Need a break from your usual road routes or trails ? The Boulder Junction and Manitowish Waters area offers a unique destination to put on some miles in a peaceful, mostly wooded, PAVED setting. That’s right, you can bring your road bike! In total you can bike 52 miles one way from Mercer, passing Manitowish Waters to Boulder Junction to Sayner and ending in St Germain. No fee is required. Rentals are an option if you can’t haul your bike.
These trails are pretty far removed from major cities but you won’t completely feel like you’re in the middle of nowhere. There’s an abundance of well marked water and restroom stops, roughly every five miles. At each small town along the way you will have many choices for an actual meal, or a beer or ice cream if that’s your thing. Shout out to the Corner Store in Sayner for having an surprisingly deep selection of cold drinks and snacks.
As for the trail itself, you will find that the pavement is consistently about 8 feet wide. Some sections are flatter than others, particularly the section that parallels Highway 51 between Sayner and Manitowish waters. Generally the terrain is pleasantly rolling. At times you can build up pretty good speed, but there are some sharp blind downhill turns where you need to take it easy. These areas are well labeled. Road crossings are here and there and you will need to yield to driveways. You will hear a lot of great bird song as you pass through campgrounds and ride parallel to shore of Trout Lake, among others.
Being in the woods, a big plus is the filtered sun and shade (especially when compared to very sunny, gravelly rail trails). That being said, there is very little pine cone, leaf or branch clutter. We observed a lawn mower and brush collector combing the trails on a Sunday morning. The edges of the trail, if grassy, are mowed short. It is clear that a lot of effort is put into maintaining the trails daily. You may need to watch for minor bumps created by roots under the pavement here and there.
Even if you happen to catch a Northwoods heat wave (like we did) and end up riding in 80 plus degree temps, you’ll be moving fast enough to stay cool.