Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Levis and Trow Mounds, Neillsville, Wisconsin

Getting There 
From Neillsville:
Head south out of town on Hwy 73 and continue straight on Hwy 95.  About 12 miles after leaving town, take a right onto Fisher Ave., go a little over half a mile, and then take a left down the short gravel drive to the parking lot.  There will be signs for both turns.  Alternatively, there is an older trailhead with fewer amenities right on Hwy 95 immediately after the turn onto Fisher Ave.

From the Twin Cities:
Head towards Wisconsin on I-94. Head through Eau Claire, past Osseo, and then take exit 98 for WI-121. Hang a left on 121 towards Alma Center.  After about 8.5 miles 121 will T into Hwy 95.  Take a left on 95 and go about 12 miles through Alma Center and Merrillan, and take a left on Fisher Ave. Go a little over half a mile, and then take a left down the short gravel drive to the parking lot. There will be signs for Levis Mound.

From the South (Milwaukee, Chicago):
When coming up I-94,
8.Take exit 115 to merge onto US-12 W/WI-27 N toward Merrillan
2.4 mi
9.Turn right at Co Rd E
7.8 mi
10.Turn left at Co Rd K
0.6 mi
11.Turn right at County Rd J
3.4 mi
12.Continue onto Columbia Rd/Fisher Ave
0.7 mi
13.Turn left
0.1 mi

The Route
Levis Mounds is an intricate trail system, with about 22 miles of singletrack and about 25 miles of cross country ski trail.  Detailing one route that would encompass all of the trails is nearly impossible, though I have worked it out with a pen and a trail map before!  Rather, it's best to just make your own ride as you go. The maps and trail signing are all excellent (including a kiosk which is well-stocked with trail maps to stuff in your Camelback), so it is pretty tough to get lost out there.  Here is a photo of the large map posted at the trailhead:

Click to enlarge. All of the thin, red lines are singletrack.
While it is absolutely impossible to give the "best" route, there are several routes that stick out in my head as consistent favorites:

Longer, cross country style ride: Lower Glen > Swamp Cut > Yellow Jacket > Goat DanceBuck Hill > Sidewinder > Upper Hermosa > Lower Hermosa > Lower Glen  (Approximately 11.5 miles.)

Shorter, technical ride with more climbing: Dump > Porky Point > North Face > Cliffhanger > Switchback > Toad Road > Corkscrew > Select Cut > Warm Up > Snodgrass (Approximately 6.7 miles.)

Shorter, flat beginner ride: Lower Glen > Swamp Cut > Dead Turkey > Select Cut > Warm Up > Snodgrass (Approximately 4 miles.)

View from the top of the front mound. 
All About the Trail
Levis Mound is easily one of the best if not the best trail systems in the Midwest, and as a consequence is also one of the most popular. Levis’ traffic continues to grow with every new riding season, but the 22 miles of singletrack and 25 miles of cross country ski trails maintain the peaceful experience that the Wisconsin Northwoods are known for.

Located in Central Wisconsin, Levis regularly sees visitors from the surrounding area, including cities such as Black River Falls, Eau Claire, Marshfield, and Wausau. Outside of the two-hour drive-time range there are also regular visitors from the Twin Cities, south from Madison and the Milwaukee area, and even creates a steady draw for the avid riders in the Chicago area. Finally, if any serious rider from another region of the nation happens to find himself traveling through Central Wisconsin on his way to somewhere else, Levis Mound is inevitably a pit stop in the middle of his road trip.

