North Country National Trail in Wisconsin

Brownstone Falls at Copper Falls State Park on the NCT
Brownstone Falls at Copper Falls State Park on the NCT

The North Country National Scenic Trail is America's longest trail at 4600+ miles. It's route will thread trails from a trailhead on the Appalachian Trail in Vermont, through New York's Finger Lakes Region, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michigan, Wisconsin, Minnesota, and ending just shy of the Badlands in North Dakota. Wisconsin's portion connects the Porcupine Mountains in Upper Michigan with the Superior Trail in Minnesota.

The trail was officially established in 1980 and remains under construction. Wisconsin's portion is mostly complete, with a long uninterrupted section of certified trail spanning the Chequamegon National Forest and Brule River State Forest. To date, the NCT offers the best miles of backpacking and hiking in Wisconsin.

The Wisconsin Segments of the NCT bring hikers to stunning waterfalls, alongside dozens of lakes, over countless streams and rivers, on mile long boardwalks through bogs, and deep into remote northern forests. Black bear, elk, eagles, wolves, and cougars call this trail home. Backpackers in Chequamegon and Brule River sections of the NCT can immerse themselves completely in wilderness - hiking for up to 3 days without crossing a paved road. But, section hikers can also string together out-n-back day hikes and a few loop routes connected to the mainline.

The following post is an in-progress directory with links to sections of the trails I have hiked. Each year, more miles of trail will be added. For now, I've included a detailed map, links, and an overview of Wisconsin's NCT.

Note: this is a blog post and not an official NCT source. I am not connected with the DNR, NPS, nor the NCT trail alliance. I'll do my best to convey factuallly accurate information and mapping, but for the most up to date information please visit the National Park Service North Country Trail website

Trail Map

The map above is updated as of March 2016.

Distance Between Campsites

Click on the distances image above to enlarge. Distances are approximations. The trail is constantly changing. There are also some differences due to the inclusion of roads and spurs. For example: the Perch lake CG Spur is 1.8 miles long; These 1.8 miles are included in all distances after Perch Lake ... so if you are bypassing this campground the other adjacent distances are reduced by 1.8 miles. This also occurs at Two Lakes CG.

The distances chart is here to help you plan an itinerary. You can figure out approximately how many miles you and your group can handle each day and determine which camp areas or water stations you can reach.

The average hiker with a fully loaded backpack travels at 2-3 miles per hour. So, if you have to get to a campsite that is 17.3 miles away - you can figure that you will be hiking for about 8 hours plus 2 hours of breaks. If you begin at 7am you will make camp by 5pm - with a couple hours of light to make camp and dinner. However, a 17 mile day may be difficult for a novice hiker. If you are hiking with a scout troop try to target 8-10 mile days. A pair of adults hiking can usually cover 12-15 miles comfortably each day.

Consider possible weather interruptions in planning your itinerary - it is better to plan for less ambitious daily hikes in the event you become bogged down by a storm. If you plan in two consecutive days of short hikes near the end of your trip, then if you fall behind due to weather you can catch up to schedule by combining the two short days into one.

Some of the longer spans between sites and water stations are in the Chequamegon segments. But, disperse camping is allowed in the national forest. You can split up your days more precisely to your mileage abilities and enjoy the trail magic of making your site at the scenic spot of your choosing. Just remember to stay 100 ft away from a water body and about 50 feet off the trail. (Disperse camping in the Brule River State Forest requires a back country camping permit and recommends camping further than 100 feet from the trail). Of course, be sure to employ leave-no-trace standards to your disperse campsite; and always use a bear bag on the NCT.

If you are backpacking the Chequamegon you will likely be trekking for up to 2 days without reaching a source of drinking water. Packing a water purification system is must.

Currently, the Lake Three Campground is closed by the Forest Service due to lack of use. Though, there might be water and a vault toilet still available there. It would be awesome if there were a couple more campsites between Two Lakes and Erick Lake ... just say'in.

There are plans to add footpath and camping between Copper Falls and the Michigan border in the Iron County Forest. We're just waiting on a couple of key bridges. The new trajectory will aim towards Hurley rather than the Superior shore. And, obviously there is a need to get camping between the St. Croix and the new UW Superior segment. But, there have been recent big improvements in the Douglas County Forest bird sanctuary area. It's looking like the WI NCT could be 100% certified trail within the next decade.

I'll try to stay on top of changes in the trail route, but always double check the NCT GIS site for the most up to date info about the NCT.

North Country Trail Articles by

Copper Falls Segment

Brownstone Falls at Copper Falls State Park on the NCT

Most visitors to Copper Falls State Park will hike a small portion of the NCT that parallels The Doughboy's Trail. This scenic park trail loops around the confluence of Tyler Forks and The Bad River. Two of the Midwest's most magnificent waterfalls are viewed from this trail: Brownstone Falls and Copper Falls. Another loop is formed connecting the CCC trail which leads to an observation tower at the highest point of the trail.

This segment begins at Mill Road and meanders through Copper Falls State Park alongside the Bad River. It continues along footpaths into the town of Mellen. From Mellen there are a few miles of roadside hiking before the trail turns into the Chequamegon National Forest (pronounced: she-want-me-gone).


Overview: North Country National Scenic Trail - Wisconsin Segments

COUNTIES: Iron, Ashland, Bayfield, Douglas
COMMUNITIES: Mellen, Marengo, Drummond, Iron River, Solon Springs

Difficulty: Moderate

POINTS OF INTEREST: Wren Falls, Copper Falls, Brownstone Falls Penokee Range, Lake Three, Beaver Lake, Perch Lake, Brule River State Forest, Chequamegon National Forest, Rainbow Lake Wilderness, Beaver Lake Wilderness, Bayfield County Forest, Iron County Forest, Douglas County Forest, Historic Portage, Brule Bog Boardwalk, St. Croix National Scenic River, Manitou Falls, Pattison State Park


Address for your GPS: 36764 Copper Falls Rd, Mellen, WI 54546
| coordinates: 46.371717, -90.643002 |

From Milwaukee5.5 Hours
From Madison4 Hours
From Green Bay4 Hours
From Wausau2.5 Hours
From Minneapolis3.5 Hours
From Chicago6.5 Hours


By Markheffron2 (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

By MDuchek (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 ( or GFDL (], via Wikimedia Commons

By Bobak Ha'Eri (Own work) [CC BY 3.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons