Marinette County is big – at 1,402 square miles it’s the third largest county in the state. Its county forests total 231,000 acres – second largest in Wisconsin. For ATVers, there’s plenty of room to roam.
Consequently, it’s common for riders to click off 100 miles or more in a day on the Marinette County trails. With 200 miles of trail to explore, passionate riders can stay in the saddle for a week. There is much to see and enjoy.
Bordered by Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, the Bay of Green Bay to the east and the sprawling Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest to the west, Marinette County is a hotbed of outdoor recreation – canoeing, hiking, camping, hunting, cross-country skiing, birding, snowmobiling and, of course, ATVing. The majority of the Marinette’s year-round ATV trails are located in the northern half of the county. Trails run from Hilbert Lake in the far northwestern corner of the county east to the Michigan border and south to the Peshtigo River State Forest.
No matter which loop or trail you ride, you won’t be disappointed. The system accesses county forest lands as well as many of the county’s magnificent waterfalls. You’ll ride rolling hills, twisty trails, sandy flats and forest roads. The riding options are nearly endless. You can choose to cover as much ground as possible, or pick a backcountry loop and explore it at a more leisurely pace.
McClintock Park on the west side of the trail system is a good place to start.
Located just off Parkway Road (Cty I), this 320-acre county park offers parking, ten campsites, a picnic area and four bridges over the Peshtigo River. The falls are a series of cascades under the bridges that connect smaller islands within the park. Stately pines frame hardwoods that are particularly colorful in autumn. The park has direct access to the trail system, so it’s time to get on and go.
The west side trails are a stacked pair of large loops, one to the north and one to the south. The common trail – the one that splits the two loops – is known locally as the “Bunny Run.” These are large loops, so as you play keep an eye on the gas gauge. There are no fuel stops in the southern loop; the northern loop offers gas stations in both Goodman and Dunbar. In this neck of the woods, it’s a good idea to carry extra fuel with you.
North of Hwy 8, a third, smaller loop tracks north into Florence County as it circles the Dunbar State Natural Area back to Dunbar. The final leg of your Marinette County adventure trails east from Dunbar on a series of forest roads through Pembine, all the way to the Menominee River and the Michigan border.
Even though you’ll spend long days on the trails here, save some daylight for Marinette County’s waterfalls. The county is home to fourteen waterfalls that should not be missed. Waterfall tour maps are available locally or by visiting the Marinette County website.
Marinette County operates eleven large parks. Six of them have well-kept, beautifully wooded campgrounds totaling 145 campsites. Four of the campgrounds are near the trail system. Plenty of other lodging options are available, particularly in the southern half of the county.
Marinette County is known regionally for its whitewater canoeing and rafting. Swollen by the spring melt, the Peshtigo, Pine, Pemebonwon and Pike Rivers become water-coasters filled with fun and excitement. The historically minded will want to visit the Marinette County Historical Logging Museum on Stephenson Island in Marinette. To the south, the Peshtigo Fire Museum tells the story of the worst forest fire in American history, the Great Peshtigo Fire of 1871 that killed 1,200 people in the city.
If You Go...
Distance: 200 miles.
Difficulty: Easy to moderate.
Trailhead location(s): Two parking areas serve the north end of the trail system: a new parking area just west of Dunbar via Hwy 8, then south on Airport Road about 1/4-mile and watch for the sign; and a parking area north of Pembine via Hwy 141 and Barlow Lake Road. In the southwest corner of the trail system you can park at McClintock Park near Silver Cliff.
Season: Open year round. Trails are closed for a short time in the spring to dry out.
Other trails in this region: Florence County ATV Trails, and the Dusty Trails.
Caution: Because of the length of the trails and few fuel stops, be sure to carry extra fuel with you. And, as always, stay on the trails.
Be sure to read the DNRs tips on what to know before you go.