hill Fire Lookout Tower built by the corps in 1936. You can still see the tower north of Phelps on Tower Road. A couple of good places to find extensive trail networks include the Langley Lake Trails in Conover and the WinMan Trails between Winchester and Manitowish Waters.