Howlin’ on the Mt Ashwabay Trail Network

First off, let’s acknowledge the Chippewa land this article takes place on.  The Chequamegon Bay that is visible from the middle of the ride, “encompasses the spiritual center of Anishinaabe nations.” You can learn more about the local Red Cliff Band of Lake Superior Chippewa here.

Just a few miles outside of Bayfield, Wisconsin hides a compact but wonderful system of trails that weave their way around Mt Ashwabay. These trails were masterfully crafted by CAMBA (Chequamegon Area Mountain Bike Association). After sampling their handiwork in the Cable/Hayward area as well, I feel like I can say that I found the Mt Ashwabay system to be some of the most fun trails I have ever ridden in the Midwest and some of CAMBA’s best work. 

Brenda didn’t have her mountain bike with us so we enlisted the help of the local shop, Howl Adventure Center, for a rental. We threw the bikes on the rack, though you could also ride the short few miles to the trailhead from the shop if necessary, and we were off. We took a long lap throughout the system, trying to hit the best parts in one lap. One thing that really sticks out here is the elevation the trail builders had to play, something that becomes apparent right out the gate as you head up Stick Up/Stick Down. Once you get some elevation under your belt, Diesel Bear takes you through a wonderful meander through the forest with a few fun B-Lines before dropping you off at the base of the climb up to Trogdor. Once you top out on Trogdor you get a wide-open view of the Apostle Islands and Chequamegon Bay from the top of the ski area.

Once you drop into Trogdor things get really fun, big bermed turns, rock bridge drop-ins, and rock gardens galore. Plenty here to keep you grinning from ear to ear the whole way down. From there it is a short and flowy pedal to the start of Tsuga Daddy, my personal favorite trail in the system. This trail rolls on and on and seemingly forever, each climb is rewarded with a fast and snappy downhill with fun little jumps and bumps and a few b-line drops for good measure. This trail is the grand tour of the local forest, from deciduous to evergreen to recovering clear cuts, this trail has all the best the area has to offer, finishing off with a swooping ride through a gully reminiscent of Toboggan in Cuyuna. Then you get to roll back down Beam Me Up before you climb back up Hot Saw. This will drop you off for an almost entirely downhill rip back to the trailhead. A descent down Stick up/Stick Down makes sure you finish with a grin with its multiple banked steep switchbacks, check Brenda’s smile for confirmation.  

After all that, we take the bike back to Howl, and if you needed the deal sweetened, they have a brewery in-house, Adventure Club Brewing. Just the thing for a hot summer afternoon post-ride recovery.  

Most people come up to the Apostle Islands for the paddling or boating but there is a serious gem of a trail system tucked away up here. Mt Ashwabay won’t set any records for biggest or longest, but I have enjoyed riding the trails many times over and felt the need to rave. It is a beginner-friendly system where almost all obstacles are roll-able and the intermediate trails stick out to me as the best in the system. We even took Brenda’s mom here for her first mountain bike rider EVER. So, if you make it up toward the Chequamegon National Forest area make sure to check out some of CAMBA’s trail networks, especially the ones near Bayfield.