North Country National Scenic Trail
The North Country National Scenic Trail is a premier hiking and backpacking trail that travels for more than 4,000 miles through seven northern states from Lake Sakakawea State Park in North Dakota to Crown Point, New York. The North Country trail is one of only eight National Scenic Trails in the United States and is also one of 42 designated Wisconsin state trails.
In Wisconsin, the North Country Trail clips the northwest corner of the state for 200 miles, passing through Douglas, Bayfield, Ashland and Iron counties. The North Country Trail route crosses Wisconsin’s western border at Minnesota’s Jay Cooke State Park, and the trail crosses into Michigan’s Upper Peninsula from Hurley to Ironwood via the U.S. Highway 2 bridge across the Montreal River.
Although Wisconsin has the shortest trail distance among the seven states the trail passes through, Wisconsin is responsible for providing the name to the North Country Trail. The original 60-mile Northern Country Trail in the Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest lent its name to the 4,000-mile National Scenic Trail when the idea of the multi-state trail was first envisioned.
The seven states the North Country National Scenic Trail now travels through are North Dakota, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania and New York.
More than 121 miles of the North Country trail are completed in Wisconsin. The completed sections of trail are connected by roadways and other temporary routes in Douglas, Bayfield, Ashland and Iron counties for a total length of 200 miles. Distances between trailheads and access points can vary greatly and hikers may want to review a map before setting out.
The best source for detailed maps, local contact information and descriptions of the various trail segments are available from the North Country Trail Association (NCTA). You can find maps of trail segments in Wisconsin as well as for the trail segments in other states. Topographic hiking maps on waterproof, tear-resistant paper are also available from the NCTA for a small fee. North Country Trail Association maps
In the Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest, more than 60 miles of the North Country Trail are located in the Great Divide and Washburnranger districts.
The North Country Trail is also listed on the maps of the state parks and forests it travels through
The North Country Trail goes through some state and federal lands in northwest Wisconsin. In addition to the parks and forests listed below (from west to east along the trail), the North Country Trail travels many miles through county and private lands.
- Pattison State Park
- Brule River State Forest
- Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest
- Copper Falls State Park
- State North Country Trail Area properties
The North Country Trail passes through Copper Falls State Park.
Photo © Wisconsin Department of Tourism
The North Country Trail is primarily an off-road hiking and backpacking trail that provides excellent opportunities for sightseeing, wildlife viewing and bird watching. In winter some sections of the trail are open for cross-country skiing and snowshoeing. Motorized vehicles are not allowed on the North Country Trail.
Opportunities are available for camping along the North Country Trail in the Chequemegon-Nicolet National Forest, Brule River State Forest, county forests, Pattison and Copper Falls state parks, and other public and private campgrounds. Campgrounds can vary from primitive walk-in campsites to facilities complete with electric hookups. When planning a trip, it is best to check ahead of time for camping locations and availability.
In the Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest there are developed campgrounds near the trail as well as three Adirondack shelters. Camping is also allowed along the trail in the National Forest but campsites must be kept 50 feet away from the trail or any water source such as lakes and streams.
The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources and its partners, the National Park Service and the North Country Trail Association, cooperatively develop and maintain the North Country Trail in Wisconsin. Additionally, the DNR works with many volunteers, county and local governments, and private land owners to continually open new sections of the trail.
National Park Service
The National Park Service (NPS) began studying the concept of the North Country Trail in the late 1960s. In 1980 Congress and the president designated the trail as a National Scenic Trail. The NPS works with the North Country Trail Association and DNR on the construction, funding and protection of the trail and coordinates the planning process for the North Country Trail corridor. The DNR and NPS also work together on another National Scenic Trail in Wisconsin, the Ice Age Trail.
North Country Trail Association
The North Country Trail Association (NCTA) is a nationwide, nonprofit, volunteer organization whose mission is to develop, maintain, preserve and promote the North Country Trail. There are local chapters in all seven states the trail passes through. The National Headquarters are located in Lowell, Michigan. Volunteers with the Brule-St.Croix, Chequamegon and Heritage NCTA chapters play a key role in creating, supporting and protecting the various North Country Trail sections in Wisconsin.