10 Ways to Explore the Northern Highland American Legion State Forest


The Northern Highland American Legion (NHAL) State Forest has over 232,000 acres to explore in northern Wisconsin. It hosts 900 lakes, vibrant forest, and 244 species of birds (that’s 73% of all recorded birds in Wisconsin...what?!). This State Forest is full of magical and exciting adventures and we want to share our favorites with you. Use #NortherlyCollective as you explore. For more adventures in northern Wisconsin, visit our Adventure Guide.



Whether you like a leisurely ride on grassy logging trails or flying through the woods at top speeds on single track trails, a mountain bike can take you on many adventures in the Northern Highland American Legion State Forest. Our picks: The single track flow trails at WinMan Trails, with features like bridges, berms, rollers, and a new jumpline, blend the perfect combination of fun and challenging. Winter at WinMan brings groomed fat tire biking trails, making it a year-round destination for bikers. 


Take time to breath in the fresh air and revel in the flora and fauna of the North. We suggest wandering through Fallison Lake Nature Trail and Lumberjack Trail, stopping to appreciate the diversity in the understory - keep an eye out for wild rice, water-lily, and cat-tails. Pay a visit to Stevenson Creek Chimney, the remains of a 1920’s bed and breakfast that is said to be haunted.  


From big lakes to trickling streams, the State Forest has a paddling adventure for everyone. Our pick: rent a kayak from Coontail and let the current help you along the Manitowish River. Plan ahead and arrange a pick up (or maybe just drop off a car) at the Highway 51 wayside, or make a day of it and meander along with the river to historic Murray’s Landing. 

FOUR - Heart of Vilas County Paved Bike Trail

We might be biased, but we’ve been told it's hard to find a better paved trail in the state of Wisconsin. With over 50 miles of well-maintained, paved trails you can explore the Northwoods from two wheels. Our picks: Park at Serbin Park and peddle to Manitowish Waters for a treat at Dixie’s Coffee House. Another option to shorten the ride, choose a parking lot along Highway K and bike over bridges and streams for brunch at The Outdoorsman Restaurant.

FIVE - Camping

While many people associate the Northwoods with family cabins on the lake, we can’t think of a better place to set up a tent, blend into the forest, and enjoy the night sky sparkling above you. Far away from city lights frogs sing their favorite lullaby and loons wake you at sunrise. Our picks include Sandy Beach Lake Campground, perfectly nestled into the woods next a hidden lake; a great place to enjoy the outdoors and watch the sunset (one of the best places!). At Big Lake Campground, with a huge sandy beach, beautiful views, and great amenities, you are sure to have a great weekend in the woods. Plus, what can beat a night around the campfire, making s’mores and laughing with friends? 

SIX - Take a Scenic Drive

If you're more of a distant nature lover or just want to see the Northwoods from a new perspective, pick your favorite cruising tunes and hop in the car (or motorcycle!). Vilas County has miles of scenic roads to explore with your favorite passenger, furry friends included. Buckle your seat belt and hit the road, our picks: Drive through the pines - Take Hwy W north from downtown Manitowish, turning west onto Hwy J and looping through Mercer. Loop around the lakes - Take Hwy W north from downtown Manitowish to Hwy K, follow Hwy K to Hwy H. 

SEVEN - Nature Trails

Countless native species and trees with over 100 rings are just the start of the rich history of the Northern Highland American Legion State Forest. While most trails in the Northwoods could be considered “Nature Trails,” these trails are specifically created and protected so that you can see the Forest the way it’s meant to be. Our picks are Star Lake Nature Trail, North Trout Lake Trail, and Escanaba Lake Trail.  

EIGHT - Search for antler sheds 

After rut (mating) season is over, bucks shed their antlers giving us more treasures to search for in the woods. Whether you collect them as trophies or would like to incorporate them into your cabin decor, it is always exciting to find one! Our picks for shed hunting (besides our backyard) are Frog Lake and Pines State Natural Area and North Lakeland Trails

NINE - Have a picnic

Whatever your reason: family bonding, romance, or just to change up the scenery, picnics are a great way to slow down and eat with a view. Grab a blanket, snacks, and stop by The Wine & Beer Barn for your favorite vino. Our picnic picks are the sandy beach at Crystal Lake or the magical Cathedral Point on Trout Lake. 

TEN - Foraging

Another reason to get excited about the seasons changing? Foraging for wild edible goodness in the woods. From berries to mushrooms to fiddle head ferns, the Northern Highland American Legion State Forest has an abundance of delicious treats hiding among the trees. Our picks: Beat the black bears to the berries at the Powell Marsh Wildlife Area in July; chat with a local about mushroom hunting in the forest; or join a wild rice harvesting trip. 

Northerly Links: 

Northern Highland American Legion (NHAL) State Forest Map 

NHAL State Natural Areas