Skiing Escape: Wisconsin's Cross-Country Trails

More than 700 miles of groomed cross-country ski trails make Wisconsin a national leader in Nordic skiing. With a treasure of picturesque snow-covered forests and peaceful countryside to explore, the state offers X-C enthusiasts a chance to stride or skate on everything from challenging Olympic-level tracks to flat, woodland trails. Here are several destinations worth adding to your trail map.

The Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest is a sprawling, 1.5 million acre preserve lying in two major lobes across northern Wisconsin. It holds no less than 24 groomed X-C ski trails totaling 263 miles. The Lakewood Trail, just east of Lakewood in northeastern Wisconsin is one such forested gem. Scenic beauty, challenging climbs and exhilarating downhills are sprinkled along the 14 miles of this well-kept secret.

The trails of the Levis/Trow Mound Recreational Area are Clark County's premier cross-country ski trail system. Located about 6 miles southwest of Neillsville, Levis/Trow offers 15 miles of expertly groomed trails for skating and classic technique, along with an additional 19 miles of ungroomed backcountry routes. Facilities include a large parking lot, warming shelter, water coolers and heated bathrooms. Purchase of a trail pass is required.

Nicely wooded forest trails with open vistas line Mercer’s Mecca Trails. Groomed routes on gentle terrain catering to beginners and intermediate skiers and a rustic warming cabin in the middle of the trailhead create the perfect outdoor backdrop.

One of the Midwest’s best trail systems, Minocqua's Winter Park & Nordic Center is home to 75km of groomed trails in a 6,500-acre winter playground. Twenty-four trails provide a challenge for all ability levels. The day lodge and chalet café offer a cozy respite to gather with other skiers and relax before heading back out for more. Other amenities include a ski school, equipment sales and rental, and a volunteer ski patrol.

Telemark Condominiums near Cable in northwestern Wisconsin grooms sixteen trail loops totaling 65 kilometers for skiers of all abilities. From the challenge of the World Cup Trail to easy gliding on the Rockwell or Birkie 2K, there’s fun for everyone. 
With 20 kilometers of trails and a modern chalet, the Iola Winter Sports Complex is one of the finest cross-country facilities in central Wisconsin. Located five miles north of Iola, trails here circle a huge natural bowl studded with five ski jump scaffolds, including a 60-meter jump used in the Badger State Winter Games. With rental equipment, a welcoming fireplace, snacks and four miles of lighted trails, Iola is a great winter destination.

For some very special night skiing, the Wisconsin state parks, forests and recreation areas host a series of candlelight skiing opportunities on virtually every weekend January through mid-March. Trails are lit by luminaries or tiki torches. Usually, separate trails are designated for X-C skiing, snowshoeing and hiking. Afterwards, enjoy hot cocoa and camaraderie around an outdoor fire.