For those in the know, the area around Hayward, WI houses some of the best singletrack in the Midwest. Recognized worldwide as the home of the American Birkebeiner cross-country ski race, this same little corner of Northwest Wisconsin features over 300 miles of marked and mapped trails running through the Chequamegon National Forest wilderness. And to answer your immediate question–no, it’s not flat and boring. Think sections of intuitively laid out flow interspersed with rock gardens, roots, swamp bridges, and tight pine groves to keep you on your toes. Just this year, CAMBA (the local mountain bike association) finally realized their vision of a singletrack trail system connecting Hayward, Seeley, Cable, and Namakagon. The annual Chequamegon Fat Tire Festival, and its 40-mile fat tire race, attracts professional riders from across the country, duking it out for four-figure prize money and a brand new Trek bike. I was just in Hayward last week, and had the opportunity to pre-ride most of the Borah Epic course–a fabulous 37-mile 100% singletrack race stretching between Cable and Hayward, covering all of my favorite trails in the region.
Stay: I am fortunate that my family owns a cabin in Hayward, so I always have a place to stay when I visit. But I highly recommend you check out Airbnb and rent a cabin for yourself. After all, when you are not shredding trails, Hayward is absolutely all about Northwoods lake life.
Coffee: Located just north of Hwy 63 in downtown Hayward, Backroads Coffee & Tea serves up fresh roasted coffee and plenty of baked goodies to fuel your ride.
Dinner: For the best pizza east of the St. Croix, head to Coop’s Pizza Parloure–a Hayward institution serving up pies to hungry lumberjacks since 1979. Or if it’s the start of the weekend, be sure not to miss a Friday Night Fish Fry, as much a part of Wisconsin culture as cheese curds and brats. One of my favorites is served at Pine Ridge near Stone Lake just outside of town.
Drink: While Old Milwaukee might be the beer of choice in these parts, the craft beer types can grab a River Pig Pale Ale at the Angry Minnow brew pub. Built inside the historic 1889 brick building that once housed the offices of the Northern Wisconsin Lumber Company, this small batch microbrewery continues to churn out local favorites such as Honey Wheat and Oaky’s Oatmeal Stout, as well as a variety of seasonals. Grab a burger or the fresh caught local fish if you can get it to go with your recovery pint…or two.
Sweet Tooth: Head to Tremblay’s Sweet Shop on Main Street and fill your wicker basket with an assortment of old-fashioned salt water taffy to eat as trail snacks. Or grab a box of pecan turtles and peanut butter fudge–all handmade on site–to enjoy around your campfire each evening.
Bike Rental: Whether it’s fat bikes in winter or mountain and road bikes in summer, head to New Moon Ski and Bike. I rent from here every time I don’t drive out from California with my own bike (and Lola). A Specialized dealer, New Moon offered me a Camber this time around–a fun full suspension 650b bike, perfect for the local trails.
Info: The trails are incredibly well marked, including “You Are Here” maps placed at major trail junctions. You can find trail maps online at CAMBA, but to support ongoing trail maintenance efforts, I highly recommend ordering a map online or buying one from the local bike shop when you get there. These guys work hard to keep the trails clear and riding smooth year round.
Some gear I used during my week of riding in Hayward:
Club Ride Quick Drop Bib Liner: A full zippered drop seat built into these airy mesh bibs make it easy to take a quick pit stop at one of the trailheads. The 3D molded triple density pad is constructed with gel inserts around your sit bones to help cut down on vibration and add comfort during long hours in the saddle. I rode 4+ hours a day and never had a sore bum.
Mazama Designs Sidestream: Fanny packs are making a huge comeback amongst the dirt set. While originally built with trail runners in mind, the Sidestream is just the right size for a few hours on the bike, with a 1.3L reservoir and enough storage space for snacks, tools, and an extra layer.