One of the best bike rides in the Northwoods begins in the heart of St. Germain. The Heart of Vilas Paved Bike Trail System is a path that’s as easy to ride as it is gorgeous. The trail is one of the longest paved trails in Wisconsin and it runs more than 52 miles, taking riders from St. Germain into the beautiful landscape of Wisconsin’s largest state forest – the Northern Highland-American Legion State Forest. The trail travels through vast woodlands, over wild Northwoods rivers and past blue glacial lakes, and bikers encounter wildlife like bald eagles, loons and whitetail deer. It’s an unforgettable ride that can be enjoyed by all types of bikers, including serious cyclists and families with young kids. The trail has become a premier destination for cyclists and it’s recognized as an official National Recreation Trail.
St. Germain is located right on one of the path’s key trailheads so it’s the perfect place to launch a trail adventure. New to the trail? Here are a few helpful things to know before you get rolling on the Heart of Vilas Trail.
Where does the Heart of Vilas trail go?
The eastern end of the Trail is located at old Highway 70, on the east side of St. Germain, near Elmer’s Fun Park. The trail travels through the heart of St. Germain, via the St. Germain Bike & Hike Trail, and it continues through the communities of Sayner, Boulder Junction, Manitowish Waters and Mercer. The western terminus of the trail is located in Mercer, in Iron County. You can see the route on the Heart of Vilas Paved Bike Trail System map on the trail’s website, and there are printed maps and other information about the area available in the St. Germain Area Chamber of Commerce Office.
Where can I get on the trail?
There are more than 20 parking areas along the trail, so you have a lot of options. One of the best places to start a ride is the Bike & Hike Park, located right behind the St. Germain Area Chamber of Commerce Office. The park is located right in the heart of town – look for the St. Germain statue on Highway 70. There’s plenty of free parking, room to unload your bike, as well as a bike repair station, in case you need to make any last-minute adjustments. The “Fixtation” repair station has several bike tools and an air pump so you can top off your tires. While you’re there, feel free to stop in to the chamber office to pick up some free information – the information center is always open!
Are there places to stay near the trail?
Yes! St. Germain has many great lodging options that are located on, or very close to the trail – they make the perfect basecamp for a trail adventure. When you arrive in St. Germain, you may want to leave your car parked and bike right from where you’re staying. There are a wide range of options near the trail, including comfortable vacation homes, traditional resorts, modern hotels, rustic cabins and campsites. You can browse complete lodging options on the St. Germain website.
Is there food near the trail?
The trail will take you through miles of forest, so you may want to bring some snacks along for your ride. You can pick up supplies at Camp’s Fresh Market or Little St Mobile Express Mart. St. Germain also has numerous trailside dining options. Start your ride with a stop into one of our coffee shops for a fresh pastry and barista-crafted coffee or settle into one of our restaurants for a classic Northwoods breakfast. At the end of the trail, treat yourself to a cold craft beverage, an ice cream cone, or a full meal in one of our delicious dining spots. You’ve earned it!
Is the trail easy to ride?
With the Heart of Vilas Trail, you can choose a ride that’s perfect for you. Some long-haul cyclists ride the full 52 miles, but most people take on a shorter portion of the trail. The trail is paved with asphalt and it’s smooth and appropriate for any type of bicycle. While there are a few rolling hills, there are no giant climbs on this trail. The trail is very family friendly and while there are occasional road crossings, you can stay safely out of traffic while taking in the fresh air and scenery. There are plenty of restrooms along the trail, as well as rest spots and scenic bridges.
What if I don’t have a bike?
No bike, no problem! You can rent a bike at Coontail and at St. Germain Bed & Breakfast and you can even arrange to have a bicycle delivered to where you’re staying. Some of our resorts and vacation properties also have bikes available for guests.
Learn more about this amazing trail on the Heart of Vilas Paved Bike Trail System website. Enjoy your ride!