The North Lakeland Discovery Center, a nonprofit nature center located in Manitowish Waters in northern Wisconsin’s Vilas County, recently opened a new silent sports trail system: the WinMan Trails. Located just north of the Discovery Center, bordering the towns of Winchester and Manitowish Waters, the WinMan Trails complement the Discovery Center’s existing 12 miles of trail by giving visitors even greater access to the Northwoods.

The WinMan Trails span over 1,300 acres of private and public recreation lands within the Northern Highland-American Legion State Forest, offering opportunities for mountain biking, trail running, skate and classic skiing and snowshoeing, as well as competitive silent sport events. The trail system encompasses pre-existing trails, including old logging roads and the Town of Winchester’s old ski trail system (maintained by the Town of Winchester up until the early 1980s), as well as newly-established singletrack mountain bike trails.

New ski trails

Reopening this winter will be the resurrected Winchester ski trails. Once classic only, the trails have been widened and rerouted to accommodate striding and skating. Five miles of the rolling trail are located on state and private land. Another two miles will be available if an easement can be had to extend the trail across land owned by a paper company, said trails coordinator Robert Polic.

A section of the of the old trail is now open to snomobiles, but the ski trail has been rerouted to avoid user conflict, Polic said. Skiers will find the trailhead at the intersection of Highways W and J.

(He noted that this skiing opportiunity will compliment extensive improvements recently made to the six miles of ski trails at North Lakeland Elementary School in Manitowish Waters.)

Active in the development of the WinMan Trails are Discovery Center staff, including Polic, a trail crew led by trail designer Travis Bellman and outdoor recreation and events specialist Maria Kopecky. The project is made possible through funding from The Gering Foundation, as well as in-kind volunteer time and donations from area businesses and individuals. A master plan proposed by the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources calls for a land-use agreement between the state, Discovery Center and local advocates for multiuse recreation.

Singletrack expanding

Bellman, who was active in the development of Oneida County’s Raven Trail for mountain biking, is now looking to build sustainable singletrack within the WinMan Trails System. Bellman said he’s excited about the opportunities for mountain biking the terrain presents.

“The natural topography and geology of the WinMan Trails allow for sustainably built singletrack trails that accommodate all ability levels, from beginners to expert mountain bikers,” he said. “This variety will draw a more diverse tourist base to the area.”

Polic, coordinator of the WinMan Trails and an avid mountain biker and skier, notes the master plan envisions 10 miles of singletrack mountain bike trails, two miles of technical mountain bike features and more than seven miles of skate and classic ski trails. Groomed snowshoe loops will also be available, ideal for casual users as well as for organized snowshoe races.

Volunteer and community involvement and support are a vital piece of the trail’s future success.  According to Kopecky, the WinMan master plan includes establishment of a friends group to provide ongoing stewardship for the site.

“The Discovery Center is fortunate to have a variety of engaged clubs that carry forward missions and purposes compatible with the center’s, including groups dedicated to bird conservation, wolf education and old-growth forest preservation,” she said. “A group connected to silent sports recreation and stewardship of an ecologically unique site would be a wonderful addition to the community, the region and to an expanding community of silent sports enthusiasts.”

On October 5, a “trail introduction” event was held in conjunction with Take a Kid Mountain Biking Day. Local residents and families experienced 1.5 miles of completed singletrack and explored some of what the trails will offer in the future.

The WinMan Trails are located four miles north of Manitowish Waters on Highway W. The trailhead and parking lot are across from the intersection of Highways W and J. To learn more about the WinMan Trails, call the Discovery Center at call 877/543-2085 or visit


Bike trail to connect Manitowish Waters and Boulder Junction

The ever-expanding network of paved bike trails throughout Vilas County got another shot in the arm with the mid-October announcement of a $1.3 million, 8.3-mile linkage of Manitowish Waters and Boulder Junction.

Construction was to begin this fall and completion expected by Memorial Day for Manitowish Waters’ connection to the existing and picturesque 23-mile Heart of Vilas County Hike-and-Bike Trail System, which also connects to the communities of Sayner and St. Germain.

The trail will run along Highway K between North Lakeland School in Manitowish Waters and Camp Manito-wish YMCA in Boulder Junction. The project will include a 144-foot-long bridge over Rice Creek adjacent to Highway K, according to FYI Northwoods News.

“When this connection is completed next spring, all four towns, businesses and the whole area will benefit from the increased trail use,” said Henry Bauers, president of Manitowish Waters Bike Trail Inc., at an October 14 announcement of the project, according to the newspaper. “We truly will become a trail system destination.”

The 8.3-mile trail expansion is the fourth phase of privately-funded bike trail development undertaken by the year-old Manitowish Waters Bike Trail Inc. Fundraising will continue to extend the trail to nearby Winchester and Presque Isle.

New site offers trail maps

A new website providing downloadable GPS’s trail maps was launched on November 8. provides maps for biking, hiking, skiing, snowshoeing and paddling trails in Presque Isle, Mercer, Manitowish Waters, Winchester and Boulder Junction.