Last week I spent 4 days driving the Trans Wisconsin Adventure Trail. My route started out in the Black River State Forest and from there I spent a few days with my sister driving the Trans Wisconsin Adventure Trail north towards our destination at the northern most tip of Wisconsin, near the Apostle Islands.
We camped a couple nights (State Forest and National Forests), and spent the last night in a hotel. Camping was awesome and we found a great many campgrounds that I marked for future adventures. It was the middle of the week, so most campsites where near empty! The hotel the last night was nice too, as it gave us a chance to get cleaned up (shower) and enjoy exploring the towns of Bayfield, and Asheland.
Trans Wisconsin Adventure Trail
The Trans Wisconsin Adventure Trail is a mostly off road motorcycle (adventure bike) riding and 4×4 driving route. The trail starts in Southern Wisconsin at the Illinois-Wisconsin border, and travels north to the tip of Wisconsin near the Apostle Islands. The entire trail is roughly 600 plus miles.
I started the Trans Wisconsin Adventure Trail in Black River State Forest at about the half way point. It is said that the entire trail can be ridden or driven in about 3 days. I believe that it’s certainly possible if you get up early each morning and travel for most of the day. For me, I took my time… I slept in and relaxed! I stopped at designated campsites early so I could get camp setup and hike nearby trails or relax around the campfire. So starting from the midway point like I did, it took me three full days just to travel north to the Apostle Islands at the pace that was set.
The Trans Wisconsin Adventure Trail as I mentioned, from what I drove, is mostly off road. On some stretches you are driving on blacktop, but I seem to recall if I was on blacktop it wasn’t for very long; maybe 5-7 minutes at the most before going back off road.
Forest Roads, Fire Lanes, Logging Roads & More
The odd road sections of the trail mostly consisted of gravel country roads, sandy back roads, logging roads, and dirt two-track forest roads. I drove the route in my Jeep Renegade Trailhawk and never once had to lock in my four wheel drive. However, there had not been any rain for a while and the roads were not mucky or muddy – they were all pretty much dry.
While I didn’t need to utilize the four wheel drive capabilities of my Renegade Trailhawk, I could certainly see that had there been rain recently or during the trip it would been needed in a few locations.
Is 4 Wheel Drive Needed?
Is a four wheel drive vehicle needed to drive the Trans Wisconsin Adventure Trail? Maybe. I started at Black River State Forest and traveled the route north from there. The back roads were dry and dusty but also soft in some areas… I could see where 4 wheel drive would be needed if things had been wet and rainy. There easily could have been shallow mud in several stretches of the trail.
For sure any stock SUV or Pickup with 4 wheel drive can handle the Trans Wisconsin Adventure Trail Route without issue, wet or dry. You don’t need a beefed-up off road capable vehicle, stock vehicles with 4×4 can do it easy.
But can a car or mini-van handle the Trans Wisconsin Adventure Trail? From what I have seen I do think it is possible. There may be a need to re-route around some sections of the trail if driving such vehicles, like Forest Road 327. But for the most part much of the route should be ‘okay’ for such vehicles without issue as long as the weather has been dry for a week.
Overlanding & The Tans Wisconsin Adventure Trail
My vacation last week on the Trans Wisconsin Adventure Trail was my first real overland trip. By ‘overland’ I mean I was in no rush to reach my destination. The journey was more important than the destination. I looked forward to driving slow, taking the back off roads trails, and soaking in the country I was seeing, knowing that most people driving to Lake Superior and the Apostle Islands would never see what I was seeing.
Most of my outdoor vacations consist of canoe camping or remote primitive camping, maybe even some dispersed hike camping. I have to admit that I really enjoyed the ‘overlander’ experience, and I can honestly say I will be doing more such trips in the future.
There were many back forest campsites to stay along the way, most were in the Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest and cost only $15 per night. All had pit toilets that were clean and well maintained.
I tested out a new tent on this trip! The Coleman 9×10 Instant Popup tent! Great tent. Works great for overland camping. Plenty of room for a couple cots and chairs inside! It sets up in under a minute and takes down in about three minutes. You can check out more information on that tent by clicking THIS LINK.
The Trans Wisconsin Adventure Trail Conclusion
So it breaks down like this; The Wisconsin Adventure Trail is a light off road driving experience through the State of Wisconsin. It starts at the southern border with Illinois and travels to the tip of the state near the Apostle Islands. Along the way you will of course be using and crossing black top roads, but most of the trail is off the black top and on dirt, gravel, and sand roads. Two-tracks, fire lanes, logging roads, forest roads… you will see some back country when you drive the Trans Wisconsin Adventure Trail.
You can drive it in any stock vehicle with 4 wheel drive capability. Even cars and mini-vans can handle most of the back roads without too much trouble, but be prepared to slow down and re-route past forest roads that may have standing water (like Forest Road 327).
Any questions about the Trans Wisconsin Adventure Trail or any aspect of this post feel free to ask.