The Pedal to the Kettle
What glaciers did to the kettle moraine is what the Green Bay Packers want to do to the Dallas Cowboys. Once upon a time, two massive ice sheets ground against each other in a scrimmage that lasted hundreds if not thousands of years. No one knows who won, but what was left behind looks like Swiss cheese on a topo map and feels like a roller coaster on a mountain bike. It is no surprise that today the words"kettle moraine" bring out mountain bikers faster than yelling "free swag."
Ever since the first knobby-tired, pedal-eared mutant machines rolled out of Marin County, California, Kettle Moraine State Forest has been a mountain biking mecca. Its proximity to population centers in southeastern Wisconsin and northeastern Illinois and its great riding have certainly not hurt its reputation over the years. There are trails and terrain suited to all ages and abilities, and wonderful scenery. In addition to ongoing work throughout the region--the Wisconsin Off-Road Bicycling Association (WORBA) and Recreation for Individuals Dedicated to the Environment (RIDE) have done a terrific job by putting in countless volunteer hours of track maintenance--future efforts will likely include trails in the Milwaukee Metro area.
The three rides we have selected lead you along some of the most popular kettle moraine trails. At Bong Recreation Area, even a novice rider can have a fun roll on grassy trails that weave through restored prairie land and stands of oak trees. A nature center at the trail head tells about the plants and wildlife you will encounter. By contrast, the John Muir Trails are well-known varied-terrain off-road adventures. The high-level aerobic and technical challenges attract advanced-skill riders by the thousands. Nearby, the Lapham Peak Trails offer a varied-terrain ride that beginners and novices can handle.
Keep in mind that all three trails are on state land; Bong is a Wisconsin State Recreation Area, while the John Muir and Lapham Peak trails are in Wisconsin State Forest (Southern Kettle Moraine Unit). A daily or annual vehicle sticker ($5 daily/$18 annual for Wisconsin residents, $7 daily/$25 annual for out-of-state residents) is required to park in state recreation area and forest lots. In addition, in the forests, although bicycles are not charged for visiting the area, there is a trail pass fee required of all people age 18 and older for riding the off-road trails ($3 daily/$10 annual). The trail pass also covers usages such as cross-country skiing, horseback riding, and bicycling on railroad-grade bike trails.
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