What is the Great Headwaters Trail System?

The Goal:
Forty miles of trail.

It’s a grand vision for the Northwoods of Wisconsin – a vision in the making: More than 40 miles of 10-foot-wide hard surface biking and walking trails connecting all the town centers in eastern Vilas County.

The trails of the Great Headwaters Trails system will connect four town centers in eastern Vilas County – Eagle River, Conover, Phelps and Land O’ Lakes. Once complete, the trail system will connect to existing off-road biking-walking trail systems – the 55-mile Heart of Vilas Trail, 13-mile Three Eagle Trail, and 12-mile Wilderness Lakes Trail.

Progress report:
The ribbon-cutting for the completed Conover-Phelps Trail was held on May 28, 2022!
GHT's current top priority project is the River Trail.

Conover-Phelps Trail

C-P Trail sign
The Conover-Phelps Trail became the first officially completed leg of the Great Headwaters Trails System at its ribbon cutting on May 28, 2022.

The 11-mile trail connects the commercial centers of the towns of Conover and Phelps.

From the Conover Town Park trailhead on the west, the trail passes through the Conover business district, and, following railroad grade, runs past marshland, beaver habitat, and on into the Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest. Most of this 8.7 mile stretch has an granite aggregate surface called Trail Bond.

Special engineering was needed for the trail's final 1.9 miles which is mostly paved. Paralleling County Hwy K and E, the last section of trail connects right into Phelps's lakefront park at the top of North Twin Lake.

River Trail

The River Trail will connect Eagle River to St. Germain, adding 10 miles to the 55-mile Heart of Vilas biking-hiking trail system.

The City of Eagle River and towns of Cloverland and St. Germain have formed a multi-jurisdictional commission to head up development of the trail. It will run parallel to Highway 70 along the Wisconsin River.

A detailed feasibility study prepared by MSA Professional Services in 2019 has been reviewed by officials with the DOT and DNR, as well as county personnel and supervisors, trail contractors, local residents, business owners, municipal officials, and the officers of the two local snowmobile clubs and ATV-UTV clubs.

Eagle River City Connector

The Eagle River City Connector provides a safe bike lane into Eagle River’s Historic Depot and downtown. The Connector bike path was installed in 2014. It’s the first in-town bike path for Eagle River. The Connector resulted from a partnership of Great Headwaters Trails, the Three Eagle Trail Foundation, Tara Lila, LLC, the City of Eagle River, the Rotary Club, Tribute Brewing Co., the Eagle River Area Chamber of Commerce, and a number of local businesses and individuals. (View Connector details.)

The Connector links to the Three Eagle Trail, with its 13-plus miles of stunning vistas and bridges, where it eventually connects to the town of Three Lakes. In the City of Eagle River, planning goes on for additional bike paths and routes for convenient travel within the city itself.

Plans are currently underway to improve the snowmobile-ATV crossing of STH 45 near Riverview Park to make it safer for pedestrians and bike riders.

Eagle River-Conover Trail

An Eagle River-Conover Trail would add 12 miles of north-south bike-ped trail extending up from the Three Eagle Trail. The trail corridor for that trail, though, is currently used as an ATV-UTV trail. While the county has also opened it to non-motorized use, the  loose gravel and sandy surface make it challenging and best suited for mountain bikes. Right now this project is on hold, though near Conover there is a chance that the county and the town may pursue development of a non-motorized spur trail from the Conover-Phelps Trail down to Torch Lake Park.

Conover-Land O’ Lakes Trail

A Conover-Land O’ Lakes Trail would take bikers and walkers 12 miles north from Conover to Land O’Lakes, right on the Wisconsin-Michigan border. A beautiful area, Land O' is also the starting point of the 12-mile, paved Wilderness Lakes Trail. The Wilderness Lakes Trails System is a 37-mile loop that encircles the Sylvania Wilderness, 18,000 acres of woodlands and lakes that are part of the National Wilderness Preservation System. Two-thirds of the loop is on-road. It circles from Land O’ Lakes west to Thousand Island Lake Road on the paved trail, then follows an inroad route north to Hwy 2, east to Watersmeet, MI, and south back into Wisconsin.
A north-south trail from Conover to Land O' Lakes is currently on hold.