Cliff the previous picture was taken off of.
Over the past several years Levis has also been host to what is now one of the largest gathering of mountain bikers in the Midwest: Gnome Fest. They refer to Levis Mounds as:
The trails of LTM are the very best trails in the southern half of the state.
Don't just take it from the people of Gnome Fest and me, FatTireGuides.com concludes their review with:
Our hats are off to the members of the Neillsville Area Trail Association (N.A.T.A.) for all of their hard work in creating and maintaining this system that has quickly made it to the very top of our list of favorite rides.
 Skibum, the most accomplished contributor to Singletracks.com wrote:
Wow, there are a lot of trails packed into a fairly small area. Even so, the thick woods offer a high degree of solitude. The singletrack is great. You could ride here for weeks and not exhaust all the possibilities.
  Yes, everyone is raving about the trails.  But what about the trails? What are they like? That is the real question. So without further ado:
All About the Singletrack
There are several important thoughts that strike me in regards to the trail system as a whole:
  • Excellent-Quality Construction -- Hand-built by skilled volunteers, the construction of the singletrack at Levis Mounds is unparalleled!  There are miles of perfect-width singletrack which have been painstakingly bench-cut into the sides of the mounds.  The flow of the more cross country oriented trails is unparalleled!  There's nothing quite like swooping through big turns in the deep Wisconsin forest. Grade reversals are evident throughout the trail system, as well as excellent bridges in the low lands. That must be why Levis hosts one of the prestigious IMBA Epic Routes.
  • Creative Construction -- The creativity that went into laying out these trails is unmatched!  Whether the trail is going through a 7 foot deep and 3 foot wide cleft in a rock, over large boulders, or built on the very brink of a 15' cliff with a turn around a rock so sharp that the trail looks like it just disappears into a void... wherever the singletrack goes, be prepared to be entertained as well as awed!
  • Technically Challenging -- While not all of the trails are very technically challenging, most of the trails on the front mounds will throw all sorts of tricky, slow-speed maneuvers over varying rock formations.  Be prepared to stay on your toes!  It must be noted, however, that there has been a lot of trail maintenance over the last 4 years (since I left Wisconsin), and some of the trails that used to be slow-speed technical trails courses are much more rideable now. Still, be prepared to dab a couple of times!
  • Views -- Many people may not think of a Wisconsin mountain bike trail as a place to go for gorgeous views.  Colorado is much more likely to have picture-perfect vistas.  But Levis Mounds dishes up some of the best views in Wisconsin from atop its tall sandstone bluffs.  The trees seem to go on as far as the eye can see across flat Central Wisconsin, interrupted occasionally by the odd mound here and there. It's a sight that deserves a break from the trail, just to soak it all in.
  • Variety of Trails -- As I mentioned above, some of the trails are very technically challenging, slow-speed masterpieces.  Others contain rooty downhills that just need to be blasted through!  Still other trails seem to be constantly going over ladder bridges crossing swampy sections of ground. On the opposite end of the system the trails stretch out smooth, long, and rolling, just begging to be hammered for a couple of hours.
Because this system has such a vast variety of trails,and because I have such an intimate knowledge of each one, I've decided to write a short review for each individual trail, including pictures (and even video in most cases) and will link to all of them below:

Camping is available at the trailhead for a fee, and the largest and nicest campground in Clark County, Russell Park, is located just a few miles due south down Hwy J on Lake Arbutus.

Trail Fees
Trail Fees For Mtn. Biking: Individual (12 years old and up*)
  • Daily $5.00
  • Season $25.00
  • Family $50.00
  • *Children Under 12 Free*
Season passes available from the Clark Co. Forestry Dept. (715-743-5140)

Trail Conditions:

Bottom Line
Despite being located in Central Wisconsin, these are hands-down some of the best trails I have ever ridden!  I always look forward to going home for a visit... and I always, always bring my riding gear! So if you live in the Midwest (or will be traveling through soon), head on over to Levis Mound for an excellent weekend of singletrack mountain biking and camping!


Jeff August 19, 2013 at 8:09 PM  

Thanks, I stayed at Clark County, Russell Park, is located just a few miles due south down Hwy J on Lake Arbutus. It is very nice and supports all the way up to our 40 ft motorhome. All on my quest.


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Greg Heil is the Editor in Chief for Singletracks.com. He's been writing and publishing online since before blogging existed.

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